Making travel simpler through improved digital payments

17 January 2019

Plans to make it even easier for people to plan, book and pay digitally for public transport in West Yorkshire were agreed at last week's West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee.

Councillors at Friday's meeting agreed the Combined Authority's new Digital Payment Strategy's objectives. These are to enable people to buy travel easily and seamlessly, to ensure the ticket types available meet people's needs and lifestyles and to gain a better understanding of people's travel to help develop products that will meet their future needs.

Increasing numbers of people are using cash-free payments for travel either through smartcards, mobile phones or their contactless bank cards. Over 300,000 MCard smartcards are in use in West Yorkshire, and the main bus operators and the train companies have their own digital payment systems.

The Digital Payment Strategy recommends the development of the Mobility as a Service approach suggesting people would use an app or a web portal to access different types of transport through single payments or retrospectively on an account basis, ensuring they get the best value travel. A Mobility as a Service app would also help make it easier for users to plan their journeys and then book and pay for their journey in one place.

People often have to use different companies' services and a combination of bus and train and journeys and the way people pay for them should be seamless and easy to understand. However not everyone wants to or is able to pay online or via smartphone and these people, some of whom may not have bank accounts, must not be forgotten or excluded, the Strategy says.

The aim is to promote and stimulate flexible digital payment with all the benefits that brings rather than create an entirely cashless system.

Young people across the county are a key growth market for public transport and are seen as largely 'digitally savvy', making them a target for the promotion of digital payment. Almost 200,000 people aged under 25 in West Yorkshire are already using MCards and the Strategy suggests that more should be done to meet young people's travel needs.

The Strategy says tickets must be easy to purchase, affordable and flexible and the West Yorkshire Ticketing Company, which owns and manages MCard, has a key role to play in delivering this.

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee said: "With over 300,000 travel smartcards in use through the MCard scheme, the majority of Elland Road and Temple Green park and ride 9,000-plus customers using money-saving smartcards and the transport companies' own schemes, digital payment for travel is already popular and well established in West Yorkshire."

"This Strategy sets out how we can build upon this strong position and make it easier for people to use public transport by planning and pay for their travel digitally while also, importantly emphasising the need to ensure people who don't want to or are currently unable to pay in this way, can still take advantage of an improved system."

The Digital Payment Strategy goes on to say that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority will continue to work with Transport for the North on its Integrated and Smart Ticketing project.

Link to the draft Digital Payment Strategy

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