UK public transport giant Go Ahead Group has pledged to have 50 percent of journeys on its London Midland rail franchise bought through smartcard technology by 2014.
Speaking at a briefing on mobility in the public transport arena, Go Ahead Group technology director Dave Lynch said the company would be rolling out a pilot for the scheme by 2010. He said 20 percent of tickets would be on smartcard technology for the franchise, which runs lines to Birmingham, Liverpool and London throughout the West Midlands, by 2012.
Lynch said his ideal is to offer the service over travellers' mobile phones. The smartcard scheme will comply with the Itso (Integrated Transport Smartcards Organisation) standard set up to make smartcards universally useable across all public transport companies. The standard should allow tickets to be held on a mobile device. Transport for London's Oyster card does not comply with Itso, so Lynch will not be able to integrate his scheme with it.
Lynch said: "I decided, let's drop the card out of the concept. Why not use a device which everyone already has — their phone?"
Orange Business Services is one of Go Ahead's collaborators on the project, focusing on the SIM card technology.
However, Lynch explained that ticketing would only go on mobile handsets, if the technology proved to be reliable enough in pilot.
He said: "I'm not going to launch with a technology that's not fit for purpose."
The scheme is in line with guidelines from the Department for Transport designed to coax travellers out of their cars and onto public transport.
Go Ahead Group supports around one billion traveller journeys per year and owns a number of rail and bus franchises and air freight licences. It has a turnover of around £2.25bn per year and employs more than 27,000 people.
The London Midland rail franchise was won in June by Govia, which is 65 percent owned by Go Ahead. It combines the existing Silverlink franchise with some of the Central Trains services around the West Midlands. It will begin to operate at the start of November.