TODAY’S report that plans for an Oyster-style travel card for trains and buses are being hampered by disagreements over which technology to use highlight the problems of Britain’s fragmented transport system.
The break-up of Britain’s nationalised bus and train services in the 1980s and 1990s has, for better or worse, often led to competing interests butting against one another, with the ripped-off, confused or delayed passenger bearing the brunt.
This is holding up the major benefits of the Oxfordshire scheme, which will simplify parking, bus and train use.
Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth’s explanation is almost Kafkaesque. He said: “It is not as simple as one would think. The train companies are saying yes in principle, but they want to have their own technology as well, while both Stagecoach and First Great Western have put a lot of investment into their unique cards.”
Understood that? Of course, the plans have some precedent, including the successful joining of Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach buses under a single ticket for the city.
And then there is London’s Oyster card, though this is a lot easier to run as the buses, tubes, trams and many of the trains that take the plastic swipe card are all managed by Transport for London.
We urge the companies to find a common cause but also for the Department for Transport to realise its ambition of a national travel card system, underpinned by shared technology.
The delays to both schemes will only underline many travellers’ discontent with how transport is run in Oxfordshire and the country as a whole.