18 November 2014

One smartcard to cover more city bus firms

Bus travellers in the Brighton & Hove area will soon be able to use their electronic smartcard tickets on different local bus companies, after the council won a £71,000 government grant.

Money from the Department for Transport, plus resources from Brighton & Hove Buses and their parent company Go Ahead, will be used to provide integrated smartcard tickets that also work on council-funded services run by Compass Travel and the Big Lemon.

The companies provide supported bus services subsidised by the council which would otherwise not be commercially viable.  Grant money would also pay to install card-readers in 10 of their buses on the routes.

It’s expected the three-year pilot scheme will start next Spring.  It will cover Compass Travel services 37B, 47 56, 57, 16 and 66, plus service 52 operated by Big Lemon.  Other local authorities will be able to learn from this pilot scheme about extending smart ticketing to smaller bus operators.

As well as winning the grant and facilitating the project, the city council will also contribute up to £27,000 towards set-up costs, with bus companies meeting the running costs.

Until now, smartcard tickets, known as The Key, usable on Brighton & Hove Bus Company services, could not be accepted by other firms.  It meant anyone who needed to make a journey involving more than one company had to buy tickets from different sources.

Smartcards can be topped up online or at Brighton & Hove Buses’ North Street shop, providing tickets ranging from single journeys to one-year seasons.

Lead councillor for transport Ian Davey said:  “This is part of our aspiration to offer a range of effective transport choices.  I understand it can be frustrating for people to have to get different sets of tickets to make one bus journey. 

“It’s good to have different bus companies operating and this card will make it easier for people to access more of them.

“This is another ground-breaking solution that shows that the city is at the forefront of public transport strategy. This approach could pave the way for cost-effective integrated smart card solutions up and down the country."

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said: “I am delighted the Department for Transport is providing more than £71,000 towards further roll-out of this smart ticketing technology, which will help make bus travel more attractive and efficient in Brighton & Hove.”

MD of Brighton & Hove Buses Martin Harris said:  "This solution and the funding to deliver it are a triumph for common sense and an example of how the city works so effectively in partnerships to solve the public transport challenges that we face. Customers wanted this to happen and the operators were all willing to make it happen. The council and the DfT have brought the funding and the governance together to make it possible. This is very good news for all bus users around the city.”

Supported services mainly run to outlying areas east of the city as far as Saltdean and to Hangleton, Knoll and Portslade in the west.  They cover routes or times that are socially important but not commercially viable.

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