MPs have urged the Government to invest in a Midlands-wide ‘tap and cap’ smart ticketing system for trains and buses, to boost passenger numbers, convenience and safety post-COVID-19.
New research by transport body Midlands Connect, which helped to develop the plans, showed that nine out of ten people surveyed supported the scheme, while 61 per cent of respondents questioned asserted having a smart ticketing system in position would make them more likely to use trains and buses.
Set to cost £20million, the ‘tap and cap’ system will allow passengers to travel across the whole region, spending money on journeys on buses, trams and trains via one smart device, cell phone or credit card.
Although smart ticketing initiatives exist in some form in Nottingham, via the Robin Hood travel card as well as in parts of the West Midlands via ‘Swift’, the UK’s second biggest public transport payment system after London’s Oyster scheme, this new platform will be the first to function at a Midlands-wide level, and encompass all trains and buses operators and modes. The initiative may be rolled out to cover travel via electric bike hire and e-scooter initiatives.
The new contactless system will make payments completely touch free. It is hoped this scheme will help to tackle global warming by encouraging more people to make use of public transport.
The development of the smart ticketing platform is going to be led by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) with initial delivery being led by TfWM and Nottingham City Council. Strategic regional transport body Midlands Connect then works with other local authorities across the region to integrate more areas in to the scheme, which could be operational by 2022 in Nottingham and also the West Midlands Combined Authority area, and across the whole Midlands region by 2024.
Nicola Richards, MP for West Bromwich East, said: “It’s been 17 years because the oyster card was introduced in London; it’s about time the Midlands had a smart ticketing system of its own.
“With everything else that’s happening, we must not delay efforts to decarbonise the economy – we’re in the midst of a climate emergency, and it’s essential we give passengers the various tools they need to return post-pandemic to a convenient, cost-effective and safe public transport network, in greater numbers than ever before.
“This scheme represents great good value, has the backing of local communities, and is an essential step in levelling up. I really hope the Chancellor gives us the green light to show these plans into reality.”
Lilian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South, and former chair from the Transport Select Committee, said: “The UK regions need truly ‘smart’ ticketing systems, just like those enjoyed by Londoners.
“These plans will give Midlanders a transport network fit for the future; no more fussing with change, or paper tickets, just a seamless, convenient customer experience. We should give passengers the convenience and affordability they have to leave their cars in your own home.
“Pre-pandemic, public transport use was sky-rocketing over the Midlands region, we have a limited window of opportunity to welcome back both old and new customers post-COVID.
“An investment in smart ticketing and trains and buses will be a decisive sign that Government is serious about tackling climate change. I sincerely hope the Chancellor funds this essential project in his Budget.”