The Campaign for Better Transport has called on ministers to ‘come clean’ about its £80m South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) programme, after transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin failed to deny it has been abandoned.
Speaking to delegates at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) annual conference yesterday, Mr McLoughlin claimed that ‘some good progress has been made, for example on smart ticketing through the South East Flexible Ticketing programme’.
But he added: ‘We’ve now reached a point where future development can be led by the private sector.’
Mr McLoughlin’s words follow similar comments from rail minister Claire Perry last week.
In a river in Egypt? Patrick McLoughlin
When Martin Abrams from the Campaign for Better Transport put it to Mr McLoughlin that it was an ‘open secret’ that SEFT had been scrapped, the transport secretary failed to deny this, although he did deny that smart ticketing in general had been abandoned.
Mr Abrams told Transport Network: ‘It is time for the Government to come clean on the failures of their flagship South East Flexible Ticketing programme so that lessons can be learnt to ensure that rail passengers have smart ticketing as soon as possible.
'The Government has now “challenged the rail industry to deliver smart ticketing” but it has been 13 years since Transport for London launched the Oyster card and in that time the rail industry as a whole has made little progress towards enabling smart ticketing across the rail network, despite some individual initiatives.’
‘Yet again it is passengers who will lose out due to the sheer lack of progress particularly those passengers who work part-time who, despite Government promises over the last few years, are still waiting for an affordable option just to get to work.’
In December, transport minister Lord Ahmed said in a written parliamentary answer: ‘To date, £37.64m has been spent on the South East Flexible Ticketing programme. This has facilitated investment by five train operators accounting for 73% of the annual season ticket market in the south east. Commuters on c2c and GTR can already use smartcards on their journeys into London and within the Transport for London boundary. Abellio Greater Anglia and South West Trains will follow early in 2016 and Southeastern later in the year.’
Yesterday, Lord Ahmed told the House of Lords: ‘The South East Flexible Ticketing programme is proceeding with its existing contractual obligations and I fully expect these to be delivered by the end of 2016.’
Transport Network asked the Department for Transport whether the comments in Mr McLoughlin’s speech were an admission that SEFT has been scrapped. We are awaiting a response.
At yesterday’s conference, the RDG announced plans to allow passengers to travel across the rail network using barcoded ‘m-Tickets’ sent direct to their smartphones.
The RDG also said that it ‘is working also with the card payments industry to explore how people outside London could use new “ticket in the cloud” technology to use contactless credit or debit cards as a “token to travel”, replacing paper tickets.’