Living outside of London has its pros and its cons. I say this with some authority, as I’ve been re-adjusting to life outside the capital over the past six months or so. From a travel perspective you can’t get away from the fact that London has a far superior public transport network to the rest of the UK. It has cheaper bus fares, tube trains every 2 minutes, stations all over the place, Londoners often don’t realise how good they’ve got it (not that I’d have thought that 6 months ago)!
I certainly don’t miss the ‘cattle car’ train from Wimbledon to Clapham Junction, especially on those stifling summer evenings, but what I really do miss is the Oyster card. It’s something so simple yet so liberating. No need to worry about carrying change or queuing to buy a ticket – simply tap the reader and hop on the bus, tube or train.
Now you might be reading this and thinking, ‘get over it, it’s just an Oyster card’. You may be right, but the fact is we have the technology, London has had it for years, so why can’t the rest of us? Our studies into smart card ticketing across the country have shown huge support for Oyster-like ticketing, particularly amongst people who don’t use public transport that regularly. It’s a great way to promote your service as modern and convenient, by really enhancing the passenger experience.
My journey on the Metrolink into Manchester city centre this morning is typical of the smart card-free world. The board read 2 minutes until the next tram, it would be a 15 minute wait for the next one. The queue at the only ticket machine on the platform had four people in front of me, three behind. You could sense everyone’s blood pressure rising with the pressure to buy a ticket quickly to make the next tram. As the tram pulled into the stop my ticket was dispensed and I sprinted through the closing doors – the three people behind missed it.
Transport for Greater Manchester are soon to implement a smart card ticketing system on the Metrolink network – you can already see the ticket readers on the platform, which only made today’s experience more frustrating for those of us in the queue. Other transport authorities across the country are poised to implement their smart cards this year. 2014 really will be the year of smart ticketing in the UK, bring it on!