Railways: South East Flexible Ticketing Scheme — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:51 pm on 2nd February 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 2:51 pm, 2nd February 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the expected date for the full implementation of the South East Flexible Ticketing Scheme.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary

My Lords, we are completely committed to the introduction of smart ticketing as set out in our manifesto. The South East Flexible Ticketing programme is proceeding with its existing contractual obligations and I fully expect these to be delivered by the end of 2016. We want to accelerate progress, support programmes where necessary and challenge operators to do more.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, £37 million has been spent on the scheme so far but now it appears that the Government have abandoned completing it. Last November they were blaming train operating companies for delays, but now they say that they will leave the rest of the scheme to those same companies to complete as part of their franchise requirements. This will slow down implementation, affecting all passengers but particularly part-time workers, 75% of whom are women. When do the Government think smart ticketing will now be fully introduced across all lines? Will future franchises require full integration of ticketing with other train operators, not simply a paperless system?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary

I remind the noble Baroness of the Answer I just gave: we are looking to complete that by 2016. The five operators that have already signed cover 73% of the network. With regard to part-time season tickets, through the franchise competitions we are ensuring that operators develop appropriate proposals for pricings within that.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

My Lords, might the Minister consider the fact that, I believe, smart ticketing now depends on contactless cards? These require an enormous back-office facility to adjust the money between operators. The operators cannot agree to share the information with one another. Would it not be better if ATOC, the independent association of train operators, which deals with revenue matters now, addressed this?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary

We are seeing increased co-operation across train operators and we are working closely with the industry to ensure just that. As I have already indicated, there is 73% coverage with the existing operators. In one case, for season ticket holders we already have 22% of the market covered through smart ticketing.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

The Rail Delivery Group has recently had discussions with the Rail Minister, Claire Perry. She was going to send a formal letter to the group setting out the Government’s expectations on ticketing. In order to clear up any doubts about the current situation and the position with the South East Flexible Ticketing smartcard scheme, and indeed with other schemes, can I ask whether that letter has been sent? If so, will the Minister place a copy in the Library?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary

I have just enjoyed a sandwich lunch with my honourable friend the Rail Minister, and I asked her that question. That letter will be sent shortly, and as soon as it is issued I will ensure that a copy is put in the Library. The noble Lord pointed to wider arrangements. Through the Smart Cities Partnership, nine additional regions are looking at smart ticketing.

Photo of Lord Geddes Lord Geddes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Does my noble friend agree with the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in another place that the railways should be renationalised?

Photo of Lord Christopher Lord Christopher Labour

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm or deny the very strong rumours reaching me—I declare an interest in that I travel on Southern trains—that there are plans to transfer Southern to Transport for London? Can he also confirm that, if that is true, it would be quite legal for Transport for London to exceed the boundaries of London?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary

I will write specifically on that issue to the noble Lord. I believe that the noble Lord was referring to the awards of franchises; it is true that we are working very closely to ensure that there is an open competition. However, I will write to him on his specific question.

Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour

The Minister has declared to the House that he does not think that he would agree with anything said by the leader of the Opposition in the other place. Is he really saying that as a Minister in the Government he is declaring himself opposed to the referendum that will take place on our membership of the European Union?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary

My right honourable friends have made clear their position on the EU referendum; we are negotiating. I am a member of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s Government and stand with him. He is ably leading negotiations and it is in the interest of everyone, both in the other place and this House, to show full support for our Prime Minister of Great Britain.