‘Get smarter’ plea over all-in-one bus and rail cards in Leeds and West Yorkshire

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Public transport campaigners in Leeds are calling for better awareness and a universal rollout of the regions’s travel smartcard - which they hope will become as ubiquitous as London’s Oyster.

Around 100,000 people currently hold Metro’s MCard, which can be used for pre-paid travel on all scheduled bus and rail services in West Yorkshire.

However campaigners have told the YEP that in a region with a population of 2.2 million people, not enough people know about it.

Others have described it as “the poor man’s Oyster card”, claiming it is nowhere near as accessible as its London counterpart.

The comments come as a debate around possible franchising of the region’s bus services gathers momentum.

Among those calling for change is dedicated bus user and MCard holder Tom Chigbo, of the Leeds Citizens community movement, which has spearheaded a new covenant between passengers, operators and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

“In principle it’s a good move but hardly anyone knows about it,” Mr Chigbo said.

“My neighbourhood doesn’t have a newsagent that lets you top the card up.

“I went into a supermarket in Chapeltown and the man didn’t even know what it was.

“Clearly it hasn’t reached out and sunk into public consciousness.

“So to compare it with London, it’s very obvious where you go to top up your Oyster card. Almost all newsagents do it. Signage is really obvious and clear. We are not at that stage with this. It’s about brand build-up.”

A spokesperson for Metro said the MCard is actually the largest travel smartcard system outside London – and its reach is ever expanding.

The number of travel smartcard users in West Yorkshire rises to approaching 500,000 when you include discounted and concessionary users, he said, adding that 1.1 million smartcard transactions take place on West Yorkshire’s buses and trains.

“Over 95 per cent of West Yorkshire’s buses have smartcards readers and there are smart ticket gates at Leeds stations main and new southern entrances,” the spokesman said.

“People can get MCards and load travel products onto them at over 700 Payzone stores across West Yorkshire or from bus stations Travel Centres. To date there has been over £7m in MCard sales through Payzone.

“Cards can also be ordered online and we will be rolling out online top ups in 2016/17.

“We have also been testing MCard top ups through rail station ticket machines and this facility will become available at over 50 West Yorkshire rail stations in the next few weeks.

“We are also investigating a pilot scheme to enable people to us their mobile phone as a smartcard.

“As with any system of this kind there will be problems and we do encourage anyone who experiences difficulties either using their MCard on a bus or train or bus or topping it up at a Payzone store to let us know so that we can follow up with service operator or the individual store.”

MCARD FACTSHEET

>MCards can be loaded with weekly and monthly travel tickets for just buses, or buses and trains, within West Yorkshire and there are specific cards for young people, those aged 16 – 25, students and business use. Annual cards are also available.

>A monthly bus-only ticket costs £84.

>The card is valid on all bus services, so MCard holders whose journeys involve using more than one bus company’s services or whose route is served by more than one company’s buses can save money on operators’ exclusive tickets or avoid having to wait for the ‘right’ bus to come along.

>People can use ‘touch on’ digital recognition on buses and at certain rail stations.

>Over 30 per cent of all bus transactions are now ‘smart’ and half of all Elland Road Park and ride customers use smartcards.

>Visit www.m-card.co.uk, www.wymetro.com or call 0113 251 7214.

MP Rachel Reeves.

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