Ticket to Ride?

Beginning in January 2010, passengers on nearly all overground rail services in greater London could pay for their journeys using the London Underground's Oyster smart card. This has been suggested as the first step toward an integrated transportation system. However, questions remain on exactly how an integrated transport system would differ from the present system and how integration would be achieved. Most advocates of integrated transport probably have in mind the system of a city like Berlin or Copenhagen. There, holders of a single ticket can move seamlessly between suburban rail services, metros, buses and trams. The tickets are relatively inexpensive and rail stations are often the termini of bus and tram routes. However, these continental models might be hard to apply in the UK and may not produce the desired effects. Continental European systems usually depend very heavily on subsidies. Many British transport services receive no subsidy at all and there is little evidence British taxpayers are willing to fund them. There are also questions about choice and flexibility with integrated, publicly-owned systems. Britain’s rail system over the last 15 years also has seen faster passenger growth than any other European railway, perhaps due its ability to respond better to customer demands than its state-run, more ‘integrated’ continental counterparts. Integrated or not, it would be beneficial to rail and other public transport modes if travelers could pay easily and quickly for their whole journey without stopping to buy different, mutually-incompatible tickets. However, the author argues it must be possible to find ways to let bus operators work with train operators and each other to coordinate services yet maintain competitive in price and service. Systems that encourage operators to respond flexibly to passengers’ choices may be better at meeting users’ needs than fully-integrated systems.


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  • Accession Number: 01150804
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 1 2010 7:04PM