Oyster-style ticketing for city regions
Stagecoach, First, Arriva, Go-Ahead and National Express have announced plans to launch London Oyster card style smart ticketing across England’s largest city regions. Described as ‘ground breaking’, the pledge is set to deliver multi-operator smart ticketing to millions of bus customers across England during 2015. Greater Manchester will be one of the first areas to be rolled out. It will also benefit Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire along with the city regions of Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol. In the West Midlands nearly 30 operators are already part of the Swift smart multi-operating ticketing scheme providing new products and convenient travel across the region. The country’s biggest bus providers have spent several months finalising their plans and this work has included liaising with IT suppliers and the DfT.
The plans represent a multi-million pound investment by operators in what is believed to be the biggest smart ticketing project in the UK’s history. The technology will allow smaller bus operators to be included and provide a platform to extend the system to other modes, such as trams and trains.
In a joint statement, the Chief Executives of the ‘big five’, said, ‘Millions of people in our biggest city regions will benefit from this transformational initiative to provide London-style smart ticketing. It will deliver an even bigger programme and wider benefit than the capital’s Oyster system. Bus operators share the aspirations of our city regions to become growing economic powerhouses and we know high quality public transport is an important part of making that happen.’
‘We have a shared responsibility to get the most benefit from our country’s buses, which are crucial to high streets up and down the country and are used by millions of people every day to access work, health, education and leisure. By working together, bus operators, local authorities and the Government can make our buses even better. Crucially, our plans for smart ticketing can be delivered in a matter of months, rather than years of waiting and the unnecessary cost of wholesale changes to the way bus services are delivered.’
Responding to this news, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport, Stephen Joseph, said, ‘There’s a very welcome consensus that action is needed to give our big cities high quality public transport networks. It won’t matter to most passengers whether that comes from elected mayors or from transport operators working together more closely. They just want to see investment in better bus, rail and tram networks that make their city better places to live and work.’
The proposals drew a negative response from PTEG. Cllr James Lewis, Chair of the group, said: ‘It’s good that operators recognise their passengers’ aspirations for Oyster-style ticketing but this statement raises more questions than answers. Smart ticketing is part of Oyster but Oyster is also about simpler ticketing, and it’s about ticketing that can be used easily across all bus services and all modes. It is important to be clear that it is not legally possible to introduce full London-style Oyster-style ticketing under bus deregulation because you can’t make all operators charge the same fare in a free market.’