Case study: Transport Scotland HOPS

The challenge

The National Entitlement Card (NEC) is Scotland’s National Smartcard. It can be used as a concessionary travel pass, but also as proof of age for young people (the Young Scot NEC) and to access civic services such as libraries and leisure centres.

Transport Scotland’s AMS-HOPS system was an essential part of the underlying technical infrastructure required to deliver the national travel concession schemes. The HOPS was running with more than 4,000 active ISAMs on behalf of bus operators who did not have infrastructure in place to run their own HOPS or smart ticketing.

The Scottish Government had committed to a national scheme for free bus travel for children and young people between the ages of 5-21 (which has since been delivered). The subsequent increase in the number of concessionary cards issued was expected to have a significant impact on the HOPS and their associated services. These associated services included a Part 11 solution and a mobile app

Transport Scotland sought suppliers to deliver a solution, and selected Unicard’s HOPS central back office to manage the Scottish National Concessionary Travel Scheme.

Project requirements

These included:

  • Development of an AMS-HOPS full Part 11 integration and all mobile app requirements
  • Migration of all AMS-HOPS functions and data (where available) from Transport Scotland’s then supplier to the new AMS-HOPS
  • Ongoing management and support of the new AMS-HOPS full Part 11 and mobile app requirements

The Part 11 solution enables the customer to download smart products or top-ups immediately to a remote device such as an NFC phone. Part 11 also opens up other retail channels and collection points, providing the customer with a comprehensive network of retail sales and fulfilment.

Project solution

Unicard’s HOPS is a transport data management system that supports all ITSO-accredited smart ticketing schemes. It is a fully automated, scalable and secure back-office solution that is capable of handling high volumes of ITSO messaging and data transactions.

The HOPS allows Transport Scotland to monitor live reporting data, track concessionary journeys and facilitates data transfer to enable smart reimbursements with transport operators. The deployment conforms with Scottish Government plans to modernise public transport infrastructure as part of the National Transport Strategy 2 (NTS2).

The HOPS has also been configured to support Transport Scotland’s national bus travel concessionary scheme for young people. This is in line with NTS2 objectives to deliver a more sustainable, inclusive and accessible public transport system.

Unicard’s suite of smart ticketing solutions have been adopted by more than 60 local and regional authorities in England, but this agreement marked the company’s first major deployment in Scotland.


"The Unicard platform will help us to ensure that concessionary ticketing services are provided to the highest standard and with continuity, allowing us to use the data produced by the platform to monitor journeys and passenger numbers."

Debbie Walker

Business and Operations Manager, Transport Scotland

Key outcomes

Unicard successfully delivered this within an unusually short timeframe. The HOPS has been configured to support the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce free bus travel for those aged under 22. It can also be configured to support commercial ticketing for other modes of public transport across Scotland.

Transport Scotland wanted the project completed very quickly due to time pressures. It was part of the tender requirements that Unicard had to deliver the HOPS solution within a 12-week period. This project faced additional pressures as it took place in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Unicard diverted extra people and resources to the Transport Scotland project, and our experience in delivering other HOPS contributed to the successful completion of the project on time.

Kim Clarke, Business Development Manager at Unicard, said: “Normally it takes several months to do a HOPS delivery, but it was part of the tender process that we had to deliver ASAP.

“This was in the midst of Covid when we delivered. Nearly everybody at Unicard went on to the TS project. Normally you have plenty of time to think about delivery – this time we had to hit the ground running, but we’ve delivered lots of HOPS so we knew what we were doing.”

The Scottish Government’s high-profile plans to extend free bus travel to all those under 22, which is supported by Unicard’s HOPS solution, is expected to have a major impact on the lives of young people in Scotland. The government says free bus travel will open up new opportunities for young people and improve their access to education, training and employment, as well as benefiting the environment by encouraging sustainable travel habits.

"We’re extremely pleased to be working with Transport Scotland. The Unicard HOPS is a comprehensive back office system that supports smart ticketing and payment services. It will play an integral role in supporting concessionary travel across Scotland."

Sean Dickinson

CEO, Unicard

Customer background

Transport Scotland is the national transport agency for Scotland. They seek to deliver a safe, efficient, cost-effective and sustainable transport system for the benefit of the people of Scotland, playing a key role in helping to achieve the Scottish Government’s purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish.


About Unicard

Unicard have vast experience and a strong heritage in smart ticketing and payments for concessionary and smart travel schemes. Our smart ticketing solutions have been adopted by more than 60 local and regional authorities.