Joseph Watts, Political editor
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Paper bus tickets will be a thing of the past in Norfolk as the government announced the county will be the first in England to use smart card technology.
Transport minister Norman Baker will announce today that his department will supply £2.5m to see some 700 vehicles in Norfolk, run by more than 40 operators, fitted with equipment to make the upgrade possible.
Under the new system, similar to London’s Oyster scheme, passengers would own a card which they could top up with credit. They would then simply swipe it against a reader when getting on a bus.
Mr Baker told the Eastern Daily Press said: “Norfolk is the right place for this pilot for a couple of reasons. The county has been quite forward looking, as have the operators, and we are keen to work with those that are ready to go.
“It’s also interesting because Norfolk presents a mix of different bus routes, the urban ones, the rural ones and then the very rural ones.”
He added: “We are looking to open it up across England, but we wanted to use Norfolk first.”
Customers will be able to check and top up their travel credit online but the county council hopes to allow customers to buy cards and top up credit at outlets across Norfolk.
The scheme will see the introduction of a number of new types of ticket offering travel for a day, a week, a month or those for only occasional use.
Mr Baker continued: “I think it’s going to make it more attractive to travel. What we see in London is that it’s hugely popular and that it encourages people to use public transport.
“It makes the transition on to the bus quicker, because you swipe the card rather than having to hunt around for 85p in change, which reduces the overall travel time.”
He also claimed the system would have broader economic benefits by making travel more efficient and would persuade fewer people to use cars, having an impact on the environment and on congested roads.
The government has brought forward £15m to see that all buses in England are fitted with smart card technology, with the first £2.5m going to Norfolk and other schemes following afterwards.
The county’s pilot will last three years, with Norwich Park and Ride one of the first services to use the cards in early summer, followed by a roll out to other services by the end of 2014.
Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Transportation, said: “I’m delighted the government has agreed to fund this demonstration pilot, and that Norfolk residents will be the first to benefit from the convenience and flexibility of smart cards.
“We’ve worked hard to show Norfolk is the right place for the trial of smart card technology in a rural area.
“Under the trial we will be aiming to show that with the right conditions in place. Smart and integrated ticketing is achievable and delivers great benefits to everyone.”