Bus passengers across all of Britain are set to benefit from smart ticketing by 2022 it has emerged.
Transport minister, Andrew Jones, revealed that the big five bus operators – Arriva, First Group, Go-Ahead, National Express, Stagecoach - have pledged to bring in contactless travel to every bus by 2022, with many areas benefiting sooner.
They are also supported by Album – the Association of Local Bus Company Managers.
The news follows partnership working between operators, local authorities and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Smart Cities Partnership (SCP), which brought together nine city regions outside London to agree how best to introduce smart ticketing.
Wheels in motion: Buses heading for smarter future
The minister also celebrated several major milestones towards creating a nation-wide contactless payment system, revealing that the rail industry has agreed a tranche of funding and a new framework to explore how contactless payments could be introduced for season tickets or long-distance train travel.
The news comes after Transport Network revealed earlier this month that such an announcement was in the offing, following talks between ministers and operators.
Mr Jones said: ‘The smart ticketing revolution is helping to build a modern, affordable transport network that provides better journeys for everyone. By working together, industry, city regions and government have been able to ensure more and more people can use smart ticketing to get around. We are determined to continue driving progress so passengers get the quick and simple journeys that they want and deserve.’
However, Lilian Greenwood MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said the announcement was 'a desperate attempt to distract attention from the Government’s failing smart ticketing programme', which has spent £38m but was 'at least three years late and 78% over budget'.
'The truth is that it has proved to be far too difficult to reform fares and ticketing on our deregulated bus services and our fragmented rail network, and there is no reason why passengers in most of the country should wait at least seven years to use the same technology that is already in place in London.'
The rail industry’s contactless ticketing framework follows government work with the UK Cards Association, which represents the card payments industry.
The scheme will look specifically at the benefits that could be offered by three different contactless transit models:
- Pay as You Go (PAYG) for set fares
- A PAYG model for multiple uses during a day or during a journey
- A pre-purchase model to replace paper tickets where a contactless card or device is associated with the ticket in advance and then used as a form of identity to travel
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: 'We welcome this progress with smart ticketing in principle, but passengers will want to see real benefits in the fares they actually pay. If contactless and smart cards, and the multi-operator and flexible tickets they enable, come with a big premium over ordinary fares people just won't use them.
'What's needed is a national strategy to deliver ticketing and fares that will allow for seamless, door-to-door travel on one card, valid on all operators with flexibility for part-time workers. Passengers in London already benefit from Oyster in this way, so why is it taking so long to have a similar nationwide scheme?"
Significant progress has already been made across the SCP cities, with 700,000 smartcards in use providing seamless connections across different modes of transport and helping reduce ticket queues.
It was also announced today that Centro, the West Midland’s integrated transport authority, is extending the Swift smartcard across the region. Backed by £620,000 of DfT funding the Oyster-style cards, first introduced in 2012, will work on buses, trams and trains in the area from next month.
Other city regions across the country have also rolled out the technology.
The participating SCP local transport authorities across England include:
- Leicester City Council
- Nottingham City Council
- South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive
- Transport for Greater Manchester
- West of England Partnership
- West Yorkshire Combined Authority