Merseytravel’s ‘Walrus’ smart ticketing scheme to get underway

Merseytravel’s ‘Walrus’ smart ticketing scheme to get underway

Merseytravel’s scratch off, off-peak day ticket for buses, trains and ferries – is going electronic, becoming the first product on the Walrus.

They will be introduced on the Wirral from the 24th November 2014, with cards available across the rest of Merseyside by the end of March 2015 replacing the previous scratch off products.

The Saveaway, that has on sale for 40 years, will eventually be available from around 800 PayPoint  outlets across Merseyside, more than doubling the current number of places people can buy Saveaways. Due to the popularity of Saveaways, with around three million sold last year, it is anticipated that, in the next six months, Merseyside will be one of the top regions outside London, in terms of smart ticketing transactions.

Saveaway is just the start of Merseytravel’s smart ticketing programme, with the next few years seeing a roll out of new ticket products and new ways to purchase them.

A strategy outlining what Merseyside’s smart ticketing future will look like is being developed. Operators are currently working with Merseytravel to agree on recommendations that will inform the strategy.

It follows a ticketing review with the purpose of looking afresh at Merseytravel’s suite of ticketing products, many of which have been around for 30 years, to ensure that ticketing options best meet the needs of the modern traveller. This has included looking at the overall price structure and zoning system.

Said Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel: “Saveaway is just the start. We have to start somewhere. We were keen to get smart ticketing underway but we are taking a reasoned, incremental approach to it.

“The recommendations in the ticketing review will set the direction for where we go next. We want the products on the cards not just to be electronic versions of what already exists as that’s not really adding value. We want to develop tickets fit for the modern traveller, ones that offer convenience, choice and flexibility in when and how they purchase travel.

“We’re thinking of the bigger picture and want to start taking our customers on a journey – a journey we have to take in order to have a world-class network with services to match.”

There are additional benefits to smart ticketing. The data gathered will help Merseytravel, and the operators, better understand passengers’ travelling patterns so transport services can best meet their needs. It is also expected that smart tickets and the associated ‘touch on’ will reduce fraud and associated costs.

For a limited period, up to April 2015, people will be able to get a smart card for free on purchasing a Saveaway. From April onwards there will be a £1 activation charge for all new cards. The card is designed to be kept, re-used and, longer term, to host other ticketing products.

As not all current Saveaway retailers will have the facility to retail smart Saveaways, there will be a phasing out of scratch off Saveaway tickets at these outlets over a two-month period from the time the scheme is introduced in each area. Smart Saveaways will not be available from rail stations, but people will still be able to purchase rail-ticket style Saveaways.

Also announced earlier today, Britain’s biggest bus operators unveiled their plans to launch London-style smart ticketing across England’s largest city regions. Stagecoach, First, Arriva, Go-Ahead and National Express say that the smart ticketing will be delivered during 2015 to include Greater Manchester, Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire and the city regions of Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol.

Tom Harrison

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