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Integrated Smartcard Ticketing - Opportunities and Challenges by Michael Milne, Head of integrated Ticketing, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport - Joint meeting with the CIHT of 8 September 2011

Michael Milne began his presentation on Integrated Smartcard Ticketing - Opportunities and Challenges by looking at the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport area. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport is a Regional Transport Partnership and has 12 contributing Councils.

A major aim is to promote the shift from private car to public transport and introduce integration across all transport modes, i.e. rail, ferry, subway and the 3,000 buses that serve the Strathclyde area. To achieve this will require the elimination of barriers to using public transport by shortening journey times, providing simpler accessible travel information, having simpler fares structures and seamless ticketing across modes.

Since 1999, the number of households without access to a car has slowly declined and there has been a small rise in the number of two car households. Over the same period the number of licensed vehicles in Scotland has risen from 1,971,000 to 2,700,000. More interesting is the change in the number of diesel powered vehicles. In 1999 this was 23% but in 2009 it was 42%. The average household monthly spend on fuel has risen from £78 in 2003 to £112 in 2009.

The use of the bus in Scotland has fluctuated and although a 5% reduction was recorded between 2008 - 2009, overall there has been a 1% increase in usage between 2004 and 2009. Today the trip rates by individuals are at their lowest level for 30 years. The latest statistics show that over the last 15 years, shopping trips have declined by 12% and home visits to friends has declined by 22%. The forecast bus patronage figures between 2009 and 2014 indicate that there will be a 20% decline in patronage and fares will rise by 24% over the rate of inflation. The number of service kilometres operated will reduce by about 19% and urban congestion costs are estimated to increase by some £68 million.

So what can be done to address this situation? SPT is investing in bus infrastructure and currently has 6 bus stations, 10,000 bus stops, 3,000 bus shelters and has provided 17,000 information panels at bus stops. There are some 3,000 local registered service buses and coaches in the area. SPT is investing in the Hampden Corridor, providing new bus stances at Port Glasgow, traffic management improvements in Glasgow, and providing bus facilities in Glasgow's Union Street. Hamilton Bus Station will be completely rebuilt.

The Glasgow Subway, also operated by SPT is also being modernised and this will include the provision of new signalling, refurbished stations, new trains and new ticketing machines and Smartcard ticketing. There has also been investment in the railway network with a new rail /subway station at Partick, new ticket control gates at main line stations and Smartcard ticketing being introduced on the Glasgow - Edinburgh line. Other projects include the Croy park and ride, the upgrade of Greenock West and Coatbridge Sunnyside Stations. Dalmarnock Station will be upgraded in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

So why introduce Smartcards? Smartcards offer a number of advantages in that they can be pre-loaded with value or trips and there is no need for passengers to have cash or knowledge of fares. They can provide seamless travel and enable rapid bus boarding or transit through stations. The also offer multi-modal travel and are easy to top up. They can be either anonymous or registered to the user. Examples of Smartcards in use include London's Oyster Card, San Francisco's Clipper and Hong Kong's Octopus cards.

A smart card contains a microchip and an antenna that allows both the transmission of data and the collection of the radio energy used to power the integrated circuit in the card's chip. Such Radio Frequency Interface Devices (RFID) operate at a frequency of 13.56 MHz and have a very short range so the card must be in very close proximity to the reader in order to work. The advantages of using smart cards are that 90% of transactions can be eliminated as it will require one payment for every 10 trips or payment can be made in advance for travel.

Another advantage is that it will not be necessary for separate tickets to be issued for every journey made and cards can also be used for other types of transactions, such as paying for coffee or a newspaper. However, the use of Smartcards is not widespread outside London due to a number of factors including deregulated public transport in the UK, and with a free competitive market, operators offer their own loyalty schemes, There is little infrastructure for Smartcard, apart from on bus in Scotland, where the infrastructure exists in order to enable usage the National Entitlement Card issued to everyone over 60 years of age.

Over the next two years, SPT plans to develop a smart ticketing and payments system to provide hosted services for the Subway, Zonecard (SPT's area wide travel card) the Strathclyde Concessionary Scheme, an E Purse for pay-as-you-go travel or low value retail purchases. It will also include facilities for operators' own branded ticketing products and facilitate the Commonwealth Games 2014 transport ticketing and can be used for any other suitable product or media developed.

The use of Smartcards can be kick-started by replacing the current paper Zonecard photo ID with a Smartcard and rolling this out across bus, subway rail and ferry. Converting Zonecard to a Smartcard will also enable the introduction of other products such as tourist tickets or conference transport tickets as Glasgow is a major conference venue. Cultural transport and venue entrance tickets will also be possible. The Commonwealth Games in 2014 will require see a large number of additional visitors to the city and additional transport services will be required so a Smartcard will be an important part of the transport system.

The presentation was rounded off by a brief look at some of the Traveline facilities including the multi-lingual website, mobile phone apps and journey planner system. There was an interesting question and answer session and Michael answered a number of questions put to him by the audience. The meting concluded with a vote of thanks proposed by the Chairman.

The Scottish Region would like to thank the CIHT for arranging the event and SPT for hosting the meeting in its offices.

Report by John Fender.


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