Smart tickets for buses

THOUSANDS of passengers will benefit from the introduction of contactless smart ticketing technology on buses in the Tees Valley.

New ticket machines on Stagecoach’s buses will go live from Monday and initially the new system will be used for holders of councils’ concessionary bus passes.

But the system will eventually enable other bus users to take advantage of cashless payment cards.

Go North East’s buses have already started using their system and Arriva is due to upgrade its ticketing system later this year.

There are also plans, under the North East Smart Ticketing Initiative, to help smaller operators invest in the new technology needed to make smart ticketing available on all buses in the region.

Speaking on behalf of the five councils in the Tees Valley, including Hartlepool Borough Council and Stockton Borough Council, which covers Billingham and Wolviston, Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said using the smart cards is easy.

“Using the new ticket machines means travellers with smart cards will only need to hold their card against a reader until their ticket prints to register their journey,” he said.

“Well over 100,000 residents in the Tees Valley already have a smart card, which is the national bus pass for the over 60s and people with disabilities. Smart ticketing means journeys will be recorded more quickly and accurately.

“Although pass holders travelling before 9.30am on weekday mornings will still need to pay 30p, cash handling will eventually be reduced. This will not only help speed up buses but also mean bus operators can be reimbursed more accurately and quickly for concessionary travel.

“Passengers will be able to use the same card for trips on different companies’ buses, which will make going by bus far easier for many people. Bus operators also plan to sell their own commercial smart passes, which will replace their existing discount schemes.

Pay as you go cards which can be topped up will be introduced throughout the region under the North East Smart Ticketing Initiative, which is supported by all five councils in the Tees Valley.”

Bosses say that if a pass does not work with the new equipment the passenger should contact the council which issued it for a free replacement.

People can continue to use their old pass for a limited time until the replacement arrives.

People can contact Hartlepool Borough Council on (01429) 523337 or Stockton Borough Council on (01624) 528499.