New GTR pre-pay smartcard promises to be 'game-changer'


Rail operator GTR, which operates Southern services as part of the biggest franchise in the country, is to extend its new prepay smartcard to nearly all the stations its trains serve, Transport Network has learned.

The KeyGo smartcard is a hybrid system that requires users to add credit to an account but links directly to their bank account and tops up when necessary. A ‘fare engine’ calculates the cheapest fare the user should have been charged.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling

A GTR spokesman told Transport Network: ‘We can confirm that this spring we’ll be extending and improving our exciting pay-as-you-go smartcard called keyGo so that it works at almost all the national rail stations we serve across the Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink network.’

‘The system, which could previously be used only on Southern services outside the London Travelcard zone, is being tested and will guarantee our passengers the cheapest walk-up fare, overcoming that frequent customer complaint of an overly complex fares structure.’

The spokesman added that in future the card could be more like contactless and not require a credit balance.

In an email to constituents this week, transport secretary Chris Grayling, whose Epsom and Ewell constituency is served by Southern trains, said: ‘I have tried the system and can vouch that it works. I tapped in and out going into Victoria last week, and it worked fine without having to buy a ticket.’

Mr Grayling wrote: ‘the plan is to extend it so that it can be used across London just like an Oyster card.’ However, GTR told Transport Network: ‘That is the aspiration but this is a significant technical challenge.'

While the card is not currently valid in London on the Tube, DLR or London Buses, it can be used on some Metrobus and Brighton & Hove bus company services.

GTR pointed out that with current smartcards, including its own smartcard ‘theKey’ card, passengers pre-purchase a ticket either online or from a ticket machine, while keyGo pay-as-you-go is ‘making a leap forward to the [Transport for London] type approach where passengers don’t have to queue’.

The company said that extending keyGo to its Thameslink and Great Northern services and the stations it uses in London, will create the critical mass to make smartcard ticketing a much more appealing system. It said it was the only operator doing anything like this and that it would be a ‘game-changer’.

GTR told Transport Network that the keyGo system was not developed with the assistance of the Government’s South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) programme and does not use SEFT back office functionality.

It does not currently offer weekly capping or other discounts that might benefit part-time workers.


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