Skip to main content


Smartcard journeys take a step forward

To prepare for the introduction of a fully integrated ticketing system, Partnership members today (10 October) approved the preparation of a competitive tender for a smartcard ticketing system.

Transport for London’s Oyster card successfully provides integrated ticketing for bus and underground journeys on their services. In the west of Scotland the transport structure is different, where SPT owns and operates the Subway system, and the deregulated bus service market involves SPT working in conjunction with more than 100 bus operating companies to ensure an effective network of bus services.

The passenger needs, however, are no different, with the need to develop a prepaid cashless, multi-modal, multi-operator ticketing solution.

SPT and Transport Scotland are working in partnership to ensure the new generation smartcard technology will fit within a national ticketing framework.

As part of the National Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme agreement with bus operators, new ticket machines able to read smartcards are now being installed on buses. This presents the opportunity to extend smartcard ticketing to non-concessionary journeys.

For over 20 years, the SPT ZoneCard scheme has proved to be the only effective multi-modal, multi-operator card in existence. It joins up journeys by Subway, bus and rail with sales worth more than £15m.

ZoneCard is a paper-based card with a magnetic stripe capability to facilitate Subway, rail and bus journeys. There is now an opportunity to plan for a smartcard system as the use of magnetic stripe ticketing is phased out. As the operator of the Subway, SPT needs to replace its outdated gating and ticketing system. The introduction of a smartcard ticket will simplify the Subway journey.

The tender to be developed will be for the supply a smartcard compliant system, which will be easy and convenient to use for pre-paid travel. It is also intended to have an e-purse for convenience purchases such as snacks, leisure activities and newspapers/magazines.

It will be available online and travellers will be able to order and top-up the value on their cards. The transaction time will be swift and cards can operate anonymously without personal bank details being required at point of purchase, very much like mobile phone top-ups.

SPT’s Chair Alistair Watson said: “This is an exciting opportunity to replace outdated paper based and magnetic stripe ticketing systems with a commercial smartcard system.

“It has been proven in many major cities worldwide that a simple, fully-flexible, cashless ticket encourages people to use public transport, and we are committed to achieving that.

“With the large number of different service providers in Strathclyde, a smartcard scheme can only be fully effective if delivered in partnership with all stakeholders, and that’s what we intend to do.”