Rail Industry Focus


The Saltire card

Source: Rail Technology Magazine October/November 2012

The Scottish Government is introducing a country-wide travel smartcard to improve access across all different modes of transport. Kate Ashley reports.

In October, the Scottish Government announced plans for the Saltire Card – a smartcard that can be used across public transport networks in Scotland.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the project, which will allow passengers to pre-load money to use on trains, buses, ferries, subways and trams to deliver cash-free travel and boost tourism.

It could also offer the opportunity for cut-price travel and flexible pricing.

Government initiative

The Scottish Government is working with ScotRail to deliver the largest rail smart ticketing pilot in the UK, as a key element of the new franchise from 2014.

Sturgeon said: “The Saltire Card will be a hugely exciting development for transport in Scotland and will help us achieve a truly worldclass public transport network.

“It will make it easier, more a t t r a c t i v e and possibly cheaper for people to get around using public transport and will help further connect our cities.

“While we are aware that there is still some substantial work to do on this proposal, we are now taking the first steps towards achieving this vision by launching a series of demonstrator schemes with a number of operators and public sector partners throughout the country.

“Bus operators are already Smart Card-enabled and many are already working in partnership with Transport Scotland to see how they can fully realise the benefits of the technology and how they can integrate with other operators to share those benefits with passengers.”


Transport Scotland told RTM that the organisation has been working with local authorities, regional transport partnerships and transport operators to develop a number of demonstrator projects across Scotland, across modes and focusing on a number of different types of smart products. Further demonstrator projects are continuing to be established in the wake of the publication of the Delivery Strategy.

Considering the advantages of multimodal smart-ticketing, a spokesperson said: “Multi-modal smart products will take us towards our vision that all journeys on Scotland’s bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks can be accessed using some form of smart ticketing or payment.

“For passengers this should deliver ease of use, access to new ticket types and greater choice on how to pay for travel, and should lead to modal shift towards public transport. We particularly see new opportunities to develop smart products that are attractive to visitors to Scotland.”

As the industry recognises the importance of integrated transport, this kind of scheme could become more common, and is certainly something the English railway will be keeping its eye on as smartcard schemes are continually developed and rolled out.

The spokeswoman explained: “The aim of the demonstrator projects is to develop several different types of smart products, some of which will be integrated and some of which will be more aimed at the more established ticket types. In all cases, the cooperation of industry partners is absolutely essential.

“We are working hard to bring all of Scotland’s public transport operators in on the Saltire Card so that they can also realise the benefits of attracting more people onto public transport. If there is widespread demand for integrated products we want to be in a position to meet that demand.”


The challenges surrounding the scheme concern the huge scale of the operation, and the number of different modes of transport the card must be made compatible for.

The spokesperson concluded: “We are aware that there are a number of challenges, for example, making the Smart Card technology compatible for use on ferries. We have around 260 bus operators alone in Scotland, alongside our ferry, train, subway and soon our tram operators. So we are under no illusion that it will be an easy task to develop what will be the UK’s biggest smartcard project.

“However, the stream of work is already well underway specifically targeting each of these challenges."

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email us directly at [email protected]


Angela Binnie   20/10/2016 at 16:27

I trust that pensioners will still have their Senior Bus passes. The Smart card makes a lot of sense and would be easy to use.

Robbie Holst   28/10/2016 at 10:18

I asked for a bus pass and all I got was a Saltire Credit card, the letter said I was Entitled but didn't say wot to. Will I get a letter telling me how to be Multi Modal and able to focus on a number of different smart products. All I wanted was a bus pass, this is now just another bit of expensive plastic to go in the bin.

Lukasz Rutkowski   06/04/2017 at 06:02

Morning! I have vadid to 11 April 2017. Please send me new 2019 or 2020

Fiona Mahaffy   14/04/2017 at 14:58

I have a mygovscot card and my sister has a saltire card i have to pay to go to edinburgh eyc on my card and she doesnt why is this?

Pam Broadhurst   30/05/2017 at 21:17

I was expecting a bus pass? Received this saltire card. Does this mean I still get free bus travel and possibly reduced rail travel.

Ron Wilson   16/07/2017 at 11:06

I have a recent SALTIRECARD. Question one; Does the free bus travel apply to Rail Travel in Scotland ? Question two; Whilst I appreciate it is not applicable in England, does it allow free travel in Northern Ireland ? Question three; Is it applicable on Scottish FERRY TRAVEL ? Thank you. Mr R Wilson

Anne Murray   23/08/2017 at 19:56

I wish to go to Edinburgh by train from Glasgow will I be able to use my saltire card that allows me free bus travel.I am over 65 and this card allows me free bus travel.

Julieanne Skinner   04/09/2017 at 14:03

I have just got my entitlement card .can i use it on trains scotland.

Gordon Roberts.   29/09/2017 at 11:21

Great site, pity nobody thought about a response panel? It would be useful for everyone to understand the requests of others, and there answers. Thank You.

Andrew Beadle   19/10/2017 at 13:59

The saltire card WILL be the same as the London Oyster card. When the operators all have the same equipment. As for those who have the national concession card. If you are not sure contact your local authority who can explain your travel facilities, as different areas have different travel facilities

William   16/12/2017 at 10:51

Perhaps an F.A.Q. page with the answers linked to it would help here

Lynn Bulloch   06/02/2018 at 13:07

Is it possible to buy a train ticket for monthly or quarterly travel using 60+ travel consession

Alex Stewart   24/02/2018 at 12:47

will I get reduced rail fare anywhere I travel in Scotland and I have recently moved address who do I contact to change this?

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