London-style 'pay-as-you-go' smart transport in the North may still be possible, says Trainline founder Jeremy Acklam

A travel technology entrepreneur has revealed he wants to resurrect the plan to offer London-style 'pay-as-you-go' smart ticketing on all modes of public transport across the North.

Jeremy Acklam, recently appointed as director of Transport for the North's £150m Integrated and Smart Travel programme said he was looking at other ways of achieving the vision after bus operators failed to support the original scheme.

TfN's plan was meant to allow passengers to use contactless bank cards to travel on buses, trams, trains and ferries on the same journey across the North with a fixed maximum price.

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But it was forced to ditch a major element of the scheme after bus firms such as Arriva, First Go-Ahead, Stagecoach and Transdev refused to co-operate as they already have their own contactless schemes.

It meant the back office office processing system, known as ABBOT, which would have worked out the cost of journeys on different modes of transport, had to be scrapped.

Mr Acklam a travel technology entrepreneur with a 35-year background in smart travel who co-led the launch of the UK’s first online rail ticket retailer, Trainline, joined TfN this month.

And he told The Yorkshire Post that he would be making an announcement "in due course" about how smart travel can be achieved across all forms of public transport.

General view of Leeds Train Station, start of the new winter timetables. Pictured Comunters arriving at Leeds Train Station. Pic: James Hardisty

He said: "The previous proposal named ABBOT which obviously didn't get the required support going forward, is one particular way of doing it.

"We are looking at other ways of achieving that and in particular looking at ways that can be implemented efficiently and with the support of all parties involved.

"I can't go into any further detail on that at the moment. But we will be making some announcements in the future about the way that that is going to go.

"But it is very clear that those benefits originally identified from having a smart ticketing system across the entirety of the northern region are still there as a benefit.

"And the question is exactly how to implement that, so that is where I come into TfN this month to start that process. So we are doing that and we will be making announcements in due course."

The Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the bus industry, said a move towards simpler and integrated ticketing" is an ambition shared by all.

A spokesman added: "Bus operators are working together to make ticketing simpler and more accessible, helping customers to ensure they get the best fare available for their journeys.

"Contactless ticketing is now available on over 90 per cent of buses and over 120 million journeys were paid for in 2019 using contactless or mobile ticketing.

“We look forward to discussing with Transport for the North any proposals that are deliverable and avoid unnecessary cost.”

As part of its economic recovery plan submitted to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, TfN wants to install contactless bank card payments on tram and light rail systems across the North at a cost of around £28m.

And it wants every railway station in the region to have the technology to support the use of contactless smart ticketing on rail, something which would cost a further £27m.

This week TfN launched the North's first 'flexi' smart season ticket for the Leeds-Harrogate route in a bid to entice passengers back to train travel after the lockdown.