McDonald slams Govt for 'lack of ambition' on rail ticketing


Labour has said it wants to see a system of contactless payment using smartcards and mobile phones across the rail network.

It follows the launch of a Government consultation on extending pay-as-you-go rail travel to the South East of England beyond London and a delay to the rail industry’s review of ticketing.


Speaking at the Transport for the North conference in Sheffield on Monday (11 February), shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘The Government and the rail industry’s unambitious plans for ticketing and cannot restore public faith in the system. The current adversarial and unco-operative rail structure can possibly deliver the fare reform we need.

‘Under our plans for public ownership of rail there will be an opportunity to sort out the mess of rail fares and ticketing. And that will give a chance for transformation at both the regional and local level.

‘Our aspiration is for a comprehensive system of contactless payment using smartcards and mobile phones across the network. There’s a commercial logic to this. Complexity is bad for business. Simplicity drives growth.’

In a written statement to Parliament last week, rail minister Andrew Jones said: ‘Our ambition is to ensure that across regional and urban commuter areas smart ticketing can deliver the kind of pay-as-you-go (PAYG) structure that is used in London, to make journeys easier and smoother for passengers.’

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published a consultation document on the feasibility of delivering pay-as-you-go ‘to an expanded area across the south-east of England’, i.e. beyond London’s Oyster system (pictured).

Inside this area, ‘passengers would be able to travel seamlessly between all rail services in the area and on the Transport for London (TfL) network, all using the same PAYG scheme’.

The paper states: ‘We are exploring options to make complementary changes to fares and to introduce capping, so that there is a maximum amount you can pay over day and / or week for making a particular journey, no matter how many times you travel.’

However, it adds: ‘we have not at this point decided upon the best way to proceed.'

The document also states: ‘In some cases, a PAYG scheme could also extend to local transport services such as buses, although this is not a major focus of the programme.’


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