Swipe card plans signal the end for paper tickets
Paper travel tickets could become a thing of the past under the latest Department for Transport proposals.
A smartcard could be introduced to cover rail, Tube and bus travel in England in a move that is predicted to improve journey times and produce benefits of as much as £2 billion a year.
The Government plans, which are now out for consultation, also envisage mobile phones doubling up as 'swipe and go' cards and bank cards being used to pay directly for journeys.
The DfT supports cards operating to the so-called ITSO specification. All recently let rail franchises and new England-wide concessionary bus passes must be ITSO-compatible. Transport Scotland's concessionary travel scheme also uses ITSO cards.
Transport Minister Sadiq Khan said: "Experience has shown that smart ticketing can be a key part of offering a 21st-century public transport system.
"And of course, the easier it is to use public transport, the more people will do so, which is why I want to see a universal coverage of smart ticketing on all modes of public transport in England as quickly as possible.
"We could see the end to waiting in line at ticket machines, while buses could spend half the amount of time sitting at the bus stop waiting for people to board and looking for the right change. In some cases, direct payments may even do away with the need for a ticket at all.
"The technology and the interest is already out there and I want to see it used to not only help passengers but also reduce congestion, pollution, improve the local environment, and help local authorities plan more effective local transport systems."
The Government hopes that its smart and integrated ticketing strategy will build on the success already seen in London where Oyster smartcards are now used for 78 per cent of bus and Tube journeys. However, the Oyster specification is different from ITSO, and there are still unresolved technical difficulties in making cards and readers fully interoperable between the two systems.
Jonathan Bray, director of the Passenger Transport Executive Group support unit, said: "We fully share the Government's ambition to see smart ticketing introduced across Britain's largest urban areas as soon as possible.
"Oystercard has become intrinsic to London life. Passengers have a right to expect a similar deal in the next tier of major urban areas."
Stephen Joseph, executive director of Campaign for Better Transport, commented: "Government must recognise it's not just about the technology. The Government has a critical role with local authorities to make the most of smartcard technology but the plans must specify that door-to-door ticketing will be valid on all operators to be of most use to passengers. This has happened in London and is commonplace in other countries - it needs to happen across the UK."
The consultation is open until 23 October. Responses will feed into a full strategy to be published later in the year.
The IET is planning to submit a response to this consultation and welcomes input by all IET members who have expertise in this area. For more information, please see
www.theiet.org/publicaffairs/submissions/s845.cfm or contact Yvonne Hübner (Principal Policy Advisor) email@example.com