Yorkshire Post

New blow for ‘con­tact­less’ travel scheme

Fixed-price, cross-North­ern card plan will be rail only af­ter bus firms’ snub

- ROB PAR­SONS PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR ■ Email: rob.par­sons@jpi­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post Business · Travel · Transportation · Industries · Arriva · Leeds · Passenger Transport · North Yorkshire · London · Transport for London · Andrew Burnham · Dan Jarvis · Campaign for Better Transport

TRANS­PORT BOSSES have been forced to ditch a ma­jor el­e­ment of their trou­bled scheme to of­fer con­tact­less ‘pay-as-you-go’ travel across the North, af­ter the re­gion’s big bus com­pa­nies re­fused to sup­port it.

Trans­port for the North (TfN)’s In­te­grated and Smart Travel Pro­gramme was orig­i­nally meant to al­low pas­sen­gers to use con­tact­less bank cards to travel on buses, trams, trains and fer­ries on the same jour­ney across the North with a fixed max­i­mum price.

But The York­shire Post re­vealed last year that the fu­ture of the £150m scheme was in jeop­ardy af­ter bus firms such as Ar­riva, First Go-Ahead and Stage­coach re­fused to co-op­er­ate as they al­ready have their own con­tact­less schemes.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have now agreed a way for­ward – at a pri­vate meet­ing in Leeds, TfN’s board, in­clud­ing metro may­ors Andy Burn­ham and Dan Jarvis, changed tack and fo­cussed its con­tact­less pay-as-you-go travel plans on rail op­er­a­tors, with the aim of bring­ing bus firms on board in the fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to a con­fi­den­tial re­port, seen by The York­shire Post, this means the trans­port body will be forced to can­cel the set­ting up of the of­fice pro­cess­ing sys­tem, known as AB­BOT, which would have worked out the cost of jour­neys on dif­fer­ent modes of trans­port.

Of­fi­cials are also work­ing with com­bined au­thor­ity bosses on de­liv­er­ing smart tick­et­ing schemes around the re­gion, us­ing money saved from drop­ping part of the orig­i­nal plan.

But they ad­mit scal­ing back on the scheme means that, at least in the short term, cus­tomers will not get the ‘fair price prom­ise’ set out as part of TfN’s orig­i­nal vi­sion

to en­cour­age peo­ple to travel across the North for work.

Bus com­pa­nies are re­luc­tant to sign up to the TfN scheme be­cause their have al­ready spent money on their own con­tact­less tech­nol­ogy and pay-as-you-go plans and be­lieve they can re­spond more quickly to changes in the in­dus­try with con­trol of their own sys­tems. Con­tact­less tick­et­ing is now avail­able on more than 90 per cent of buses na­tion­wide and tick­et­ing with a max­i­mum ‘capped’ daily or weekly charge in ar­eas.

Big bus firms have com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing price-capped daily and weekly tick­ets that can be used across dif­fer­ent op­er­a­tors in ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas by 2022.

Gra­ham Vi­dler, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Pas­sen­ger Trans­port, which rep­re­sents the bus in­dus­try, said: “Bus op­er­a­tors and Trans­port for the North have a shared ob­jec­tive and com­mit­ment to make pub­lic trans­port tick­et­ing sim­pler and more ac­ces­si­ble for cus­tomers.

“Fol­low­ing TfN’s de­ci­sion to fo­cus on the rail sec­tor in the near term, we will con­tinue to im­prove our cus­tomer of­fer by work­ing to­gether to de­liver sim­pler tick­et­ing across a range of plat­forms around the coun­try. This in­cludes in­tro­duc­ing the first multi-op­er­a­tor capped tick­et­ing scheme by au­tumn 2020.”

A TfN spokes­woman said of­fi­cials “have been con­sult­ing with our part­ners and pub­lic trans­port op­er­a­tors to con­sider the evolv­ing smart tick­et­ing land­scape.” She said: “Other as­pects of the pro­gramme – in­clud­ing roll-out of smart cards across the North’s rail net­work – con­tinue at pace.”

Mark Parry, of the Cam­paign for Bet­ter Trans­port, West & North York­shire Branch, de­scribed the devel­op­ment as a “ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment”. He said: “The equiv­a­lent Oys­ter card scheme in Lon­don has been es­pe­cially suc­cess­ful in mak­ing travel easy across all modes of pub­lic trans­port. What­ever the un­der­ly­ing rea­son be­hind this, it is im­por­tant that pas­sen­gers have ac­cess to an easy to un­der­stand range of tick­ets from which to choose one that suits them.”

WHEN TRANS­PORT bosses first set out am­bi­tious plans to of­fer con­tact­less smart travel across the North, the vi­sion was of a stream­lined tick­et­ing sys­tem al­low­ing pas­sen­gers to use buses, trams and trains on the same jour­ney with­out hav­ing to make sep­a­rate pay­ments and with a capped max­i­mum price. Yet that will not be the re­al­ity for many long-suf­fer­ing pub­lic trans­port users – at least in the short term, af­ter big bus com­pa­nies, which al­ready have their own con­tact­less schemes, re­fused to sup­port the £150m plan.

Trans­port for the North is in­stead chang­ing tack, fo­cus­ing its pay-as-you-go travel on rail op­er­a­tors, with hopes of bring­ing buses on board at some stage in the fu­ture.

But with­out a cen­tral tick­et­ing sys­tem, pas­sen­gers who rely on mul­ti­ple modes of trans­port will be left with­out a sim­pler way to pay – and cus­tomers will miss out on the ‘fair price prom­ise’ set out as part of TfN’s orig­i­nal vi­sion to en­cour­age peo­ple to travel across the North for work.

Such a frac­tured sys­tem is yet an­other ex­am­ple of how far the North still has to go in or­der for trans­port to be able to com­pete with the likes of Lon­don, where com­muters have long taken a com­pre­hen­sive smart travel pro­gramme, and the con­ve­nience it of­fers, for granted. And it is also fur­ther ar­gu­ment for the Gov­ern­ment to ad­e­quately sup­port the North’s trans­port sys­tem by award­ing greater pow­ers to TfN, which, with no abil­ity to com­pel op­er­a­tors to sign up to a smart travel scheme, is at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to Trans­port for Lon­don.

The body has claimed it now plans to de­velop more lo­calised smart tick­et­ing schemes, in­clud­ing in­te­gra­tion with buses, to help de­liver on its orig­i­nal plan. But it has not yet set out how th­ese would work. What is key is en­sur­ing that any such sys­tems would fit to­gether in a way that best sup­ports the health of the North­ern econ­omy.

 ??  ?? GRA­HAM VI­DLER: Wants to de­liver sim­pler tick­et­ing, across a range of plat­forms, around UK.
GRA­HAM VI­DLER: Wants to de­liver sim­pler tick­et­ing, across a range of plat­forms, around UK.

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