National Smart Ticketing Scheme

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 14 December 2023.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government, following the first meeting of the National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board, what progress has been made towards introducing a national smart ticketing scheme. (S6O-02880)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The first meeting of the national smart ticketing advisory board, which includes a number of transport industry operators, was held on 28 November.

I have charged board members with advising me on how Scotland can collaborat ively improve smart ticketing consistency, accessibility and integration between modes and regions, and to identify the best technological standard for schemes in Scotland. They will report in six months outlining how they will do that, building on the many operations that are available currently or due shortly. The plan will look to build on the successful collaborative national smart ticketing enhancements that have been made to date. For example, universal smart cards are now accepted across all modes and 98 per cent of Scotland’s buses now accept contactless payments.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

The Scottish Government has been talking about having a national smart card for well over a decade. In Ireland, they have had one since 2011. The Transport for Ireland Leap card—I have one here—covers multiple operators and offers capping and smart discount features. The 5 millionth card was sold more than two years ago. This is doable and we should get on with it. How long has the minister given the board to complete all its work? I accept that there will be an update in six months, but what is the final deadline for its work?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I expect to get the operational plan for delivery in the next six months. I emphasise that, rather than having a national smart ticketing scheme, Scotland already uses a single smart card platform, which hosts regional ticketing schemes across Scotland and is compatible with 2.5 million smart cards that are in circulation in Scotland currently. It can be used for both concession and commercial smart tickets, and it is available for use on buses, rail, trams, subways, some ferries and domestic air travel. However, I recognise the point that Graham Simpson is making about how we ensure that that can work on a national basis like in smart, independent Ireland.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

As the minister says, contactless payment is available on most buses now, and smart cards can be used across different operators. Is she optimistic that bus patronage will perhaps increase through easier ticketing?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Those initiatives were introduced before and during the pandemic. It is difficult to isolate their impact on bus patronage because of the on-going impact of Covid on travel and, in particular, on reduced bus travel.

We meet bus operators regularly to understand the initiatives’ performance. They report that contactless payments generally make up the vast majority of sales, and some operators only see cash payments of less than 10 per cent. Support for that comes from the smart pay grant fund that the Scottish Government introduced to help more than 10 million contactless payments be made since 2018.

On the point about whether contactless payment encourages people, I think that it can and will. All that I am saying is that that is difficult to measure due to the comparability of data, particularly for buses, because of the Covid period.