Rail minister Claire Perry has launched a new smartcard product on two routes operated by Abellio Greater Anglia, as part of the beleaguered South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) programme.
Last week SEFT drew fierce criticism from Labour as ‘a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money’.
The Department for Transport’s (DfT) SEFT programme was originally intended ‘to promote seamless and convenient travel on different types of transport across London and the south east’. However, it is now being promoted largely as a way of replacing paper season tickets with more durable plastic ones.
Claire Perry and Jamie Burles with an over-sized smartcard
The new season ticket product can be used on Abellio Greater Anglia’s routes from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street.
The company said it is the first train operator to launch season tickets on smartcards using the SEFT programme’s IT infrastructure. It will start with annual and monthly season tickets and launch weekly tickets later this month.
The initiative will be extended elsewhere on the Abellio Greater Anglia network this year, including the Norwich to London mainline.
Ms Perry said: ‘Today marks a major milestone in the development of smart ticketing and I congratulate Abellio Greater Anglia on their launch of smart card season tickets. We want to build a modern railway that provides better journeys for all, and simpler and smarter ticketing is a vital part of that.
‘Today’s launch shows what can be achieved through collaboration between industry and government, and is part of the government funded South East Flexible Ticket programme, ensuring passengers benefit from the ease and convenience these ticket products provide. It is also an important step towards the removal of paper tickets, bringing ticketing into the 21st century.’
Jamie Burles, Abellio Greater Anglia's managing director, said: ‘We’re excited to be at the forefront of the SEFT programme, working with our partners at the Department for Transport, in pioneering more convenient and integrated ticket products for rail commuters travelling with Abellio Greater Anglia on the Cambridge and Southend Victoria routes to London Liverpool Street.’
Last week the DfT told Transport Network that by the end of this year all five operators in the SEFT programme will be offering smart season tickets.
According to Abellio Greater Anglia, these are itself, c2c, Govia Thameslink Railway, South West Trains and Southeastern, covering 73% of the annual season ticket market.
In a statement the company said the issue of smartcards ‘opens up greater opportunities in the future for developments such as flexible ticketing, tailored to the individual travellers’ needs’.
However, a spokeswoman told Transport Network that the company does not have plans to introduce transport integration opportunities on smartcards during its current franchise, which ends in October.
She added: ‘The fact we are now rolling this technology across our routes opens up these opportunities in the next long franchise.’