Hopes for smart tickets on Merseyrail by next year

The first phase of a “London-style” ticketing system could be in place across the Merseyrail network within the next year.

As part of Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s pledge to upgrade the Liverpool City Region’s public transport offer, millions of pounds has been spent already to develop the smart ticketing and technology programme.

Almost £3m has been made available through the government’s transforming cities fund since 2019 and has led to the introduction of a tap and go scheme on the region’s buses as well as the installation of electronic ticket machines.

Now, a further £1.7m in funding has been signed off to get the tap and go system up and running across the Merseyrail and ferry network with a roll out date of 31 March next year earmarked for the region’s trains.

A report to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority said the funding would deliver the new ticketing system and further develop a wider approach, “enhance the customer experience, promote ticket sales, and increase the use of public transport, with an end goal of delivering a fully integrated, multi-model ‘Tap and Go’ system in the future.”

Metro Mayor Rotheram, has made the creation of a London-style integrated public transport network one of his central priorities since he was first elected in 2017. He said a crucial part of this is the implementation of a modern, tap-and-go ticketing system that will work across different types of public transport around the city region.

The report said problems had been encountered in October last year regarding the back office systems, leading to a change of supplier. Due to that delay, Merseytravel has requested a project extension to complete the required migration, until December 2024.

The lengthy extension of the full rollout has been requested to give Merseytravel “flexibility to manage implementation in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” according to the report. With the additional funding, the full project cost will rise to more than £4.6m.

Mr Rotheram said, “I’m probably one of the few people who gets excited by this report, but this is about smart ticketing and if you speak to passengers, they’re desperate for an electronic form. Hopefully people will agree with that.”

In 2019, the first major change to smart ticketing was introduced when Metrocards were brought in, taking Merseytravel’s adult daily, weekly and four-weekly Solo bus tickets online for the first time. The cards replaced the existing Walrus system.

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