This summer will see major progress towards the Scottish Government’s vision for delivering smart, integrated ticketing, and there’s more to come


summerofsmartDerek Mackay and Cathy Craig at Glasgow Central


Smartcard technology will be live across every ScotRail route by the end of this summer in the biggest ever expansion of smart electronic ticketing on Scotland’s railways, it was announced this week.

Transport minister Derek Mackay joined ScotRail Alliance commercial director Cathy Craig at Glasgow Central station to launch the ‘Summer of Smart’ – an important step towards achieving ScotRail’s “contractual obligation” to achieve 60% of journeys by smart by 2019.

Annual, monthly and weekly season ticket holders can currently use smartcards on four routes in Scotland’s ‘central belt’.

By April 1 all railway stations in Scotland will have ITSO-enabled ticket machines and validators.

And by the end of the summer, smart season tickets will be available on all of ScotRail’s remaining 24 lines.

It’s a key landmark in delivering Mackay’s vision “that all journeys on Scotland’s bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks can be made using one form of smart ticketing”.

Smart ticketing will be extended beyond season tickets to the majority of ticket types by 2017, and all ticket types will be available on smart by 2019, including some multi-modal tickets.

The ScotRail franchise is one of four “building blocks” for Scotland’s smart ticketing vision, along with the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, ferry franchises and the Glasgow Subway. The National Concessionary Travel Scheme now accounts for over 30% of bus journeys in Scotland (41 million journeys in 2013/14). Since smart ticketing was launched on the Glasgow Subway in October 2013, over 100,000 Bramble cards have been issued and 13 million smart journeys are made very year.

According to Transport Scotland, 2016 will be the year that products will be accepted on different cards, enabling customers can travel across multiple operators with the same card. For example, harnessing the inter-operable platform offered by ITSO, holders of a ScotRail smartcard can load a 10-journey carnet ticket for Glasgow’s ClydeFlyer bus service onto that card (see panel below).

Scotland’s major bus companies – Stagecoach, First, Lothian Buses. McGill’s and National Express – have pledged to deliver multi-operator smart ticketing across Scotland’s largest cities in 2016/17. These cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and their surrounding areas – account for almost three-quarters (73%) of Scotland’s population.

Abellio took over the ScotRail franchise on April 1 last year. One of the reasons the company was selected for the contract was the experience of its parent company, Dutch state railway NS, in delivering smart ticketing in The Netherlands. Joost Mortier, Abellio’s project director for transport integration at ScotRail, was program director for the introduction of this smart ticketing system, OV-chipkaart, and he was one of a range of smart ticketing experts at a briefing for the media in Glasgow last week.

Mortier said it was important to adopt a phased approach, based on the common ITSO platform.

“You have to build up. You cannot do a big bang with this kind of technology,” he explained.

“You really have to do a step by step approach. And whilst you are building up, you should take care with each other, as bus operators, as Transport Scotland, but also as ScotRail, that we work with a common standard.

“You have to work with a common standard, and then you build up the environment.”

Meanwhile, Ian McConnell, programmes and transformation director at ScotRail Alliance, explained that while ScotRail’s contractual obligations do not extend to multi-modal ticketing, the operator is keen to support it.

“We are absolutely committed to that 100%,” he said. “That is in everyone’s interest to work as one and make it work for the whole of Scotland.”

Bill Reeve, commercial director at Transport Scotland, said he welcomed the view from ScotRail that “if you grow the public transport cake, then everyone gets a bigger slice”.

Later on, he added: “The thing that excites me about this is the common platform across Scotland, across all transport modes at the minute. We have an opportunity to exploit that.”

Elaborating on the multi-modal travel vision, Reeve said: “In encouraging a single ticketing system, we are not encouraging or requiring a single pricing system. We are not planning to impose zones on bus travel in Shetland that somehow magically map into the zones of the Glasgow system.

“Any operator is at liberty to keep their own pricing structure, ability to reach deals between operators on fares, that’s fine, that’s absolutely great. What we are talking about here is the ability to use the same sort of payment system to travel wherever you go and have confidence you know what you are about to get. I get on this bus and I don’t need to guess whether it’s a right fare only, or I should have bought before I board or anything like that – it will just be a common experience.”

Reeve said it was vital that all operators build their systems on the common ITSO platform.

“The ITSO journey has been a long journey, I think it’s fair to say,” he said. “In other places I’ve heard it described as a painful journey, but whatever the truth of that story so far … it is now a very capable system.

“And just as a matter of fact, it’s an installed system, and it’s a commonly installed system, and we would be mad not to make the most of that.


Timeline: Scotland’s smart journey


  • Different cards with different products are in use for bus and rail
  • Customers can travel on smart on certain routes throughout Scotland


  • Products will be accepted on different cards
  • Customers can travel across multiple operators with their card, with different products available
  • The network of onward travel on smartcards will be increased across the whole ScotRail network


  • Integrated products will be introduced, with a common brand on the back of the card to emphasise multi-operator travel
  • Customers can load one product on the card to travel bus to bus, or bus to train, in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

2018 and beyond

  • Epurse (pay as you go) payments are introduced in order to improve seamless travel between operators
  • Customers can travel with an Epurse on the card between the SPT subway and on ScotRail covering around 120 stations in the inner SPT area


Clyde commuters GoSmart with McGill’s

Clyde commuters using some of McGill’s busiest bus routes are set to benefit from a new smart ticketing trial introduced from last week.

Customers on the operator’s ClydeFlyer routes can now purchase a 10-journey carnet on a new smartcard for use between Largs, Dunoon, Inverclyde and Glasgow city centre.

The new 10-journey tickets will offer customers a convenient and flexible way of travelling; the GoSmart card, which carries the Saltire Card branding on one side for the trial, is pre-loaded before travel and can be topped up with additional 10 journeys, as and when required, on any ClydeFlyer bus or at SPT Travel Centres.

Derek Mackay, minister for transport said: “This is an important step towards delivery of smart-enabled travel products, that brings benefits to passengers and operators alike. McGill’s is the first of Scotland’s five major bus operators to introduce commercial smart ticketing using products that can be loaded on any Saltire Card.”

Commenting on the announcement, McGill’s managing director Ralph Roberts said: “Smart-enabled ticketing offers a host of benefits for our customers.”


The full story appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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