Smart tick­et­ing will be a must for rail­way bid­ders

Staines Informer - - FRONT PAGE - Char­lotte Tal­bot char­lotte.tal­bot@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

‘SMART tick­et­ing’ will be in­tro­duced at Spelthorne sta­tions un­der the new rail fran­chise, spurring on cam­paign­ers who want to see Zone 6 ex­tended into the bor­ough.

The Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) an­nounced that in­tro­duc­ing the elec­tronic tick­ets would be a ‘min­i­mum im­prove­ment’ for bid­ders in­ter­ested in run­ning the South Western rail­way, with the win­ning bid due to be an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary.

The Spelthorne in the Zone move­ment wants to see Staines, Ash­ford, Sun­bury and Shep­per­ton, in­cluded in Zone 6 so that Oys­ter cards can be used, and the group say they are ‘ pleased’ smart tick­et­ing will be in­cluded in the bid­ding process.

The cam­paign group held its in­au­gu­ral pub­lic meet­ing ear­lier this month, with a panel of coun­cil­lors, Spelthorne Busi­ness Fo­rum lead­ers and MP Kwasi Kwarteng dis­cussing the eco­nomic im­pacts if sta­tions were in­cluded in Trans­port for Lon­don’s Zone 6.

Ques­tions from res­i­dents were put to the panel, rang­ing from whether there are any tech­ni­cal and po­lit­i­cal bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing the change, whether the bor­ough would have to be­come a Lon­don bor­ough, and about the use of Free­dom Passes and Young Per­son’s Rail­cards should the Oys­ter Card be brought in.

A pe­ti­tion has at­tracted more than 5,000 sig­na­tures, with the cam­paign backed by big busi­nesses based in the bor­ough in­clud­ing Thorpe Park, Pinewood Stu­dios and Heathrow Air­port.

The move­ment started two years ago when Olivia Ry­bin­ski, now a Spelthorne coun­cil­lor, and re­tired Patti Tay­lor joined forces.

“I truly be­lieve that hav­ing Zone 6, hav­ing con­tact­less pay­ment, Oys­ter cards, would re­ally ben­e­fit all of us,” said Cllr Ry­bin­ski, who moved to Ash­ford three years ago from Zone 3.

Cllr Ry­bin­ski and Cllr Sabine Capes said the ben­e­fits would in­clude cheaper and eas­ier travel for Spelthorne res­i­dents and vis­i­tors, re­duced con­ges­tion on the roads, in­creased off-peak jour­neys and Staines town cen­tre be­com­ing ‘real com­pe­ti­tion’ for the likes of Rich­mond and Kingston.

Michael Craig, Kwasi Kwarteng’s se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, talked through his deal­ings with the DfT and Trans­port for Lon­don (TfL), the main play­ers in the de­ci­sion. He said the DfT had con­firmed smart tick­et­ing will be a re­quire­ment for the new fran­chise holder, when the bid out­come is de­cided in 2017.

“Oys­ter is the nat­u­ral choice for that ser­vice,” he said, adding that they made it clear that any changes need to be ap­proved by TfL.

In an open let­ter TfL’s Ge­off Hobbs said he sup­ported a ‘more con­ve­nient tick­et­ing sys­tem and there­fore sup­ports an ex­ten­sion of the area in which con­tact­less tick­et­ing is valid’. How­ever, he noted, there are ‘tech­ni­cal lim­its to the num­ber of zones pos­si­ble in the Oys­ter sys­tem’.

Cllr Nick Gething, Spelthorne cabi­net mem­ber for plan­ning and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, told the meet­ing there were ‘ huge’ fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties for the bor­ough, in­creas­ing foot­fall and re­duc­ing traf­fic. ”It would be eas­ier and cheaper for peo­ple to travel into Lon­don and around the bor­ough,” he said. “It makes life eas­ier for those com­ing to Sur­rey and res­i­dents com­mut­ing to Lon­don.”

Spelthorne Busi­ness Fo­rum has also given its back­ing, with chair­man Michael Ram­lakhan adding: “There’s a lot of thriv­ing busi­nesses in Spelthorne. We want it to work as it would just in­crease our busi­ness pres­ence in the coun­try.”

Clos­ing the meet­ing, Mr Kwarteng said it was pos­i­tive to see ‘this kind of en­thu­si­asm’.

“There’s lots of tech­ni­cal de­tails with re­gard to fran­chis­ing, and of var­i­ous stud­ies and look­ing at the eco­nomic im­pact of pric­ing and all the rest of it. It re­ally takes a long time to get your head round these is­sues,” he said.

A mo­tion is due to go be­fore a full coun­cil meet­ing to­mor­row (Thurs­day), ask­ing for full sup­port in the cam­paign.

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