A little while ago I wrote on this blog about what was likely to happen to smart ticketing as a result of the UK coalition government’s spending review. So what did we get, compared to what could have happened?
There was support for a number of major road, rail, and tram schemes, and a tightening of belts through efficiency and cutting waste. There was a raising of the cap on fare increases to help pay for improvements.
On smart ticketing, the statutory entitlement for concessionary bus travel has been protected, “ensuring that older people can maintain greater freedom and independence”. This was a little surprising, as there had been talk of raising further the qualification age, and means testing the benefit. The biggest impact on bus operators could be the 20% reduction in BSOG. The Government says it wants to work with bus operators and local government to examine smarter ways of administering this subsidy to get better results for passengers and taxpayers. Great play was made of “localism” – giving local authorities more freedom to decide how to spend their money, although there will be less of it to spend.
The week after the Chancellor’s spending review statement, the Department for Transport issued a press notice giving more detail on the announcements. It confirmed the campaign to eliminate waste, but put it in a context of public transport’s role in also reducing carbon emissions. And it confirmed there was no intention to remove the 8% incentive that bus operators get for implementing smart ticketing. DfT also said it is considering options for the long-term future distribution of bus subsidy and will make an announcement in due course. This could address the concerns of concession authorities in destination areas, such as Devon and Cornwall, or Blackpool. Under current rules, these authorities have to pay for concessionary journeys starting in their areas, rather than the authority that has issued the card to the passenger.
All in all, transport ticketing has been relatively unscathed by this spending review, so we should continue to look forward to smart cards in transport growing – both in the public and private sector.