The scheme is named StagecoachSmart and apparently hundreds of commuters have already signed up, presumably those that travel exclusively on stagecoach services and are serviced regularly by the provider.
However, the Greater Manchester region is serviced by over 50 public transport operators and there is a risk that the large players may rush to release their own versions of the smart card in an attempt to edge out competition. A crucial role for the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is to ensure that a region wide scheme is applied before individual firms’ establish and start charging passengers for their own systems that exclude travel on other networks.
The good news is that there does appear to be momentum for a region wide system, Greater Manchester’s transport leaders hope to replicate London’s successful Oyster Card and have applied for funding towards the scheme from the Department for Transport, But they need to act fast, Arriva already has a ticketless system operating in Bolton called the sQUID, which could be rolled out over a wider area.
There are lots of benefits to having a competitive public transport network, but passengers can become confused and frustrated if too many fares, tickets and services are required to complete a journey. We need to offer a blanket coverage that is as fair towards smaller providers that service less popular routes as it is for the major providers.