£13m boost to bring ‘Oyster’ cards to region

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London-style ‘Oyster’ cards are to be introduced on buses across large parts of Yorkshire after the Government announced almost £13m in funds to upgrade passenger services in the region.

West and South Yorkshire and the city of York will all benefit from a major new investment programme from Whitehall to upgrade bus passenger services in the region and bring them a step closer to those enjoyed by residents in London.

West and South Yorkshire’s Passenger Transport Executives will each receive almost £5m and York a further £3m to introduce so-called ‘smart ticketing’ – Oyster-style electronic cards which can be used on buses across the local area.

Bus interchanges and bus stops will also be upgraded, and many routes improved to ensure buses get priority at traffic lights and other junctions A new fleet of low-carbon buses will also be introduced across the region.

“This funding means a better deal for passengers and encourages more people to travel by bus,” said Local Transport Minister Norman Baker. “It updates and improves services and infrastructure, reduces congestion, gives quieter journeys and with the introduction of new carbon friendly buses, reduces fuel costs and CO2 emissions, creating a greener network.”

Oyster cards have proved a huge success across the London transport network, saving time for both passengers and bus drivers while making the public transport experience far more convenient.

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning for them to be introduced across the region’s transport network as part of its Fair Deal for Yorkshire campaign.

The new system should be in place across buses in West Yorkshire and York by early 2014.

James Lewis, chairman of West Yorkshire transport body Metro, said: “Smartcard-based, integrated ticketing is a priority for customers,” he said. “I’m pleased the Department for Transport has recognised the additional benefits our ‘Smart Journeys’ bid will bring – and the potential for making bus travel more accessible and easy to use.”

In South Yorkshire, the passenger transport executive (SYPTE) said it will use the new ‘smart tickets’ to provide free travel for young jobseekers in the area.

Working with Jobcentre Plus, SYPTE said it will directly help 2,250 young people into work and training by providing a public transport smartcard allowing free travel for up to three months.

There will also be a range of improvements across Sheffield and South Yorkshire to remove bottlenecks.

David Brown, SYPTE director general, said: “The (funding) will help to get public transport moving more efficiently on key corridors... That will help employees, employers and improve air quality for everyone.”

Smart ticketing will also be introduced in York, along with improvements at city centre bus interchanges including real-time electronic information boards and new bus marshals to ensure bus lanes are kept clear.

Labour welcomed the measures, but contrasted the £101m funding with savage cuts to bus services previously imposed.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said: “The Government is completely out of touch if it thinks this money will be anything more than a sticking plaster over the gaping hole that has been left by the decision to cut more than half a billion pounds from funding for bus services across this spending period.”

“Support for greener buses, bus lanes and smart ticketing is fairly pointless if there isn’t the funding to actually run bus services.

“The real scandal is that the Department for Transport handed back to the Treasury a £543 million under-spend last year as a result of a budget shambles – that’s more than would have been needed to protect every single bus service in England now facing the axe.”