New rail smartcard slammed as 'waste of money'


Campaigners have described a new ‘smartcard’ for rail commuters as a waste of money, despite the card receiving backing from the transport secretary.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) said the Key, the new paperless ticket from rail operator Southeastern, provides no real benefits for commuters.

Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at CfBT, said: ‘This is a real missed opportunity for Southeastern commuters. They were promised a smart card and all they are getting is a plastic version of the paper ticket they already have.

Rail minister Paul Maynard (second left) at Sevenoaks station

‘This is a total waste of money a far as most passengers are concerned. We would have hoped Southeastern would’ve taken this opportunity to use the new smart to card to introduce things like automatic refunds for delays or cancellations and season tickets for part-time workers, but unfortunately for passengers this is not the case.’

CfBT said it would also have liked to see the new ‘smartcard’ scheme include things like the ability to link up with Transport for London’s Oyster card or buses to allow for door to door journeys, price capping and the option of pay-as-you-go travel without having to pre-load a ticket onto the card.

According to Southeastern, The £5.5m project is part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) programme, which could be the subject of a probe by the National Audit Office after around £40m of an £80m budget achieved very little.

The company said the card ‘offers huge potential for future exciting developments that can help to give our passengers better journeys. We’ll continue to work closely with the DfT as more developments are explored for delivery in future franchises’.

In a speech on Tuesday (6 December) transport secretary Chris Grayling cited the new card and said: ‘We now need to see other train companies offering similar choices to their passengers where the equipment is already available to support this and we need to ensure that the infrastructure needed spreads across all of our major cities.’

Mr Grayling said he was ‘delighted’ that the chancellor made £80m funding available in the Autumn Statement to support further infrastructure roll out for smart ticketing by the end of 2018.

He said he had established a special transport project team in the DfT to take this forward and would ‘personally be chairing the first Smart Ticketing Delivery Board with industry, Transport Focus and sub national transport bodies like Transport for the North early in the new year to further drive forward progress’.


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