Scotland will be the first country to operate a nationwide “smartcard” system for public transport under plans unveiled by the Scottish Executive this week.
Currently, the only large-scale schemes in place are in cities such as Hong Kong and London, which operates the Oyster card across buses, tube, rail and tram.
The ticketing machines will require travellers to place their smartcards on a machine reader, instead of showing travel cards to drivers and conductors. Transport minister Tavish Scott says he hopes the system will combat fraud and cut costs.
A trial of the scheme has been launched across buses in Shetland, which is Scott’s constituency, this week. The smartcards will initially be given to people eligible for concessionary fare schemes.
The machines are expected to be extended to the rest of the country over 18 months, starting from January. If successful, the system will be rolled out across all forms of public transport.
Shetland was chosen for the trial because it is a self-contained area. Shetland Islands Council is working with ERG Group to provide the pilot. ERG is behind systems operating in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Rome and San Francisco.
Transport for London introduced Oyster cards to its staff in November 2002, with a soft consumer launch beginning in 2003. According to the latest TfL figures, published in January, there are about 5 million Oyster card users. In September, TfL marketing director Nigel Marson confirmed plans to expand the card for use by visitors to the 2012 Olympics (MW September 28).