New travel smartcard to be trialled across Scotland
PLANS for a nationwide travel smartcard pass were unveiled by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday.
• New card will be valid on all forms of public transport across Scotland
• Passengers to benefit through “cheaper” fares while operators gain more information on customer’s travelling habits
The Saltire Card aims to allow passengers to travel on trains, buses, ferries, subway and trams throughout Scotland. But opposition parties say the Scottish Government has been promising it for the last four years and claimed that such schemes “take forever to deliver” in Scotland.
The smartcard, similar to London’s Oyster Card, would be loaded with cash before use and is also designed to appeal to tourists, making it easier to travel across Scotland.
Pilot schemes in local areas are to be announced soon, although it is unclear when the project would be rolled out
Ms Sturgeon said: “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 smartcard-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.”
In March 2011, government travel body Transport Scotland found a “limited appetite” for integrated ticketing amongst operators amid concerns these benefits may not be achievable in a deregulated market. These concerns have “mainly reduced” since then, the transport body said.
All of Scotland’s 7,100 buses are already equipped with smart-ticketing machines to administer free bus passes for pensioners and disabled people, although there have been concerns about the quality and speed of repairs by suppliers.
But Labour’s Richard Baker said the SNP administration first talked of these plans in 2008. “Their ambition was for a seamless, integrated transport network in Scotland. Commuters will know we are still a long way from that,” he said.
“Whether it’s cashless, integrated ticketing or wifi on our main commuter line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, it seems that what is taken for granted elsewhere in the UK seems to take forever to deliver in Scotland. Years on, Scots commuters will have years to wait whilst trying to find the correct change for our buses.”
Green co-leader Patrick
Harvie warned that all forms of public transport must be included in the scheme. “After years of pressure for a Scotland-wide public transport smartcard, it’s a shame all we’re getting is a cashless payment card,” Mr Harvie added. “While it’s a small step in the right direction, it won’t deliver the huge benefits of a properly integrated ticketing system like London’s Oyster Card where people can switch between
different modes of transport without having to buy different tickets.
“If Nicola Sturgeon wants to make this work, she must make sure that all public transport services are included in the scheme, and she should add carclub and bike-hire options too for a fully integrated scheme.”
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