Can you imagine travelling around the country with just one ticket? Plans for a ‘smartcard’ that’ll work on everything from London’s Tube to Edinburgh’s eventual tram network have been brought forward.
A plastic smartcard for use on Britain’s trains, trams, buses and even cycle schemes could be with us in just a few years. Transport Minister Norman Baker yesterday announced the roll-out had been ordered for completion ahead of its previous 2020 deadline.
What’s not to like about a countrywide version of London’s Oyster cards? Scrap those paper tickets and bring on a system that’ll let you top up in shops, online or on the phone. Travelling Britain on public transport could be so much easier if our fares were automatically deducted after a quick scan.
So how’s the scheme going to be paid for? Will it come out of tax payers pockets? Apparently not. As most rail and bus operators are privately owned, it’ll be them who’ll pay the bill.
Plus, it’s predicted the scheme may save around £2 billion, meaning fare prices could come down across the country. These smartcards might also force the standardisation of currently inconsistent peak train times. Now that’ll be the day. Our rail expert James Tallack had these words of caution for the scheme:
“A national smartcard is a good idea, but there’s still plenty of work to be done before this becomes a reality. It took a long time for the train companies to accept ‘pay as you go’ fares on Oyster in London because none of them operated a zonal, distance-based pricing system.
“Outside of London, however, the byzantine system of individually-priced station-to-station fares persists. This must be ironed out so that we’re in a situation where it costs the same to travel a mile on one train company as it does on another.”
A seamless ticket system for this country’s public transport could revolutionise the way we travel, reduce fare prices, and will probably tempt more people to get the bus, train, or whatever mode of transport floats your boat (yes, them too).
Baker admitted the scheme wouldn’t happen overnight, the switch will be incredibly complex and expensive long-haul journeys could be a bit of a problem, but I, for one, can’t wait.