The Welsh Government is no longer working on its GoCymru-branded nationwide bus and rail smartcard for Wales. Rhodri Clark reports

 

Pictured: Newport Transport’s freedom smartcard

 

The Welsh Government has revealed it is no longer actively implementing a nationwide smartcard for buses and trains.

In the week that Abellio predicted that one in three journeys on ScotRail would be made with smartcards by 2017,
the Welsh Government said it was considering the possibility of a smartcard confined to South East Wales in due course.

In January last year, the Welsh Government launched a Pay As You Go smartcard pilot in Wrexham and Bangor, following earlier trials in Cardiff and Newport. The pilot was to prepare for Wales-wide rollout of the card, branded GoCymru, from April 2013. The rollout was deferred and in October 2013 pilot participants were offered refunds for money remaining on their cards.

Despite repeated requests, the Welsh Government has not confirmed whether it has abandoned the pledge it made in the National Transport Plan of 2010 to introduce Wales-wide smart ticketing for bus and rail. The NTP said the product would be available by 2014. A spokesman said: “The GoCymru pilot,
which was completed in October, was a technology trial to test the integration between various systems.”

Asked for an update on progress towards a Wales-wide smartcard, he said: “We are now considering the success of the trial and possible rollout of a smart ticketing solution in the Metro region in due course.”

Justin Davies, chairman of CPT Wales Bus Commission, said there was growing public expectation that cities such as Cardiff and Swansea would have a product like London’s Oyster. “Operators are keen to encourage the development of smart products and we would be disappointed that the former scheme [GoCymru] seems to have disappeared.

“A number of operators have been involved in discussions about the Metro project in the Cardiff city region. There isn’t clarity on how that’s moving forward.”

Andrew RT Davies, Conservative AM and opposition leader, said: “The GoCymru scheme promised so much but now seems likely to deliver very little for the people of Wales, largely because of the inertia holding back decision making at the heart of Welsh Government.”

Council transport officers warned in 2012 that the Welsh Government’s 25% cut in bus funding jeopardised delivery of the nationwide smartcard by 2014, but the government said the scheme was progressing well and the current funding position “should not be used as an excuse” for inaction on integrated ticketing.

A bus industry source said the Welsh Government recently held a meeting with operators and other partners with a view to spending £1m this financial year on smart ticketing in the Metro region, and more next year. The Phase 1 programme included Pay As You Go smartcards on buses. “I haven’t found anybody who thinks it’s achievable, not in that timescale. There’s a whole lot of questions about back office and divvying it up,” he said. “Anybody who has done smart ticketing will tell you it’s a painfully slow process.”

Separately, the bus and rail groups which operate in urban areas of Wales have explained why their own joint scheme to introduce smartcards to nine English city regions by the end of 2015 does not include Wales.

Mark Yexley, operations and commercial director for Arriva UK Bus, said: “We are making the DfT’s so called Smart Cities the priority for the rollout by the end of next year. That is not to appear to ignore Wales where, obviously, the Welsh Government has its own agenda for transport which the DfT would not want to intrude upon with the Smart Cities project.”

A Stagecoach spokesman said: “There has to be a starting point with any major scheme and it makes sense this project kicks off by covering the regions where there will be the biggest customer benefit.”

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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