Cllr James Lewis, Chair of the group of six Transport Committees serving 11 million people in England’s largest city regions, has responded to the announcement from the ‘big five’ UK bus operators that they are to launch a ground-breaking multi-operator smart ticketing initiative.
He said: “It’s good that operators recognise their passengers’ aspirations for Oyster-style ticketing but this statement raises more questions than answers. At present it’s a press release for a plan the status and extent of which is both unpublished and unclear.
“Smart ticketing is part of Oyster but Oyster is also about simpler ticketing, and it’s about ticketing that can be used easily across all bus services and all modes. It is important to be clear that it is not legally possible to introduce full London-style Oyster-style ticketing under bus deregulation because you can’t make all operators charge the same fare in a free market. Only London-style franchising gives you London-style simple Oyster ticketing.’
“It’s also worth pointing out that where, under bus deregulation, the operators do have scope to bring about ticketing that is more like Oyster, in many of our areas the premia for tickets that can be used on all operators’ buses is way too high. Reducing that premia has been fiercely resisted in many of our areas by operators. It’s not clear whether today’s statement indicates a change of approach.
“It’s a shame too that although operators say they are keen on partnership with local authorities they have not consulted with us on this announcement, nor have they had the courtesy to acknowledge in the statement the significant investment that local authorities have, and continue to make, in smart ticketing implementation.”