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Monday, 8 February 2016

Lib Dems and Labour blast 'shockingly poor' Tory record on smart ticketing in the North

Just one per cent of railway stations fitted with smart ticketing readers are in the North, new figures have revealed. The news comes as Transport for North (TfN) said today that plans for an "oyster for the North", dubbed the noyster, smartcard announced just last year, were being dropped. TfN also say that alternative contactless and mobile payment systems still require access to smart-ticket readers, which needs to be put in place.

Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Baroness Jenny Randerson criticised the Government's abandonment of the noyster card scheme and failure to implement smart ticketing saying: "The six month gap between announcement and abandonment of this policy, is not even long enough for Government to have glanced over proposals for Oyster Cards for the North. Better public transport is fundamental to the success of the Northern Powerhouse and smart ticketing systems are a key part of making travelling more convenient for people."

Labour have also attacked Tory Ministers saying they had made “shockingly poor progress” on extending London-style smart-ticketing technology outside the South East. The Department for Transport pledged to introduce "oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the north." Of the 710 stations fitted with smart-ticket readers, 8 were in the North. A further 69 were in the Midlands. The great majority – 633, or 89 per cent of the total – are in the South, and the overwhelming majority are in London and the South East.

Shadow Transport Secretary Lilian Greenwood, who uncovered the station figures, said: "For all the Tory Government’s talk about leading a smart ticketing revolution, these figures demonstrate the huge regional disparities that expose George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and ‘Midlands Engine’ rhetoric for the sham it really is. There is no good reason why commuters in the Midlands and the North shouldn’t have access to the same facilities as passengers in the South. Ministers have had six years to address this problem, but they have made shockingly poor progress."

Attacking the Tory record on rail in general Ms Greenwood said: "Passengers in the North have already been hit by stealth fare rises of up to 162 per cent but they continue to lag far behind when it comes to allocating investment. These figures show just how far the Tory Government has to go, and they cast real doubt on Ministers’ ability to introduce the part-time season tickets that they promised to implement in May last year."