Merseyside travel goes ‘smart’ with first ‘Walrus’ card ticket
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Mike Walker, Smartcard trial user, Louise Curran, Merseytravel Smart and Integrated Ticketing Project Manager and Mark Williams, Smartcard trial user
The first electronic travel ticket on the Walrus smartcard is now available in Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral.
Smart versions of Saveaway – Merseytravel’s off-peak day ticket for buses, trains and ferries – are replacing the scratch off versions of the ticket which have been around for more than 30 years.
It follows an initial roll out in Wirral which has seen around 58,000 smart Saveaways sold since their launch at the end of November 2014, already making Merseyside’s smart ticketing scheme one of the most active outside of London.
The tickets, which will initially be for on-the-day use only, will be available from around 800 PayPoint outlets across Merseyside–more than doubling the number of places people can buy Saveaways.
The Walrus card is designed to be kept, re-used and, longer term, to host other ticketing products. In Wirral, already more than half of smart Saveaway sales (around 60 per cent per cent) are on re-used cards.
For the next few months people will be able to get a Walrus smartcard for free when purchasing a smart Saveaway. There will be a £1 activation charge for all new cards longer term.
Feedback from the Wirral launch has shown that people are keen to buy Saveaways in advance. As a first step towards that, people will be able to buy smart Saveaways for either same day or next day travel from this summer.
Meanwhile there are plans for another of Merseytravel’s existing pre-paid ticket products to go ‘smart’ later this year too.
Saveaway is just the start of Merseytravel’s smart ticketing programme, with the next few years seeing a roll out of new ticket products and new ways to purchase them.
Merseytravel and operators are continuing to work on a strategy outlining what Merseyside’s smart ticketing future will look like. A high level approach is expected within the next few months with detailed recommendations expected to be made later this year.
The focus will be on making the process more convenient and efficient for public transport users, with simplifying the zoning system and price structures amongst the considerations.
Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel, said: “Everybody across Merseyside now has the opportunity to get a Walrus smartcard in their purse or wallet.
“Getting electronic versions of our Saveaway tickets out on the network may seem a small step to the travelling public of Merseyside, but it is a significant one.
“Just taking Wirral sales figures alone, we already have one of the largest smart ticketing schemes outside of London and that’s just in the space of a few months.
“It has involved much work with transport operators in getting both the commercial systems and technical infrastructure right – complexities that all areas outside London face in implementing smart ticketing schemes
“Within the next few months people will be able to buy Saveaways for same day and next day travel, with another of Merseytravel’s ticket products available in a smart format too.
“We’ve started small but we’re thinking big. We will soon be providing further detail on our ambitions for ‘Walrus’ longer term.”
There are additional benefits to smart ticketing. The data gathered will help Merseytravel and the operators better understand passengers’ travelling patterns so transport services can best meet their needs. It is also expected that smart tickets and the associated ‘touch on’ will reduce fraud and associated costs.
As not all current Saveaway retailers will have the facility to retail smart Saveaways, there will be a phasing out of scratch off Saveaway tickets at these outlets.
Paper Saveaways will still be available from railway stations and ticket vending machines.