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What's happening with Manchester's Oyster Card?

GMPTE update us on the progress so far (don't get too excited)

Published on December 1st 2009.

What's happening with Manchester's Oyster Card?

One of the best proposals in the failed Transport Innovation Fund bid was the introduction of a smartcard payment system for public transport in Manchester. This electronic card would allow you to travel around the city, merrily hopping between bus and tram, with just a quick swipe as you board each vehicle. A simplified pricing structure would be used with a limit on how much you would be charged in a day or week, making public transport cheaper as well as more convenient.

Meanwhile on the Metrolink system, more than 200 new touch-screen ticket machines will be installed across the network by next spring. These have been designed so that they can be adapted to accept smartcards at a future date.

The proposal was dropped when the congestion charge voters said no. But it was picked up again sometime in the summer as part of a plan to develop a 'city region identity' for Greater Manchester. Under these proposals, the smartcard would be used to pay for goods and services as well as public transport.

GMPTE have been commissioned to do the development work for the smartcard by GMITA (Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority). We asked them to let us know how the plans were coming along. They told us that there are two development projects for the smartcard scheme taking place.

One is the 'multi-purse smart card' launched in Bolton, which will feed into GMPTE’s work to develop a wider smartcard. It lets people access council services, use an eMoney 'retail purse' and a pay-as-you-go bus 'travel purse' on Arriva buses. It's a UK first, and includes a special card for children who can now pay for their bus journey to school, purchase a ticket for a leisure centre, buy a snack, take out a library book, and then get the bus home, without needing to carry cash. Parents can top up their child’s card online and view their transactions.

The online 'travel purse' is ITSO-enabled, which means that in the future, it could be used with any ITSO smartcard. Travel geeks will know that ITSO stands for Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation – this is the organisation who are working on smartcard transport ticketing in the UK.

The second development project is the Greater Manchester Young Person’s Concessionary Travel Pass, which will be introduced before the end of the 2009/2010 academic year. Working alongside GMPTE’s Young Persons’ Concessionary Fare Scheme, it will offer unrestricted bus travel for the reduced fare of 70p to all children under 16.

The travel pass will take the form of a personalised 'smart'-enabled travel photo pass which includes System One Travel Club membership. One of the aims of the cards is to establish a good conduct protocol, similar to that used on the Yellow School Buses, with procedures for the confiscation of cards and appeals.

Meanwhile on the Metrolink system, more than 200 new touch-screen ticket machines will be installed across the network by next spring. These have been designed so that they can be adapted to accept smartcards at a future date.

So in short, the groundwork is well underway: technology is being put to the test in Bolton, transport operators are starting to work in a more integrated way in Manchester, and some are making sure they've got their facilities ready for the introduction of a smartcard scheme. Stagecoach started installing smartcard-enabled ticket machines on their Manchester buses earlier this year.

GMPTE haven't given us an expected date for the introduction of smartcards. What is certain is that it is going to be a complex process – more so than in the capital city where all the buses are operated under contract to Transport for London.

In Manchester, bus services are contracted to lots of different commercial companies. Public transport users might prefer the authorities to focus on getting all of these operators onboard and ready for a smartcard, before they start looking at what other services can be paid for with it.

Certainly the delays while negotiations take place and contracts are drawn up doesn't do the public transport using citizens of Manchester any good. It also bewilders visitors, incoming students, and conference goers to the city. Speaking of the latter the 'multi-purse' idea is less relevant, far better a straightforward travel smartcard.

Given the region's proud record of innovative public transport over the last 200 plus years this lack of a functioning smartcard, and the lack of any date for when one might appear, must be deemed a failure.

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

It's simpleDecember 1st 2009.

Just bring in the bloody card and forget all the add-ons

So last centuryDecember 1st 2009.

smartcards are old news. How about pioneering a system where we can purchase tickets at the point of travel using mobile phones? It happens elsewhere, where the phones have a bar code that is recognised by a scanner on the bus, train or tram.

JudeDecember 1st 2009.

Oh my god. I love Manchester to bits, but anything related to town planning and decision making here seems to be a joke. If you’re going to update the transport system, and encourage people to use it, then why hold back on making it as user friendly, and pleasant as possible for all to use. Even people local to Manchester are confused about using public transport here, never mind visitors. An Oyster card type system (which personally I think should be a Lobster Card for us Manc’s) would be perfect for the new look tram and bus system. It makes journeys stress free, you can, buy weekly/monthly passes in advance without having to queue in that god awful office on Piccadilly Gardens, and can skip between tram and bus without the sharp tongue of the bus drivers if you don’t have change, or the daunting ticket inspectors on the trams (who always treat you as a guilty until they have studied your ticket long and hard enough to be convinced other wise).Another thing, whilst on my rant….what is with the blackmailing of the Manchester citizens too. “If you don’t vote in a congestion charge…you don’t get a decent public transport system”. It is not a way to win votes whether pro or con the congestion charge because either way you loose out.I wish someone would just get some balls and stick by a decision, stick to a budget plan and pull together to make this work! I’ve had enough of this bullsh*t! God damn it…I might just go in there and sort it out myself.

