Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has urged bus and rail companies in the West Midlands to speed up the introduction of a new “smart card” allowing passengers to travel across the region using a single plastic ticket.
The credit card-style card would allow users to hop onto buses and trains without needed a new paper ticket each time.
And Lord Adonis revealed plans to make it compatible with London’s transport system too - allowing commuters taking a trip to the capital to use the same card on the Underground and London buses.
The Government is providing £20 million to transport authorities in nine areas including the West Midlands, to help them set up new smart card systems.
A similar scheme, known as the Oyster Card, already operates successfully in London. Passengers receive a card and can either pay money into an account depending on how much they travel, or pay a set amount for unlimited travel over a specified period of time.
The card is swiped against a sensor pad when they board a train or bus, and the correct fare is automatically subtracted from the passenger’s account if appropriate.
Ministers claim the scheme will help the environment by making it more convenient to use public transport and encouraging travellers to give up their cars.
Centro, the region’s passenger transport authority, has already introduced smart cards on selected bus routes, which was implemented in October. The system was planned for introduction in April but was delayed because of problems with the technology involved.
But a paper published by the Department for Transport said Ministers wanted to expand the scheme to include all the region’s 2,500 buses up by 2012.
They then want the scheme to be include trains by 2015. And by 2020, they want the smart cards to cover parking charges and cycle hire.
The Government paper also suggests the tickets could eventually cover every major urban area, such as Greater Manchester and Tyne and Wear.
Tickets could eventually be integrated into credit cards, to save passengers carrying a separate card.
Lord Adonis said: “Getting this technology on-board will help reduce congestion and pollution, improve the local environment, and help us, operators and local authorities provide the 21st century public transport network that we know people want.”
A Centro spokesman said: “At Centro we’ve been forging ahead in partnership with National Express West Midlands and other bus operators to introduce Oyster-style smart card ticketing for all passengers in 2011.
“We have, in fact, started installing the equipment on a number of buses in order to test the technology in a real world environment and during next year all 500,000 over 60s, blind and disabled free travel pass holders in the West Midlands will start using their existing passes, which contain an electronic chip, as smart cards.
“We warmly welcome the Department for Transport’s funding announcement as it will provide £2.2 million towards the development of our own Oyster-style smart card ticketing which we believe can play a key role in making public transport even more attractive for travellers.”