YORKSHIRE RAIL commuters are suffering a raw deal because of the slow rollout of smart ticketing in the North, Labour claimed today.
Labour produced figures showing just five stations in the region are equipped with the technology needed for smart cards similar to the Oyster cards used on the London underground.
Of the 710 stations nationwide fitted with smart card technology more than 600 are in southern areas of England.
The Government has promised new body Transport for the North will deliver Oyster-style ticketing across northern England.
Making it easier to travel between towns cities is seen as one of the keys to delivering Chancellor George Osborne’s vision of turning the North into an economic ‘powerhouse’.
Smart cards are also seen as a way of developing part-time season tickets, a longstanding goal of rail campaigners.
Lilian Greenwood, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “For all the Government’s talk about leading a smart ticketing revolution, these figures demonstrate the huge regional disparities that expose George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and ‘Midlands Engine’ rhetoric for the sham it really is.
“There is no good reason why commuters in the Midlands and the North shouldn’t have access to the same facilities as passengers in the South. Ministers have had six years to address this problem, but they have made shockingly poor progress.
“These figures show just how far the Government has to go, and they cast real doubt on Ministers’ ability to introduce the part-time season tickets that they promised to implement in May last year.”
Mr Osborne last year charged TfN with creating a “seamless” ticketing system to make it much easier to travel from one part of the North to another.
But there is no timetable for delivery and a smart ticketing scheme for the South East which was due to be in place by the end of last year is now not expected to be ready until after 2017.
A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: “We are absolutely committed to delivering smart and more flexible ticketing for commuters across the country.
“In the north of England, we are providing £150 million to support Transport for the North so it can introduce smart ticketing and make travel by public transport as simple and convenient as possible. We will also continue to challenge the industry to modernise and simplify the ticketing system.”
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Progress on smart ticketing across the North’s rail network has been woeful so far.
The city regions and Transport for the North are committed to an “oystercard for the North” - they should take the opportunity of DfT’s wholesale failure in the South East and the new powers in the forthcoming Buses Bill to leapfrog the South East and have a simple comprehensive smart ticketing scheme covering all transport across the North.”