Transport campaigners call for 'Scottish Oyster card'

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Media captionCampaigners are calling for a national smart ticketing system to encourage more people to use public transport in Scotland

The Scottish government is being urged to push ahead with proposals for a "smart ticketing" system for public transport across the country.

Campaigners believe the move would encourage more people to leave their cars at home.

This could help to tackle pollution and congestion.

Smart tickets, such as London's Oyster card, allow passengers to use one plastic card to make journeys on different types of public transport.

Regular users

The card is loaded with cash in advance and can also be automatically topped up from a bank or credit card account.

About 43 million Oyster cards have been issued since they were launched in 2003 and Oyster has eight million regular users.

Figures show that about 80% of all journeys on public transport in the London area are made by passengers using Oyster cards.

Calum McCallum of Transform Scotland, which promotes public transport use, believes there is no reason why a Scottish equivalent should not prove to be a success and would make life much easier for passengers.

He said: "If you have the flexibility to jump on and off the buses and trains, or whatever mode of public transport actually suits you, then we believe you're more likely to use public transport.

"There clearly needs to be government intervention to push this thing along.

"It's not something which will happen by itself. It's just too complicated for all the organisations involved to come together but a lot of the pieces are already in place."

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport plans to have smart ticketing in operation on the Glasgow subway by summer 2013.

SPT's ambition is to see the system extended to include Scotrail and private bus companies.

Technology in place

SPT's assistant chief executive Eric Stewart also expects the system will lead to increased passenger numbers, benefiting commuters and operators.

He said: "If you look at the Oyster example in London, there's been a huge increase in bus usage, a huge increase in Tube and rail usage. There's absolutely no reason we can't do exactly the same in Scotland."

SPT's smart ticketing system will rely on technology provided by the East Kilbride company, Ecebs. Work there is said to be well ahead of schedule.

The firm's managing director, David Burdett, said: "The heart of the system is in place, the operational systems are tried and tested and everyone agrees that a smartcard for Scotland makes sense.

"By delivering it quickly and efficiently to the entire SPT area we hope to demonstrate to others what can be achieved."

The technology needed to operate an integrated ticketing system is already in use on buses across Scotland. It is used to provide the Scottish government's concessionary transport scheme for older and disabled people.

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "Having equipped the entire Scottish bus fleet with smart-enabled ticketing equipment, we have a substantial platform from which to accurately reimburse operators and to support the delivery of commercial smart and integrated ticketing.

"We aim to capitalise on our £40m investment in smart ticketing on buses by working with organisations such as SPT in their plans to develop smart and integrated ticketing across modes."