“Oyster for the North” could have transformational impact, says EY smart transport director

New investment in smart ticketing as part of cities’ devolution deals and infrastructure funding commitments could have a transformational impact on transport across the entire North of England, but only if individual cities’ schemes are designed with future integration in mind, according to a Director from EY in the North.

Nathan Marsh, an infrastructure specialist who has helped to plan and deliver smart ticketing projects in major UK cities like Manchester and Birmingham, believes that smart ticketing schemes have the potential to make individual cities’ transport networks simpler and more accessible, increase the number and length of journeys made by individuals, and boost efficiency and revenues for operators.

Manchester and Sheffield’s respective devolution deals, which were agreed in 2014, include the opportunity to introduce smart ticketing systems, and similar schemes could be introduced as more cities agree new devolved powers.

However, to be truly transformational for the wider North of England as well as individual city regions, cities’ smart ticketing schemes should be designed to integrate with those of neighbouring cities in the future, according to Marsh.

He said: “If we really want to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ where cities and regions use their combined strength to increase economic competitiveness, it’s critical that the North’s transport network is integrated. The Transport for the North organisation and the leaders behind the One North report are making great strides in this area.

“The long-term vision for Northern cities should be to connect existing smart ticketing schemes to create a single scheme for the entire North, which could make it easier for people to travel seamlessly between and within Northern cities.

“To do this, new smart ticketing schemes created for individual cities over the next few years should deploy IT systems that have the capacity to be inter-operable with each other in the future.

It’s important that the teams and cities deploying smart ticketing work together on technology, commercial terms and customer experience.”

As well as having the right technology in place, Marsh also believes that a unified Northern ticketing scheme would require city leaders to secure the buy-in of all the major transport operators in the North of England.

He continued: “London saw a significant increase in distances travelled on public transport between 2000 and 2010, which was partly induced by the introduction of the Oyster card in 2003.  

Equally, the rapid take up of contactless Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) systems on bus and now underground rail networks shows that customers want a single, consistent experience across all modes of transport and boundaries.

“A similar initiative not just in individual cities but right across the entire North of England, coupled with the major transport infrastructure investment we’re likely to see over the coming years, could have a comparable impact – helping to connect an increasingly mobile workforce with businesses right across the North and contributing to economic growth.”

Marsh concluded: “It’s a long-term goal, but we need to consider it over the coming years when Northern cities are starting to invest significantly in smart ticketing.”

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