Smartcard schemes finally coming to fruition?

SmartcardBlithely 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]


About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
This entry was posted in Buses, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Smartcard schemes finally coming to fruition?

  1. David Garnett says:

    I have the over 60’s card. I can say with great irony that it has speeded up the process of boarding the bus and enhanced my experience of bus travel no end( when using stagecoach).
    As regards to the route 22 I have said on numerous occasions, when completing local transport questinnaires, that the fare between point A and point B should be independant of the mode of transport and the service provider. Similar to the system used in the grater Naples area.

  2. Shaun says:

    It does seem that smartcards will be the way forward and TfGM/GMPTE were talking about it a few years ago during the TIF funding. I would imagine that Stagecoach Manchester will make some kind of fanfare announcement about this in the near future, as there is no mention on the Stagecoach Manchester home page as of yet (apart from the concessionary passes) and the only way you’ll know about it is when you buy the ticket online.

    I do think that it is a good move from Stagecoach to introduce it, as it will surely encourage others such as First and Arriva (although they do have m-tickets as an alternative) to introduce their own, to keep up with Stagecoach and then maybe we’ll get one from TfGM/System One, so that Manchester could then have its own version of the Oyster card.

    With regards to the publishing of smartcards, other companies have brought in smartcards with a song and dance, in some cases, quite literally. Go North East have introduced a new smartcard called The Key in the last month or so, which allows passengers to buy and use day, weekly and monthly tickets without the need for a paper ticket. In order to promote it, they had flashmobs going around some of the bus stations and bus services in the Newcastle and Sunderland areas. Bit different from giving out leaflets.

  3. Ian says:

    Not really much benefit to customers. I live in Chorlton and do need to make the occasional journey into the city centre. I always use the tram from Old Trafford as it is much cheaper to buy a return ticket for the tram than it is to buy a dayrider.

    However if the Smart Card was a system where you loaded say £30 onto it, then got each single journey for £1.50 or something I would probably use the bus a lot more.

    Stagecoach are doing very little to attract car drivers like me onto the buses. Unless you need to make lots of journeys in one day or use the bus everyday it is simply very poor value compared to the tram or train.

    • James McCollom says:

      Speaking with my technical hat on, I imagine it’s much easier to launch a season ticket product than “pay as you go”. It’s essentially a read-only transaction (check that ticket is valid on this route at this time on this date) rather than the more involved routine of deducting credit. Company-specific tickets are also the first to launch because an “any-bus” ticket requires all bus operators to have smartcard enabled ticket machines. So still early days: later phases may incorporate some of the things you are looking for, and it’s attractive to bus operators as they would get your lump sum paid up in advance.

      • chokobollama says:

        It’s still a little disconcerting that there hasn’t been an effort to roll out a cross-company, cross transport smartcard scheme. What we’re left with, is this piecemeal rollout. I just wonder how the transition is going to be made toward a cross-county smartcard, and whether there is any genuine (political) will in Greater Manchester to facilitate cross company patronage in a deregulated system…

  4. Pingback: Bus fares in Manchester part 3 | Manchester (all districts) Bus User Group

  5. tomas says:

    I live in Chile so I dont mind really, bye and enjoy your smartcard

  6. Shaun says:

    About five weeks after being mentioned on here, coverage in the Manchester Evening News about the smartcards from Stagecoach. MP Norman Baker has visited one of the Stagecoach depots to see the smartcards for himself.

    Also says that TfGM have submitted a bid to the Department for Transport for smartcard funding

  7. James McCollom says:

    Here’s an interesting snippet: you can now use the Cheshire Stored Value Smartcard in “pay as you go” mode on Network Warrington services that straddle the border into Greater Manchester.

  8. Pingback: Ticket to Ride, smartcard style | Manchester Transport

  9. Mr_Benn says:

    My monthly Megarider xtra automatic renewals fails every month necessitating that I make the payment “manually” online. If I miss the email I may end up e-ticketless for a day or so (and have to buy a regular ticket) because of the several day lead-in required for the card top-up to register. Unimpressive but I will jump through the hoops because currently it remains good value. However, I have a regular lift to work that I could take both ways most days with a little rearranging of my schedule. If and when I bite the bullet I will then pay for the day a week that I need the service and Stagecoach will then be down £30 a month. The hassle around online purchasing makes the likelihood of this day coming sooner rather than later.

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