TRANSPORT bosses are expecting major progress on bringing in London-style smart travel across the North East’s public transport in the next 12 months.

There have long been hopes of creating a ticketing system where passengers can travel seamlessly across the region’s Metro, rail, bus and ferry services using a single smart card – as has long been the case with the capital’s Oyster cards.

Last year saw the launch of new, cheaper fares allowing unlimited travel across bus, Metro and ferry throughout Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham for a maximum of £6.80 per day.

But there are plans to simplify travel further by expanding the Tyne and Wear Metro’s Pop pay-as-you-go smartcard to other forms of travel.

That would allow passengers to tap in and out, either with a physical card or one stored on their smartphone, of whatever services or stations they travel through and have the best possible fare automatically calculated for them up to a capped price level.

It was confirmed last month that the Pop card will be usable on the new Northumberland Line rail services between Newcastle and Ashington, which are due to start running this summer. 

And councillors were told last week that work is well underway to develop the technology that will extend that option to every bus service in the North East.

Huw Lewis, customer services director for Metro operator Nexus, said that he hoped the Pop card would be being tested on buses “by this time next year” ahead of it being rolled out.

Mr Lewis also told the North East Joint Transport Committee’s overview and scrutiny panel that the digital Pop card should “soon” be available on all smartphones.

Only users of Android phones can currently upload a Pop card to their Google Wallet, while iPhone owners cannot do so with the Apple Wallet.

In addition to the extension to buses, council leaders hope that the region’s new devolution deal will pave the way for the spread of integrated ticketing onto more local rail services.

The multi-billion pound deal includes a commitment for the incoming North East Mayoral Combined Authority to develop a business case for the deployment of the Pop card onto trains and for the Government to “support” it in talks with Great British Railways and Northern Rail.

That could allow the Pop card to be used on local trains such as those between Newcastle and Seaham or the Northern trains that run through Hexham and the Metrocentre.

The devolution deal also commits the Government to ensure the North East is “actively involved” in efforts to introduce capped contactless bank card and mobile phone bank payment options on the Tyne and Wear Metro. 

The new public transport tickets introduced last year are:

  • A £6 adult day ticket for unlimited travel by bus, Metro and the Shields Ferry in Tyne and Wear;
  • Adult multi-operator day tickets covering unlimited travel on buses in Northumberland (£5) and County Durham (£4);
  • A £6.80 day ticket for unlimited travel by bus, Metro and ferry across all of Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham;
  • A £1 single ticket for young people aged 21 and under and a £3 day ticket offering them unlimited daily travel by bus, Metro and ferry.

It is estimated that the young people’s tickets have so far saved passengers almost £8 million.