"This is a new opportunity to put technology at the service of citizens, improve public transport and encourage its use," says the region's minister of public works.
Mobile phone operator Vodafone has teamed up with the regional government in Murcia, Spain, to introduce an NFC-based public transport payment system.
The initiative, promoted by the region's public transport authority Entidad Pública del Transporte (EPT), allows Vodafone customers to pay their for their bus travel by using their NFC-enabled phone with contactless readers on all public buses in the regional fleet. NFC tags located at bus stops will also let passengers access up-to-date travel information including when the next bus is due.
José Ballesta, minister of public works and planning in the southern Spanish region, said the system would allow "time-saving and better flow of passengers on city and intercity buses, thereby improving service quality for users".
In the future, the project may be expanded to include access to sporting, cultural and leisure facilities, to the region's libraries and to bike rental services, Ballesta added.
"This is a new opportunity to put technology at the service of citizens, improve public transport and encourage its use and, ultimately, to continue investing in innovation and development of new software protocols to facilitate the thousands of Murcia residents who daily make use of the regional bus network," he concluded.
The project is beginning with a pilot with the aim of then rolling out the system to a potential market of four million passengers.
The announcement follows a trial conducted by Vodafone with Spanish railway operator Renfe at the end of 2009 in the capital Madrid.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Vodafone announced it had signed a cooperation agreement with its two biggest mobile network competitors in Spain, aimed at generating a stable NFC ecosystem and minimizing the risk of market fragmentation.