9:00am Thursday 24th January 2013
By Andrew Ffrench
A TRAVEL card that could be used by bus and rail passengers across Oxfordshire is being proposed by Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth.
He wants to create a plastic smartcard similar to the Oyster card in London, which can be used on buses, rail services, and to pay for car parking.
The ‘Oyster card for Oxfordshire’ does not yet have the backing of the council’s cabinet, and Mr Hudspeth wants to consult passenger groups before costing the idea and taking it forward. The proposal follows the success of the Key smartcard introduced by the Oxford Bus Company in 2010.
Rival bus firm Stagecoach operates a similar smartcard.
Eighteen months ago, a joint ticketing arrangement was introduced so that Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach passengers could use both companies’ services in and around the city, using a SmartZone option on the smartcards.
Mr Hudspeth said: “The card would be similar to the Oyster card in London, and could be used on different forms of transport across Oxfordshire, to make it seamless and easier for people to travel.
“At first the card could be designed for just bus passengers but eventually I would like to extend it so that rail passengers could use it as well.
“This is at a very early stage, but it’s an idea I want to explore with all travel operators and passenger groups to see what they think.
“The card could be used to pay for park-and-ride car parking charges, and for bus and train tickets.
“I want to investigate how far this could go, using smartphone technology, and perhaps a special Oxfordshire travel app could also be created.
“Ideally I would like someone to be able to park-and-ride at Water Eaton and then get the train from Oxford to London using just the one card.”
Philip Kirk, managing director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “We realise that the success of our groundbreaking Key has made everyone aware of the advantages of a smartcard in speeding up journey time and making bus travel more flexible.
“We are happy to discuss the possibilities and investigate how we can harness the ever-changing technology.”
Mr Hudspeth said he would set up a working group to examine the proposal if he was still council leader after the May election, and that a card could take 18 months to launch.
Hugh Jaeger, spokesman for the Oxford branch of Bus Users UK, met Mr Hudspeth on Tuesday to discuss it.
Mr Jaeger said: “There are bus passengers in places like Abingdon and Wheatley who want to take advantage of joint ticketing but can’t at the moment and they would certainly welcome a smartcard for bus travel for Oxfordshire.
“The technology is there, so there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be investigated.”
Bruce Williamson, of rail campaign group Railfuture, added: “A card like this would provide more flexibility for rail passengers, but I think you still need to keep the option of paying cash.”
First Great Western spokesman James Davis said: “We are happy to discuss these proposals with county council leaders in Oxford. We are working with the rail industry as a whole, and the Department for Transport to extend the use of smartcards.”
Ticket barriers at Oxfordshire stations have not been adapted for smartcard use.
HOW IT WORKS IN LONDON
THE Oyster card is run by Transport for London and is a plastic smartcard that can be used instead of paper tickets.
The card can be used to pay for single journeys on bus, tube, tram, Docklands light railway, London overground and most national rail sevices in London.
Oyster cards can be topped up with credit and you can renew travel cards or bus passes using the Oyster card.
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