Work begins on system for Oyster-style travel cards for Bristol
WORK is already under way on creating computer systems needed for an Oyster-style travel card in Bristol.
As reported in the Post the city is likely to have a ticketless bus system within the next 12 months.
And councils across the Avon area are looking at creating a system which will not just cover the city but the whole area around Bristol.
The four unitary authorities are working together on creating a computer system which will support the new electronic travel card.
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The card will need a back office system that will be able to connect up to all systems operated by the various bus companies in the Bristol area.
The first step in the process will be to get electronic ticket machine readers on all buses.
The councils have been working across the South West and with the help of Government funding have been able to help several operators get the machines on board.
As a result 190,000 DiamondTravel concessionary cards already in circulation can now be used as smartcards, along with any visitors using English National Concessionary Scheme cards.
Brian Allinson, chair of the West of England Joint Transport Committee, said: "Introducing new IT equipment, such as that needed to operate Smartcards successfully, can be a long, slow and frustrating process, but it is important to take the time to get it right.
"We now have the back office system in place and have worked with 17 different bus operating companies across the area to help them with their ticket machines.
"This means that over one million concessionary cards from around England can now operate 'smart' in the region."
He added: "In practice users will notice little difference, but this is an important step forwards and allows us to test the equipment and work through any bugs or snags that may appear."
Once any bugs have been ironed out and the system is operating efficiently and effectively the next step will be to make sure that bus operators who are based in neighbouring authorities to the West of England that run services here are also smart equipped.
Once the Smartcard Project Team are confident with the operation of the system, a small trial is planned for Bath.
If the trial is successful the system will gradually be extended to more users and operators.
As experience of the system is gained, and providing it continues to work efficiently and effectively, more smartcard applications will be developed.
"Details will be publicised as we extend the trials, and the timescale is likely to be longer than people wish, but we would rather get it right than introduce things too quickly," said Mr Allinson.
"Smartcards that can support travel across multiple bus companies requires all operators to work to the same technology standard.
"The development of a West of England back office and the introduction of compatible machines on buses in the area support this and are a step towards the introduction of a West of England Travel smartcard."