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Oyster-style ticketing to be rolled out across north ‘in two to three years’

An Oyster-style ticketing model will start being rolled out across the north in the next two to three years, Transport for the North (TfN) boss David Brown said yesterday at the Northern Powerhouse Conference.

But this will only be introduced as a first phase, he said: “It won’t be all singing, all dancing. I think Transport for London took twenty-odd years to do this – we’ve got to beat them, but not quite so fast.”

Speaking earlier in the day at the conference, attended by RTM, Lord O’Neill had asked when the north would start implementing an ‘Oyster card for the north’ in order to integrate and streamline transport ticketing.

But Brown, who had already called for an easy ticketing system in the north, made it crystal clear that the region needed something different than merely an “Oyster card for the north” – because its structures are “completely different” to those of the capital.

“We’re more akin to Scotland in this,” he said. “We’re working with them and TfL to see how we can introduce a similar view of what we’re looking for.”

It is still unclear what the ideal solution is, but Brown indicated that a plastic card similar to the Oyster system in London may be too outdated a model to implement now.

“I think in a few years’ time people won’t want another piece of plastic in their card. My children have moved on from that already: they’re paying with their watch and their phone,” the TfN boss said.

“But we’re working on the most appropriate way to do that, and I think we’ll start to see some things being rolled out in the next two to three years as a first phase.”

786 David Brown

Brown was speaking as part of a six-man panel of rail leaders representing the north of England, which included Northern Rail’s managing director, Alex Hynes.

Before Brown laid out plans for integrated ticketing, Hynes slammed the “very confusing” system of fares that passengers are subjected to currently as a result of a mix between public and private models.

The Northern MD, a big spokesperson for the benefits of privatisation in the industry, said that when the rail sector was denationalised after British Rail, it was assumed it would either remain steady or decline, but the opposite happened.

“So when the railway was privatised, all these protections were put in place, which essentially froze the British Rail pricing structure,” Hynes said.

“And then the private sector came in and started to innovate, and add cheap advance purchase fares. So what you have now is a very complicated system because you’ve got a highly regulated commercial offer and it’s very confusing to customers.

“The industry needs to get much better at taking that complexity away.”

The north’s evolution towards better and more integrated ticketing is also an element of a wider national strategy to improve and streamline smart ticketing across all franchises.

Just last month, rail minister Claire Perry MP revealed that it will become mandatory for every operator bidding to run a franchise to present plans for smart ticketing tailored to customers’ specific needs.


Michael Still   26/02/2016 at 20:11

Mr Hynes is absolutely right. The ticketing system is to complicated. Whilst in Singapore four years ago a new railway line opened. I was interested in there ticketing system. The ticket office had become a service point some one manning when available. When you went to the TVM you paided two pound for a plastic card and your journey added to it. If you wanted to do other journey the card was put back in the TVM then the journey added. If you had finished with the card it would despense your two pound back. On the TVM a map would appear on the screen, you would then tap your journey on the map. Whilst at the TVM it went a bit hay wire. So I went to service point, they said go back to TVM where it was remotely fixed. New railway teething problem. In the City was an office selling annuals etc:. Discipline very strict in Singapore so you don't see problems.

Andrew G   29/02/2016 at 22:04

Sounds like its a good idea to have a Oyster-style ticketing system to be introduced on First Transpennine Express, Arriva Northern Rail and across the North of England to have Oyster-style contactless cards and PAYG (Pay As You Go) cards as Oyster cards are now being used across Greater London.

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