A £14 million project to install Smartcard technology on West Midlands buses has been launched.

More than 2,500 buses have been fitted with card readers by transport authority Centro paving the way for a local version of London’s electronic Oyster Card system.

So far only passengers with micro-chip fitted concessionary travel passes will be able to use the readers. However travel bosses hope smart ticketing for all will be just around the corner.

Local government minister Norman Baker said: “The benefits of smart ticketing are clear – quicker, easier, potentially better value journeys on trains, buses and trams.

“My personal vision is to see seamless travel on one smart card throughout the country by 2020 and I believe the roll-out of smart ticketing will attract more people onto public transport.’’

Centro chairman Angus Adam said: “This has been a complex project but it paves the way for the introduction of a world class ticketing system. Now that our region’s buses are smart we can press on with work to introduce a West Midlands Smartcard, similar to the Oyster Card in London.

“This will enable passengers to pre-load their card with cash which is then deducted as it is used on the public transport network, regardless of which bus company’s service they get on. We are also looking at discounted fares for Smartcard holders.’’

Rail operator London Midland has also committed to Smartcard technology for the region’s train network.