AnonymousDecember 1st 2009.

I heard it was 10,000 miles, and that they've already got them doing this but at night...Also this morning the temperature drops a couple of degrees below freezing and absolute chaos ensues. I dread the rest of winter.

Place your bets please.December 1st 2009.

My three year old son will be shaving before the new trams come in to effect let alone a smart card.Although I hope I get a reduction as a pensioner when it does eventually arrive, that is of course if there is enough room on the tram to and from Altrincham at peak times :)

janeyDecember 1st 2009.

Oh Great ..Looks like the trams don't even have wheels

EddieDecember 1st 2009.

The public transport system in Manchester is a joke!We need to regulate all the buses/trams/trains and then introduce the Manchester Oyster Card. Why are the council confusing the issue with paying for other services? Can't they simply address the issue of the exorbitant cost of travelling around our city!It makes me really angry to see what a mess has been made of what should be a totally integrated travel system, especially when they have the audacity to urge us all to use public transport and ditch private cars. I personally know of one councillor (of very long standing unfortunately) who travels to meetings in a taxi, and then pretends to the locals that he used the bus. What a hypocrite.

snDecember 1st 2009.

@Fat Controller, w Mcr Town Hall having such a Labour bias, would - if they WERE bothered at the Town Hall to ape Leeds - a Tory govt be able to put the brakes on a Mcr-led initiative much? must admit i'd far rather have one bus company (eg Travel WM runs the great majority of Birmingham and area routes) doing everything than a few competing ones as we have. there again it doesn't seem like Mcr council are bothered about changing the current shambolic state of bus affairs. (happy to be corrected if this is not the case.)

C 2 The GDecember 1st 2009.

The transport systems in Manchester has to impove 10 fold before we get a smartcard system in, i don't think its currently worthwhile. The tram needs to be extended, better bus services day and night etc etc.

LouDecember 1st 2009.

I agree with it's simple. Just get it working across trams and busses and worry about the library and leisure centre later.

The Fat ControllerDecember 1st 2009.

"bus services are contracted to lots of different commercial companies" Not on the whole they are not. Bus companies can set up routes to run where and when they want with 56 days notice. GMITA has no contractual powers over these, hence part of the problem with introducing and promoting effective network wide ticketing. Quality bus contracts (effectively franchising, ala London) can be used to gain some measure of control over matters, Leeds is looking into that route at the moment. However the Tories don't appear to keen on the idea, so expect that to be torpedoed come next year if they get in.....

MichaelDecember 1st 2009.

I do like this yellow colour though. I can't wait to see the new trams in the flesh. Maybe we just have to give Metrolink time to prove itself.

AnonymousDecember 1st 2009.

Someone should ask GMPTA and GMPTE exactly how many MILLIONS of pounds has been squandered on previous Smartcard Projects by GMPTE in the last 15 years. Thats how long they have been playing with this. Manchester Confidential, I challenge you to ask for the information under the Freedom of Information Act and then write an article about that.

AnonymousDecember 1st 2009.

Dear sn Buses Trains and Trams have nothing to do with Manchester City Council but with the Tory Lib Dem controlled GMITA. The last has been negotiating about QB Scheme for sometime but the operators First and Stagecoach have dug in. Leeds CC has nothing to do with buses either.

Trevor ExDecember 1st 2009.

And bring the new trams in and the new machines ahead of schedule for one

scoteeeDecember 1st 2009.

I heard that each new tram had to travel a minimum of 1000 miles on the network for tests before being allowed to carry passengers.That will look good in the summer won't it?shed loads of empty new trams travelling you by followed by your old one showing up crammed with visitors and city workers steaming up the windows and sniffing eachothers armpits. £4.80 return to Sale on that? Fvck my carbon footprint i'm driving in!

DescartesDecember 1st 2009.

These touch screens, are they the expensive kind that people with pacemakers and cochlear implants can use, or the cheaper ones that can kill them?

snDecember 1st 2009.

last three paragraphs here bang OTM, unfortunately. good luck w it all GMPTE, as smartcards are a great thing.

LeeboyDecember 1st 2009.

Surely we need transparent pricing across ALL bus operators before Smart cards can be brought in. The competition on bus routes is still ridicuolous - see Wilmslow Road. It's better than it was (post UK North), but it's still unneccesary. One fairly priced operator would be better and would mean you could get on ANY bus. Franchising, London-style is needed ASAP. Also, the cost of tram travel is still ridiculous. Train travel in the Greater Manchester area is cheaper - surely this shouldn't be the case

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