The trial is set to lead to "a wider nationwide transport roll out" to buses and trains in 2013, says the leading UK-based public transport operator which carries 2.5m Brits every day.
Public transportation operator Stagecoach has partnered with Everything Everywhere, operator of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK, to field test the use of NFC phones as bus tickets in the Cambridgeshire area of the country.
Unlike Transport for London, which earlier this week revealed there will be delays in its move to open loop contactless and NFC ticketing, the Stagecoach trial is using NFC tickets that conform to the British government-backed ITSO ticketing standard.
The trial, already underway on the Stagecoach bus network in Cambridgeshire as well as the city of Cambridge's Park & Ride and Guided Busway services, enables "a small cross section" of bus users to receive, store and validate their bus tickets using their mobile phone.
The pilot marks the first time that NFC versions of ITSO standard tickets have been field tested and, the partners say, could lead to "a nationwide roll out across select bus and rail services in 2013".
Everything Everywhere is providing each customer in the trial with a Quick Tap-enabled NFC handset on its Orange mobile brand and says the project "will monitor the levels of customer convenience the Quick Tap service provides, as well as for operational and technical efficiencies."
"The trial also contributes to the Government's vision to deliver, along with transport operators and public sector bodies, the infrastructure to enable most public transport journeys to be undertaken using smart ticketing by December 2014," the partners add.
In 2009, the UK's Department for Transport announced it would provide £20m in funding over five years to enable nine of England's largest urban areas to make the switch to NFC-compatible transport ticketing systems.
"We've already started a new movement in the way we make payments and receive retail rewards on the high street, so this really is the next step — providing customers with additional simplicity and convenience to help improve their public transport experience," says Gerry McQuade, Everything Everywhere's chief marketing officer.
"As Britain's biggest communication company, we're proud to be working with Stagecoach to help bring public transport ticketing into the 21st century and start a trend towards a future where ultimately the traditional paper and card tickets of today will eventually become a thing of the past."
"Smartphones are playing an increasingly important role in helping people manage their busy lifestyles and are already used across many areas of life," adds Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group's finance director. "We believe this technology can also make public transport easier and more convenient to use. Once this trial is complete, we will carry out a review of the findings and assess the potential to expand the scheme further for our passengers."