Metrolink passengers could be using ‘wave and go’ e-tickets and contactless bank cards to travel on the tram network within two years, Transport for Greater Manchester has announced today.
The new-style virtual tickets and e-purses will be brought in first on Greater Manchester’s trams, which are owned by TfGM, and then in later phases on buses and trains once agreements have been reached with operators.
Instead of paper tickets, passengers will, in future, be able to simply touch electronic ‘smart’ cards or bank cards onto special readers to validate their ‘ticket’ to ride.
TfGM wants to introduce the new system across all public transport in order to make it as easy as possible for more people to choose buses, trains or trams for their journey.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “What we are planning has the potential to revolutionise public transport use in Greater Manchester; the easier we can make it to use our buses, trains and trams, the more people will choose to travel on them.”
In future, under the new smart system, passengers will be able to preload a card with travel credit either online, at Travelshops or through electronic ticket machines, and use the one card as their ticket on the bus, train or tram – or any combination of the three.
The next generation of bank cards include contactless technology which enables their owner to simply place them on an authorised reader for travel to be verified, and this emerging technology will be incorporated into the programme.
Passengers will be able to ‘touch in’ and ‘touch out’ at the start and end of their journey using the readers. These would then deduct the right fare for the journey and factor in any discounts.
Councillor Fender added: “We want to introduce the new system as soon as possible and that’s why our first focus is on Metrolink – but it can’t happen overnight.
“As well as the technology that would need to be installed, there are a host of other challenges we face in designing a system that is as easy as possible for passengers to use.
“Unlike in London, we have upwards of 50 independent, commercial bus companies operating here, all with their own fares and passenger products. We want to add a new level of convenience for passengers so they spend less time queuing for tickets and benefit from more flexible ticket types to suit their travel needs.
“We want to minimise the ‘penalties’ for journeys which need more than one bus, or operator, or those involving a combination of bus, train and tram. This means we have an enormously complex task ahead of us to design a system which delivers that.
“But when we do, we will have a system that has the passenger’s needs at its heart: ease of use, guaranteed value, flexibility for any journey, and peace of mind.”
Cllr Fender added: “To introduce smart ticketing requires highly-specialised technological expertise and we have now appointed a partner who can provide those skills and who has a pedigree in public transport ticketing systems, particularly trains.
“After a thorough, robust and comprehensive procurement process, we’re delighted to announce that Atos UK Ltd have been appointed as our partner to deliver a comprehensive package, including validators, and a ‘back office’ system for our smart ticketing programme that will help us to deliver a truly customer-focused service for the future.
“Atos will provide technical expertise to support TfGM and its partners so they are ‘smart ready’ – ensuring they have the right technology, systems and processes in place to manage the roll-out of the scheme.
“The real work starts now: building the system and refining our plans and processes. That will determine exactly when passengers can start using smart tickets – but we want that to happen on the Metrolink network within the next two years.”