Ambitious plan to introduce ‘pay-as-you-go’ travel is put on hold

Delays: A pay-as-you-go transport scheme for the north has been postponed.
Delays: A pay-as-you-go transport scheme for the north has been postponed.

An ambitious plan to introduce London-style ‘pay-as-you-go’ travel across the North of England has been halted because of a lack of support for the scheme by the region’s major bus companies.

Transport for the North (TfN) bosses have conceded that they “cannot justify spending public money” on their current strategy for the project allowing passengers to use contactless bank cards to travel on buses, trams and trains on the same journey with a fixed maximum price.

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The success of the scheme, seen as integral to TfN’s 30-year plan to boost connectivity across the region, relies on a back-office ticketing scheme known as ABBOT that processes and caps payments on journeys on a variety of different transport operators.

But though train firms and some bus operators have signed up to the scheme, there has not been enough support from larger bus companies to proceed. First West Yorkshire says it has already spent millions developing its own contactless systems and that its approach “will deliver benefits to customers more quickly, having already delivered much of what TfN is seeking to procure without cost to the public purse”.

The Express, The Yorkshire Post and other titles across the region are backing the Power Up the North campaign.

The campaign is asking government to deliver on promises that were made in the Northern Powerhouse and for Britain’s main political parties to commit to a package of policy measures to improve the north’s economy.

Improved transport is seen as being key to regenerating the north.

TfN, which is getting more than £62m in funding from Chris Grayling’s Department for Transport to introduce ‘integrated and smart travel’ across the North, has now been forced to look at alternatives ways of making the project work.

TfN chief executive Barry White said: “We therefore cannot justify spending public money continuing to pursue the current delivery strategy.

“We remain committed to delivering a truly multi-modal experience for passengers in the North and firmly believe in making public transport easier to use and pay for, delivering a seamless experience for our passengers. We’re now considering alternative options to take the programme forward, maintaining the same vision but with different delivery strategies.”