Transforming ticketing in the West Midlands

Source: RTM Feb/Mar 17

Smart ticketing on rail services in the West Midlands are building up a head of steam, writes Matt Lewis, head of Swift at Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

Smart technology, using the ITSO interoperability standard, has been in use in the West Midlands on bus since 2009 and on the Midland Metro tram system since 2014. 

However, it was not until spring 2016 that Swift was launched on the regional rail network, with 3,000 passengers signing up to TfWM’s nNetwork direct debit scheme. The nNetwork schemes gives passengers access to all buses, trains and trams across the West Midlands area. 

The project was led by TfWM, the transport arm of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), in partnership with the DfT, London Midland and other TOCs running services in the West Midlands. 

Since then, TfWM has been preparing to move further rail season ticket holders onto its Swift Smartcard platform. 

The next step will see the 12,500 customers who purchase nTrain season tickets for train travel within the region use TfWM’s direct debit scheme. It is planned that this transition will be completed by spring 2017. 

A further 1,000 customers living outside of the WMCA metropolitan area yet who travel into it – the ‘travel to work’ zone – will get Swift cards later in the year.

Swift is well-established on the bus and Midland Metro network, so it was extremely satisfying to launch it on rail. Rail travel is now more popular in the West Midlands than ever before, and Swift is helping cement the modern, affordable transport network that we are working hard to achieve here. 

We were the first transport body outside London to deliver a truly multimodal smart ticketing solution not requiring a paper counterpart and the roll-out last year was just the start. 

There are currently over 40,000 Swift card users across all modes of transport making more than 1.6 million journeys a month. The roll-out of Swift onto rail followed close co-operation between TfWM, London Midland, Virgin, CrossCountry, Chiltern Railways and Arriva Trains Wales, who all operate rail services in the region. 

Automatic ticket gates equipped with ITSO card readers are in place at Snow Hill, University and Five Ways stations in Birmingham, which are operated by London Midland. They are also installed at New Street, Coventry and Birmingham International stations, which are operated by Virgin, and at Moor Street station which is run by Chiltern.

The West Midlands Rail franchise will be awarded to one of two bidders in October, and TfWM has worked closely with both to ensure Swift and smart ticketing were high on the agenda. Both of them recognised the importance of Swift, and we anticipate that further significant development and delivery of the Swift platform will form part of their plans. Expansion of smart ticketing is one of the key elements of the ITT, so passengers can expect to see progress under whoever wins the contract. 

TfWM has also been working with Midlands Connect, the body bringing together the East and West Midlands to work on improving transport infrastructure. We need significant funding if we are to expand tickets gates, card readers and retail channels where Swift can be bought, such as ticket vending machines. Midlands Connect has submitted a bid and we are waiting to hear the outcome. 

In the meantime, we will continue to introduce products on the rail network and work with partners from other regions to support the continued delivery of new and innovative Smart ticketing projects.


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