Translink ticket system in £45m upgrade
Northern Ireland commuters are to experience London-style 'Oyster cards' and contactless payments on buses and trains following a £45m investment that aims to bolster passenger numbers.
Ticket vending machines and gated rail stations will also feature in a new way of operating that will allow customers to manage their accounts and top-up their smartcards via a new online app.
The changes will be introduced on the new Bus Rapid Transit System in 2018 and will be rolled out on the Metro and Ulsterbus services the following year, according to Translink's chief executive Chris Conway.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said that substantial investment was necessary to modernise Translink's 15-year-old ticketing system which "serves around 80 million passenger journeys every year".
"This programme will deliver a modern, efficient and convenient ticketing system that will benefit passengers and lead to greater efficiencies. It will improve the passenger experience," he said.
Mr Hazzard added: "The new Programme for Government envisages increasing the number of people using public transport."
There are no plans to stop people from using cash on public transport, nor will there be changes to the Senior SmartPass Scheme that entitles those aged 65 and over to use Translink's bus and rail services free of charge.
Translink's boss described the new ticketing system as a "key milestone" in the public transport provider's plans to enhance the appeal of buses and trains for commuters. "Exciting enhancements will include the acceptance of contactless payment cards on bus, e-purse payments like the London-style 'Oyster Card', ticket vending machines, gated rail stations and an online app for customers to manage their accounts and top-up their smartcards," commented Mr Conway.
"Implementation is expected to start in 2018 with the new Bus Rapid Transit System. Following this, in 2019 we plan to introduce contactless payments for Metro and Ulsterbus services and customers will enjoy further technology enhancements as we phase in this new era in Translink ticketing which will attract more people to use the bus and train as travel options."
The contract to introduce the transport ticketing changes has been awarded to Parkeon, a firm that boasts offices all over the world.