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Claim transport smartcard plans watered down

PLANS to introduce a Scotland-wide travel smartcard for use on all public transport ahead of the 2014 Commonweath Games in Glasgow have been watered down by ministers.

NICOLA STURGEON: Taking the first steps towards a universal card.
NICOLA STURGEON: Taking the first steps towards a universal card.

In her first major announcement since becoming Infrastructure Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a Saltire Card which is aimed at making it cheaper and easier to get on buses, trains, ferries, Edinburgh's trams and Glasgow's Subway.

The card, which will initially be developed as a trial, will allow passengers to pre-load money to buy tickets, using automated machines already installed on more than 7000 buses in Scotland.

It was welcomed as a positive step forward by campaigners who have called for easier ticketing arrangements to persuade more people to use public transport. However, critics pointed out it would not provide the benefits of the Oyster ticketing system in London and fell short of previous Government commitments.

In 2008, the then Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson promised to introduce a nationwide integrated ticketing system well ahead of the 2014 Games.

By contrast, the Saltire Card offers no guarantee of buying a single ticket for use across different forms of transport – something that will depend on an arrangement being made with bus, ferry and rail firms. Speaking yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said: "While we are aware there is still some substantial work, we are now taking the first steps towards achieving this vision by launching a series of demonstrator schemes with a number of operators and public-sector partners."

Calum McCallum, for public transport campaign group Transform Scotland, said the Saltire Card was a "welcome step" in developing a more integrated ticketing system.

However, Richard Baker, transport spokesman for Labour, said: "Nicola Sturgeon's announcement of this card is a welcome but limited measure in the context of moving to the integrated transport system we need. This card might help facilitate this in the future but when the SNP first talked of these plans in 2008 their ambition was for a seamless, integrated transport network in Scotland."

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