The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is promising rail passengers they will soon be able to use a pay-as-you-go smart card to take them anywhere in the country, but an expert in the field tells Smart Highways that this plan is completely unrealistic.
The Telegraph says that he wants all train companies to make these Oyster-card style cards available to commuters by the end of 2018.
This comes as he announces Network Rail will be stripped of sole control of the UK’s network with the winners of new rail franchises will be given a say over maintaining tracks in their area.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Mr Grayling says, “we need smart ticketing, and particularly pay as you go smart cards on commuter routes all around the country. I want that to be happening in the next couple of years.”
However a smart ticketing expert who has worked on several contactless projects across the country including the successful London system told Smart Highways it was “never, ever going to happen”. Speaking anonymously to us he said, “there’s no ambition on the part of the train operators or their association to implement smartcard ticketing and no incentive for them to present a customer proposition that can work. The key to a useful smart card ticketing system is integration between heavy rail and urban transport systems and nothing that the Secretary of State has suggested will compel this. The deadline of 2018 is a pipe dream and even if it was not, the government-favoured smartcard ITSO is yesterday’s solution.”
There are already plans in place for a single ticketing solution to be introduced across what’s called the “Northern Powerhouse”. John Pickworth, business development director for Cubic Transportation Systems, says such an integrated system is vital, “a well-understood and easily accessible ticketing system covering multiple regions and modes of travel, and based on a single account such as Cubic’s One Account technology, is central to the idea of smart travel,” he said. “Northern England is taking all the right steps in making integrated ticketing a reality, through its Smart North initiative. Once implemented, the scheme will bring Northern England benefits comparable to what the Ventra card, Oyster card and contactless payment have brought commuters and transport service operators in other major cities around the world, such as Chicago and London.”