Minister promises smart ticketing for railways

Transport secretary says mobile app and smart card mechanisms should be in place by end of 2018

The transport secretary has insisted that smart ticketing will be available for most rail passengers by the end of next year, despite its flop in Manchester.

An £80 million programme will deliver mobile phone, barcode and smart card payment methods as an alternative to monthly and weekly travel cards across most of the country, Chris Grayling (pictured) said.

Chris GraylingHe also announced plans to extend pay-as-you-go travel on Great Northern, Southern, C2C and Thameslink services by early 2018.

“It is what passengers want and we will deliver it,” Grayling told the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

 He also challenged the industry to accelerate proposals for the next generation of interoperable, pay-as-you-go smart ticketing systems.

Under the plans, passengers will be able to pick up blank smart cards at stations which they can register at the ticket office, or afterwards online. Tickets can then be bought online, through the mobile app, or at ticket vending machines, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

Once they have bought the tickets, passengers will pick them up at the machines, from gates, via Paypoint/Payzone, or through the app for Android users.

Manchester problems

The announcement came despite the long list of weaknesses identified in Manchester’s London-style Oyster card.

The city’s ‘Get Me There’ card was unveiled last month, after years of promises to introduce smart technology – but has run into protests and ridicule.

The criticisms – summed up as the “new North-South divide” by one passenger group – have raised questions about smart ticketing can be extended successfully outside the capital.

They included:

  • The system’s separate app and smart card working entirely independently of one another.
  • Any tickets on a passenger’s phone will expire if it “has not been connected to the internet for a long period”.
  • It is not possible to top up funds under a pay-as-you-go option. Instead specific tickets have to be bought for specific times.
  • If a passenger logs out of the app, they need to re-submit all payment information upon logging back in — including card number and billing address.

TfGM has promised that a contactless system will be in place on the trams by 2019 - and across buses and trains by 2021.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0