by Daniel Hewitt
Savvy bus passengers now have a ticket to ride - thanks to a new paperless ticketing system.
Arriva's launch of the new "m-ticket" is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, covering around 1,000 routes and 4,500 buses.
Passengers will be able to use their mobile phones to buy tickets, paying by credit/debit card or at a PayPoint outlet, and then displaying the 'virtual ticket' to the driver.
Heath Williams, managing director of Arriva Buses Southern Counties, said the tickets would give "additional flexibility and convenience" to passengers.
He added: "The mobile phone is an essential part of modern life.
"It saves them [passengers] searching out the cash to buy a ticket and speeds up getting on a bus, as they simply show the ticket on the phone display to the driver."
Medway Cllr Ted Baker said he supported the scheme, but would not be using it himself: "Even though I don't use a mobile phone, I think it's preferable because it is experimental and people can choose to pay by whatever means they feel best suits them."
Arriva, the third largest bus operator in the UK, teamed up with Concept Data Technologies to create the m-ticketing system. Once downloaded to a mobile phone, it allows a range of tickets to be bought, including daily and weekly.
The company says mobile ticket users could save 10 per cent from their four-weekly tickets.
But Blackberry and iPhone users won't be able to use the service until early 2010, and old mobiles, including those with green screens or those more than four years old, cannot be used with the system.