Rail Minister Andrew Jones today announced a consultation on the use of smart ticketing across the UK rail network. Speaking in Parliament, he said:
In November 2017 in our Strategic vision for rail, the Department for Transport set out ambitious plans for the roll out of smart ticketing across the network, with the aim of making it more convenient for passengers to buy and receive their train tickets. Over a year later, we have made real progress. Every franchise offers smart cards and/or barcodes and smart tickets are available across almost all of the network.
We now want to go further. Our ambition is to ensure that across regional and urban commuter areas smart ticketing can deliver the kind of pay-as-you-go (PAYG) structure that is used in London, to make journeys easier and smoother for passengers.
In the north of England, the government has allocated £150 million to the multi-modal PAYG programme already being progressed by Transport for the North and, in London, Oyster ticketing already offers seamless PAYG travel. However, there is demand for PAYG to be deployed more widely, so today we begin consulting on the feasibility of delivering PAYG to an expanded area across the south-east of England. This is just a first step, and we will continue to work with other areas to assess opportunities to roll out PAYG.
The consultation offers the travelling public, business, local authorities and others the opportunity to have their say on how the system could operate and where it could extend to. We are aware that there are views on the appropriate ticketing systems and the way the fares structure could be organised to complement pay as you go travel, these issues are also being considered in the consultation.
Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, welcomed the consultation, but hoped it marked the beginning of a more comprehensive review of the affordability of rail fares nationwide:
We have long called on the Government to increase the pace with which smart ticketing is rolled out across the railway. Smart ticketing can make paying for rail journeys easier and quicker and has to potential to allow for much more flexible tickets, including things like season tickets for part-time workers.
The Government should rapidly bring forward a nationwide roll-out of smart ticketing and fundamental reform of the entire fares system to ensure passengers have access to a more modern and affordable rail network.