Bristol could get Oyster Card within a year
An electronic ticketing system for trains and buses could be up and running in Bristol within a year.
Bristol City Council has agreed to spend £20,000 looking into the idea of introducing pre-payment smart cards, similar to London's Oyster Card. The cash for a feasibility study was added to the council's budget after the Liberal Democrats took control of the authority from Labour in February.
To use the system, passengers would top up their cards, then touch them against a sensor when they board buses or trains.
The city's cabinet councillor in charge of transport, Jon Rogers, believes the system would speed up travel and reduce delays.
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He said: "You would be able to get 20 or 30 people on to a bus in 20 or 30 seconds rather than it taking five minutes if the drivers have to take cash and hand out change.
"At the moment, it's difficult for drivers to stick to timetables because the time it takes to get passengers on board is so unpredictable.
"It makes the drivers' jobs a difficult task and they can get grumpy and miserable.
"There are a number of ways the payment can work – you can have a prepaid card, or you can have a card which registers the number of journeys you have made."
Of the feasibility study, Dr Rogers added: "We need to gather all the evidence together and speak to people who can implement the system. We will prepare a report looking at how the system works elsewhere. Introducing it is likely to be a year away."
Other cities in the UK, including Cardiff, already run a smart card public transport system.
The first Oyster cards were issued to the public in 2003. By March 2007, more than 10 million had been registered in Greater London.
By last year, eighty per cent of all public transport journeys in the capital were paid for using an Oyster card.
The idea for a Bristol smart card was first suggested in 1998, but technical issues and costs have delayed it being introduced.
The city council will work with the West of England Partnership to put in a bid for government cash to help with set-up costs.
In March last year, managing director of First Bristol Justin Davies said he was strongly in favour of a smart card but said there was a lot of legwork to do to see the plans realised.
In April last year, a regional bus and rail travel card called a Freedom Travelpass replaced the First Bus and Rail Card.
Valid in Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, passengers can buy day tickets and seven-day season tickets entitling them to travel on a range of bus and train services in the area.
First Bus spokeswoman Suzannah Marsh said: "We would be happy to be part of discussions about introducing an Oyster Card-style scheme."