England & Wales Transport and infrastructure

Norman Baker MP: Smarter technology can spread transport demand


This is guest post by Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. You can find him on normanbaker.org.uk

The public transport network should be the veins that deliver the lifeblood of our economy, the people, around the country. Public transport should be simple and convenient, and if it is we can secure a further modal shift towards it.

So how do we do this in a time of austerity?  We have to think smart, we have to think smartcard.

Many of us will have travelled around London using an Oyster Card, moving from tube to bus with the swipe of a card, and many will have noticed the price when you buy a paper ticket, compared to when you use an Oyster Card. I want to see this concept expanded to the whole country and I am working at the DfT to achieve this.

At my Department, we have provided a further £20million grant funding to the nine biggest urban areas outside of London to help roll out the infrastructure necessary, and we continue to offer a BSOG incentive of 8% for operators with operational ITSO smart systems on their buses.  I also announced the £560million Local Sustainable Transport Fund and in the first tranche of submissions, Plymouth received £2.98million for ITSO smart ticketing roll-out.

Two of the biggest bus operators are rolling out smart ticketing across their fleets and smart ticketing is a condition of all newly tendered rail franchises. These are further clear steps in the right direction.

Smart ticketing technology also allows more sophisticated pricing. Having a two-tier arrangement where train tickets are one price before 9.30 and one price afterwards fails to make best use of a finite network. If there is space on the 6:43am from Surbiton, but the 7:58am is packed to the gunnels, why not make the first cheaper than the second. Smartcard technology enables this to happen.

Equally, smartcards can help link up different bits of the same end-to-end journey, for example, including the hiring of a bike at the destination station within the cost of the ticket.

By 2020 I would like to see seamless travel on one smartcard throughout the country.

  • A single smartcard that you can use whether you are in Bristol on the bus, on the Tube in London or on the Metro in Newcastle
  • A single smartcard that lets you hire a bike or join a car club.
  • A single smartcard that can be topped up in shops, online or by phone.
  • A single smartcard that makes travel easier and cheaper.

Smartcard technology has the ability to revolutionise the way we travel. We are making it happen.