FEBRUARY 2011 saw another major achievement for the Cheshire Travelcard scheme when 130 more buses became ITSO smart.
The addition of the Warrington Borough Transport fleet means Cheshire bus passengers can have a smartcard which works on 500 buses – regardless of which of the six operators is running them.
This, combined with cross-border bus agreements with Flintshire and plans to bring rail operators on board, means Cheshire is truly a microcosm of national interoperable smartcard travel – encapsulating in one region exactly what the Government, EU and ITSO are trying to help roll out throughout Europe.
Forward-thinking Cheshire councils and bus operators have always been ahead of the game, introducing the Chester Travelcard back in 2002. This involved one smartcard which could be used on four bus operators’ services for one-off journeys, or weekly and monthly unlimited travel passes.
Since then Cheshire has brought the national concessionary scheme (ENCTS) and smart ten-trip tickets on board. Last summer the ITSO Cheshire Travelcard was introduced as a pay as you go smartcard. The cards can currently be used on 140 routes provided by six operators from 11 bus depots.
So far 200,000 smartcards are in circulation in Cheshire with 10,000 of these for commercial rather than concessionary use. Already, 60 per cent of bus journeys in Cheshire are on smart equipped buses.
The obvious benefits for customers and operators are cashless travel, and speedier and more consistent boarding times leading to more reliable services.
Bus usage has gone up by more than five per cent – far higher than the national average. This is also helped by the fact that most operators offer ten per cent discounts on standard single and return fares for Travelcard users.
Surveys on buses have shown that the introduction of smart ticketing machines has led to a three per cent reduction in misuse and fraud for concessionary travel. This already means a saving of around £225,000 for the four unitary councils which make up Cheshire Concessionary Travel Consortium.
Colin Kennington, Principal Transport Officer for Cheshire Integrated Transport Service, attributes their success story to a trio comprising forward thinking councils and bus operators, together with his committed and skilled team. “We’re very proud of what we have achieved so far in Cheshire,” says Colin. “Warrington coming on board is a major boost.
“Making these things work with all the different organisations involved is never easy. However, it’s onward and upward with ITSO as far as Cheshire is concerned.
“If we can do it, there is no reason why the rest of the country cannot do it. All it takes is determination and commitment.”Information provided by Cheshire Integrated Transport Service
This page was last updated on 28 November 2012 GMT