West Yorkshire: Bus ‘smartcard’ system given vital support

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BUS services in West Yorkshire have been handed a multi-million pound boost by the Government.

The Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday announced that the county had won just under £5m from its Better Bus Area Fund.

Transport bosses will use the money to drive forward work on the introduction of a new ‘Smartcard’ ticketing system. The system will let passengers ‘load’ money on to their tickets in the same way as already happens with London’s popular Oyster card set-up.

West Yorkshire’s bid for backing for the scheme was submitted by the county’s passenger transport authority, Metro, in partnership with operators and the five district councils on its patch.

The DfT cash will be added to funding from local sources such as Metro and the operators involved in the bid.

Ministers yesterday also announced they were making £620,000 available for 12 new eco-friendly buses that Arriva Yorkshire will run in Leeds and Castleford.

News of the funding success came as the Association of Bus Operators in West Yorkshire (ABOWY) presented proposals for a radical partnership style of working with Metro.

Metro is considering plans for a quality contracts scheme that would give it sole control of fares and routes – matters currently decided by profit driven private operators.

At a meeting yesterday, ABOWY chiefs floated the idea of a ‘halfway house’ agreement that would give publicly-funded Metro more say on issues like fares without removing the operators from the decision-making process.

The transport authority has made it clear, however, that it will stick with its quality contract plans if the ABOWY proposals are not deemed up to scratch.

Speaking after yesterday’s meeting, Metro chairman Coun James Lewis said the authority would now study the plans in detail with a view to making a decision on them this summer.

paul.robinsons@ypn.co.uk

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