TfN's smart ticketing runs into trouble as more KPIs missed


Transport for the North (TfN) has failed more key performance indicators (KPI), with its smart ticketing programme running off the rails and crunch talks scheduled for September.

The regional transport body was supposed to have a fully integrated smart ticketing system operating across Mersyerail, TransPennine and Northern rail services by the end of last year.

Its business plan and accounts documents also state that its KPIs were based on the delivery of: 'The first stages of phase 2 bus and light rail fares, disruption, open data hub, knowledge network and innovation pilots by spring 2019.

For Phase 3, TfN was supposed to have established 'a Special Purpose Vehicle with transport operators that will commission, accept and run the ticketless travel systems when they are procured and delivered by the end of 2018'.

None of this has been completed, despite £9.26m being spent in 2018-2019 on the programme - £8.2m of this was on capital expenditure. Tens of millions more are being held in reserve for the scheme but have not been drawn down due to the 'slippage' in the programme.

As part of Phase 2 though, TfN announced in May this year that suppliers have been brought on board to deliver an ‘Open Data Hub’ and ‘Disruption Messaging Tool’.

The news comes after Transport Network revealed the statutory body had also fallen behind on its KPI of integrating its Northern Powerhouse Rail plans with the HS2 phase 2b hybrid bill.

The business case has been held up in Department for Transport since February, putting prime minister Boris Johnson's Autumn deadline for a Powerhouse deal in doubt.

New dawn fades

After the failure of the south east smart ticketing scheme, which saw scores of millions spent on a scheme that delivered little or nothing more than paper ticketing, it was hoped that TfN could learn the lessons.

Progress initially seemed positive and optimism was high, however with millions spent already on a system that once again provides little more than a plastic versions of paper tickets, TfN is at risk of falling into a similar trap as the south.

Merseyrail's Walrus 'smart card' only operates on Merseytravel services. It does not provide any fare-capping or flexible fare services and the card does not offer pay-as-you-go services.

A spokesperson highlighted its, albeit limited, multi-modal option: 'Passengers can purchase Saveaways on Walrus which gives the passenger unlimited off-peak travel for one day on bus, train or ferry in Merseyside.'

On the TransPennine smart card, a passenger can travel on any train operator’s services 'so long as it has a valid season ticket on it' - a system also available on paper tickets in the north region.

The smart card can’t yet be used on bus, trams, ferries, nor does it offer flexible season tickets or fare capping.

A spokesperson said: 'The smart card can currently be used to buy rail only season tickets. We are working with Transport for the North to introduce full multi-modal ticketing across the North of England within the next two years. We do not currently offer pay as you go.

'Currently TPE’s smartcard can be used for any station to station season ticket from weeklies to annual. Fares capping is not part of the functionality for smart ticketing.'

Similarly, the Northern rail smart card does nothing apart from hold basic paper season tickets and doesn’t even provide the same services they do.

It has no fare capping potential or pay as you go.

It does allow multi-operator season tickets if you pay extra for the multi-operator package but this was the case on paper tickets and the multi-modal season ticket paper ticket is not available to be uploaded onto the Northern smart card.

A spokesman said: 'We will introduce flexible season tickets on many of our commuter routes later this year. These products will be loaded onto the Northern Smartcards and will allow customers to travel on a number of days within a set period, providing a more flexible and affordable alternative for regular but not full-time commuters.

'All MCard products sold by Northern are sold to smart cards, and can be used on all bus and rail services within West Yorkshire. We work closely with all multi-modal ticketing schemes across our network and are actively progressing the smart-enablement of other multi-modal products with ticketing companies, other operators and transport authorities across the North. We are committed to delivering Pay as You Go as part of TfN’s Integrated and Smart Ticketing Programme.'

A spokesperson for TfN told Transport Network:  'Delivering a smart ticketing solution across different modes of transport and many operators in the North is extremely complex, with several different options. Our members have asked for additional work to be undertaken in order to consider the best way forward.

'We’re working closely with the Department for Transport and operators to agree the next steps and will reconvene in September.'

They highlighted that so far, 3.9 million journeys have been loaded to smartcards since their introduction, with take-up continuing to rise.

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