New figures released today show that no rail stations in the North East and Cumbria have yet been fitted with smart-card technology.
Labour said today that Ministers had made “shockingly poor progress” on extending London-style smartcard technology outside the South East. The news comes almost a year after the Government pledged to introduce “oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the north.”
Of the 710 stations fitted with smart-card readers, 8 were in the North. A further 69 were in the Midlands. The great majority – 633, or 89% of the total – are in the South, and the overwhelming majority are in London and the South East.
There are no railway stations fitted with smart-card readers in the North outside Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield, Bradford, Blackpool and Sheffield. The North East and Cumbria do not have any smartcard readers at all.
The Government has been criticised over its failure to set out a plan for fulfilling a manifesto commitment to introduce flexible season tickets, which could save 8.4 million part-time workers up to 50% on their cost of travel. Ministers have previously said that the introduction of part-time season tickets was dependent on the introduction of smart-cards.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said earlier this week that “we cannot claim to have truly modernised our railway if we don’t also transform our ticketing.” Rail Minister Claire Perry claimed in January “that the north of England, the birthplace of the modern railway … is once again pioneering the future of ticketing.” Andrew Jones, Transport Minister and MP for Harrogate, also said recently that “the smart ticketing revolution is helping to build a modern, affordable transport network that provides better journeys for everyone.”
However the North of England has also been hit by huge price increases, which included the introduction of a new evening peak restriction on commuter routes in 2014 which raised the cost of travel by up to 162%.
Lilian Greenwood, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary who uncovered the figures, said:
“For all the Government’s talk about leading a smart ticketing revolution, these figures demonstrate the huge regional disparities that expose George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ rhetoric for the sham it really is. There is no good reason why commuters in the North shouldn’t have access to the same facilities as passengers in the South. Ministers have had six years to address this problem, but they have made shockingly poor progress.
“Passengers in the North have already been hit by stealth fare rises of up to 162% but they continue to lag far behind when it comes to allocating investment. These figures show just how far the Government has to go, and they cast real doubt on Ministers’ ability to introduce the part-time season tickets that they promised to implement in May last year.”
Photo Credit: freefoto.com