Train operator ScotRail is set to roll out electronic Smartcards, similar to London’s Oyster Card system, on the main route between Edinburgh and Glasgow in a move that could pave the way for a national ticketless travel system to be introduced.
About 12,000 of the electronic cards, which replace season tickets, are being tested during a pilot phase on the main line from Waverley Station to Queen Street passing through Falkirk High.
About £2 million has been spent so far on installing Smartcard readers and pay stations at 70 stations across Scotland’s central belt. The pilot, first launched in 2011, has been labelled a success by ScotRail, with the operator gearing up to potentially go live as early as next month on the tested route servicing the Capital.
Smartcards use similar technology to the Oyster Card system.
The move is part of a long-term vision by the Scottish Government to create a Saltire card allowing passengers to switch between different modes of transport without having to buy extra tickets. Each of ScotRail’s new automated passes is the size of a normal credit card and contains an electronic chip that allows rail tickets to be stored and read electronically.
Only season tickets will be initially stored on the Smartcards, which customers will validate by waving over automated readers. ScotRail commercial director Sean Duffy said: “To encourage customers to make the switch, the entire Smartcard offering must be seamless. We are ensuring that we have all elements in place and working well before we go live; a dedicated website – where photos for Smartcards can be uploaded online, a specialist customer service team and well-trained staff on the ground to assist.
“To support the roll-out we’re producing a range of marketing materials to position Smartcards as the best choice for season ticket holders.”
Unlike London’s Oyster Card, customers will be unable to load the card with cash and will at first not receive extra savings on normal season ticket prices. ScotRail have claimed the speed and convenience of the system will be among the main advantages. Customers will be able to check their Smartcard account online showing recent journeys and transactions. The scheme’s roll-out is expected to be expanded to other key season ticket routes – Stirling, Ayrshire, Aberdeen and part of Strathclyde.
The Scottish Government is running its own Saltire card pilots, offering integrated travel in Dundee and Orkney.
However, opposition parties claimed the Government had been promising a nationwide Oyster card style system for the past four years.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “Anyone who has used the Oyster card system in London knows that we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said integrating Edinburgh’s various transport services would “benefit the city’s residents, commuters and visitors for years to come.”
Boris budget must mirror Edinburgh’s
THE bold decision to spend five per cent of Edinburgh City Council’s transport budget on cycling has won praise this week in the London Assembly.
London Mayor Boris Johnson was urged to copy the Capital’s example by at least lifting his spending on cycling investment in 2013-14 to £145m.
That mark would represent just two per cent of the overall transport budget for Britain’s largest city.
Green London Assembly member and former Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones said: “Getting people out of their cars and on to bikes and public transport has a huge health and environmental benefit.
“By 2016 Edinburgh City Council is going to spend nine per cent of its transport budget on cycling, but we are being told our Mayor can’t even manage two per cent. London can and must do better.”
The motion was seconded by Liberal Democrats leader Caroline Pidgeon and passed by the Assembly.
Lothian cycle campaign Spokes said in a statement: “Already in Edinburgh the impact of the new revenue funding has been noticed and appreciated by people using their bikes for everyday journeys.”