Oyster-style card smart travel system on way to Milton Keynes

An Oyster-style contactless card payment system is set to replace paper travel tickets in Milton Keynes and beyond.

MK Council has made a bid for £800,000 of government money to develop a ‘smart ticketing’ system that would cover tickets for car parking, cycle hire, rail, buses, and taxis.

A bus

A bus

The council would also seek to work with other local authorities so that people with contactless cards can travel seamlessly beyond the boundaries of Milton Keynes.

“It drives me bonkers the time it takes to get on board the buses in Milton Keynes,” said Cllr Norman Miles, welcoming the move at a delegated decisions meeting on Tuesday, April 9.

His colleague Cllr Martin Gowans, the council’s cabinet member for public realm, decided to go ahead with making progress on the new system which could be in place by March 2021.

MK Council has legal responsibility to administer free and off-peak travel for elderly and disabled residents. It also offers reduced rate travel for young people who hold a valid All in 1 MK card.

But two contracts for free and off peak travel came to an end on March 31, giving the council the opportunity to re-think its approach.

Last year, councillors agreed to a policy of moving towards smart tickets. In London, Oyster card holders are able to use a debit card sized plastic ticket to tap in and out of the Underground and buses.

Transport chiefs at the council see smart tickets as a way to reduce bus boarding times by up to 75 per cent as people don’t have to fiddle around with cash to find the correct fare.

It also gives access to information about who is using services, and allows for the introduction of loyalty schemes, a report to Cllr Gowans said.

While it awaits a decision on the grant due next month (May) from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), the council will enter into an agreement with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), contracting with its chosen provider.

According to research some 30 per cent of the population do not possess contactless bank cards. But in his report Steve Hayes, the council’s head of transport, said people will still be able to use cash payments.

By 2023, the council wants to people making more journeys by bus in Milton Keynes.

If it does not get the money, the council still intends to work with bus operators to introduce smart season tickets, including the multi-operator Moove scheme.