Rail smartcard pilot launched

The first passenger pilot of a national rail smartcard for the UK has been launched by South West Trains.

A number of season ticket holders are taking part in the pilot between Staines and Windsor to help test and perfect the ITSO smartcard technology before it is rolled out across across South West Trains, the biggest commuter rail network in the UK. Eventually all Britain's passenger train operators are expected to follow suit.

Equipment is being installed at stations across the South West Trains network to allow smartcards to be introduced gradually, route by route.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is working with Transport for London (TfL) on making TfL's Oyster smartcard system compatible with ITSO, to allow London to be included.

Developing the first ever national rail smartcard has taken two years of hard work after it was specified as part of the new South Western franchise, which is operated by Stagecoach Group.

Further ITSO smartcard schemes have been specified for other rail franchises, including the East Midlands franchise, which is also operated by Stagecoach.

The first passenger pilot starting this month (November) is operating at stations between Staines and Windsor, following a successful staff trial over the same line. This route has been chosen as it is self-contained.

Ian Dobbs, chief executive of Stagecoach Group's Rail Division, said: "Stagecoach is already leading the way in delivering smartcard technology on its buses in the UK and we are excited about testing the national rail network's first smartcard.

"We are committed to working with other transport players to realise the full, enormous potential of these smartcards throughout the South West Trains area.

"When the Department for Transport and Transport for London have completed work on integrating the ITSO and Oystercard systems, we look forward to rolling out the benefits of smartcards across the entire South West Trains network."

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