A leading passenger transport group has called on the Government to change the law to make it easier to introduce the franchising of bus networks to support smart ticketing.
The Passenger Transport Executive Group (pteg) - representing the six strategic transport bodies in the largest city regions outside London - also called for areas without a London-style franchising system to have some price control powers.
Released this week, the pteg report highlights progress made on integrated multi-operator ticketing including the one million public transport journeys a week being made in West Yorkshire on the M-card together with1.3 million smartcard transactions a month on the Tyne and Wear Metro.
However it warns while ticketing may become smarter it could still be too complex, ‘with different fares being charged for the same journeys by different bus companies; high charges for tickets that can be used across operators; and insufficient integration with rail ticketing’.
In response pteg argue the government should help councils introduce the franchising of bus networks so that smart and simple ticketing can be specified in the tender of contracts as it is in London.
It adds that where services remain deregulated the Government should give transport authorities ‘more powers to ensure that the premia on tickets that can be used on the services of more than one operator are reasonable and that those tickets are properly promoted and retailed’.
A pteg spokesman said that in some areas this extra cost for using a multi-operator ticket has been as high as 30%.
It also calls on ministers to ensure national smart policies and initiatives on bus and rail are coordinated to achieve single outcomes in the city regions and to provide funding to support a roll out of smart ticketing across the regions similar to that in the south east.
John Henkel, who leads for pteg on smart futures, said: ‘It should never be the case that a public transport user needs more than one smartcard in their pocket to be sure of getting the cheapest deal – yet in some parts of the country this is already happening as bus companies promote their own tickets ahead of those that can be used on all services. Public transport users in the city regions want ticketing that is smart, simple and integrated and which looks and feels more like London’s Oyster. That’s what we want to give them but can only give them with a legislative framework that allows us to do so.
‘We also want to look to the future because smart and clever cities across Europe are already looking beyond smart ticketing across public transport networks to a future where the same smart product will also unlock and pay for hire bikes and hire cars. This emerging market in ‘total mobility’ offers exciting opportunities not only to make travel more convenient but also to promote awareness of the more sustainable travel options.’
The power to bring in bus franchising would help councils undo the effects of the Transport Act 1985, which took operations outside London out of municipal hands. Despite the Act being unpopular in the local government sector very little has been achieved in undoing it.
This month the North East Combined Authority (Neca) will try and make the case for a Quality Contract Scheme to the national Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) Board, to establish a franchising system in the region. This is the first time any local transport authority has progressed a QCS to this stage.