Visa and the train and bus operator First Group are considering investing up to &£12m each in a new Stagecoach-backed consortium, which will target 20 million passengers with the UK’s first nationwide “electronic purse”.
The electronic purse will be in a “smart” microchip, embedded in the passenger’s travel card, which can be loaded electronically with cash.
When train and bus passengers swipe the cards through a machine the fare will be debited automatically.
The &£60m consortium, called Prepayment Cards Limited (PCL), is also owned by Australian smart-card systems developer ERG (which owns a 70 per cent stake) and IT company Sema (a ten per cent stake).
ERG hopes to reduce its stake to about 20 per cent and is talking with national retail chains keen to join the initiative.
PCL’s smart travel card will initially be available to the regular 1.8 million travellers in Greater Manchester from early next year.
The company is developing the card into a multiple-application electronic cash card, to be used in vending machines, telephone boxes and at retail outlets.
Regional pilots for other smart cards have been run by Mondex, an electronic purse scheme owned by MasterCard, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Visa, under the name Visacash.
A source close to PCL says: “Visa is looking to get a stake in PCL because it wants Visacash to be used as the electronic purse that drives the card.”
Sema is operating PCL’s electronic purse system.
First Group refused to confirm the talks and Visa was unavailable for comment.