St Ives to Cambridge guided bus ticketing delay

PUBLISHED: 10:39 11 September 2009 | UPDATED: 10:40 08 June 2010

BUS company managers this week revealed their annoyance that passengers will not be able to buy tickets valid on any bus running on the St Ives-Cambridge guided bus link when it opens, supposedly in November. The idea of inter-available ticketing has be

BUS company managers this week revealed their annoyance that passengers will not be able to buy tickets valid on any bus running on the St Ives-Cambridge guided bus link when it opens, supposedly in November.

The idea of "inter-available ticketing" has been on Cambridgeshire County Council's agenda since the idea for the £116million project was first mooted nearly 10 years ago. It is not new and, as far as the guideway is concerned, hardly complicated, with just two operators on the route.

In theory, inter-available ticketing is outlawed by the Transport Act 1985 - the legislation under which the bus industry was privatised. But the county council has reached agreement with the competition authorities that would allow it.

The council has been trying to broker arrangements for county-wide tickets for years, but the issue has still not been resolved for a system that should have opened last April.

Instead, at least for the early months of the busway's operation, return or season-ticket passengers will either have to wait for a bus operated by the company that issued the ticket or pay again for a journey on the next available bus.

The council is telling residents that the service will be 'reliable, fast and frequent'. But so far all that has fulfilled that description has been the series of delays to its introduction. The delay to the any-operator ticket is the latest.

The technology needed to introduce the system - smart-card and revenue-allocation technologies - are hardly new. They have been used in the railway industry since before privatisation in the mid-1990s and in London - which is exempt from this provision of the 1985 Act - since the Oyster card was introduced about a decade ago.

But the council says these technologies could not be used for busway ticketing, and brand new software is needed.

CCC is telling passengers: "A multi-operator ticket is being developed for the Busway, which will be the first of its kind in the country. As this type of ticket is brand new, it will take time to make sure it is right, and tested, before it is launched."

Principal operator Stagecoach, which has bought a £3million fleet of 20 eco-friendly air-conditioned bio-diesel vehicles for the purpose, is furious.

"The multi-operator prices were agreed well over six months ago," managing director Andy Campbell told The Hunts Post. "We have agreed a process for sharing revenue from a multi-operator ticket for the guideway based on a smart-card system, but we are told that will not be available when the guideway opens.

"We shall have our own smart-card up and running for the opening. The difficult bit is the multi-operator bit. But we've only just found out what information the county council's consultants want from us for that.

"We've been ready to go since the spring, so I'm more frustrated than anybody else in Cambridgeshire," he added.

And Peter Lee, owner and director of rival operator Whippet, added: "It's very irritating. I'm sure it could be sorted out if they wanted to, particularly when all the buses are the same colour.

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