Blithely stumbling around the internet at the weekend, I chanced upon the fact that Stagecoach have expanded their Stagecoach Smart card to the Manchester area, meaning that the four-week Megarider available to purchase online is now issued in smartcard format. It looks to have been a low-key launch leading on from turning on the smartcard readers for concessionary bus passes, and follows the card’s initial launch in Cambridge and Oxford. There are other smartcard schemes in the pipeline – though perhaps not on the scale of London’s multimodal Oyster card for the time being.
Whilst researching child fares a few months ago I discovered that Finglands have their own smartcard product but only for children. Unlike the Stagecoach season ticket scheme, the Finglands “Smart Card” acts as a “pay-as-you-go” card whereby the cost of each journey is deducted from the balance on the smartcard, with the bus ticket showing the remaining value on the card. The card can be topped up on the bus by paying the driver – minimum top-up £5 – and a receipt is issued from the ticket machine. A similar trial has been taking place with the BSmart / sQuid smartcard which can be used on Arriva buses in Bolton, and also features an electronic purse that is spent at point of purchase and can be topped up online.
The Stagecoach Smart card can only be obtained online as a four-weekly Megarider, but once you have one in your possession the website states that you can then purchase Dayrider and 7-day Megariders from the bus driver who will be able to load it onto your smartcard instead of issuing a paper ticket. A word of warning if you travel on service 22 from Stockport to Bolton: as this is jointly operated with First, only paper tickets will be accepted! Other bus operators who have announced plans to launch smartcards include Network Warrington, who are planning to replace their paper-based season tickets with smartcards later in the year.
Of course, the two other smartcards in use in the county are the ENCTS concessionary bus passes for senior citizens and the disabled; and the new 11-16 IGO pass, currently used as a flash-pass to show to the driver but likely to be used in smartcard mode at some point in the future. There’ve been a few false dawns in the past, but if the MEN’s recent report on a bid for Local Sustainable Transport Fund comes to fruition then we may see smartcards rolled out onto Metrolink and rail services sooner rather than later.
Do you use a smartcard on public transport in Greater Manchester? What do you think of it? Leave us a comment below!
[Image credit: “southwest trains smartcard stagecoach smart” by DrJohnBullas on Flickr]