Oyster-style smart ticketing to be introduced to city regions

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‘Big five’ bus operators agree to work together in what is being described as biggest smart-ticketing initiative ever in the UK

Britain’s biggest bus operators announced on November 3 plans to launch London-style smart ticketing across England’s largest city regions.

The pledge by the country’s major bus companies – Stagecoach, First, Arriva, Go Ahead and National Express – will deliver multi-operator smart ticketing to millions of bus customers across England during 2015.

Greater Manchester will be an early winner from the ‘transformational initiative,’ helping support the area’s wider growth plans.

It will also benefit Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire along with the city regions of Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol. In the West Midlands nearly 30 operators are already part of the Swift smart multi-operating ticketing scheme.

The country’s biggest bus providers have spent several months finalising their plans and this work has included liaising with IT suppliers and the Department for Transport.

The plans represent a multi-million-pound investment by operators in what is believed to be the biggest smart ticketing project in the UK’s history. The technology will allow smaller bus operators to be included and provide a platform to extend the system to other modes, such as trams and trains.

Smart ticketing plans are part of a longer-term commitment by UK bus operators to deliver further benefits for passengers. These include working with local authorities and central Government to ensure the most effective use of resources to deliver improvements for passengers.

In a joint statement, Stagecoach Group Chief Executive Martin Griffiths, First Group Chief Executive Tim O’Toole, Go Ahead Chief Executive David Brown, Arriva Chief Executive David Martin and National Express Chief Executive Dean Finch said: “Millions of people in our biggest city regions will benefit from this transformational initiative to provide London-style smart ticketing. It will deliver an even bigger programme and wider benefit than the capital’s Oyster system.

“Bus operators share the aspirations of our city regions to become growing economic powerhouses and we know high quality public transport is an important part of making that happen.

“We have a shared responsibility to get the most benefit from our country’s buses, which are crucial to high streets up and down the country and are used by millions of people every day to access work, health, education and leisure.

“By working together, bus operators, local authorities and the Government can make our buses even better. Crucially, our plans for smart ticketing can be delivered in a matter of months, rather than years of waiting and the unnecessary cost of wholesale changes to the way bus services are delivered.”

UPDATE: Cllr James Lewis, Chairman of six transport committees, has since responded to the statement from the operators. Read his response here.