Smartcards: ‘Pop’ goes the Northern Powerhouse?

2 September 2015  •  Author(s): Tobyn Hughes – Managing Director of Nexus

The North East of England is the first region in the UK outside London to offer passengers a multi-modal ‘Pay As You Go’ smartcard which can be used across bus, Metro and local ferry services. Hundreds of passengers are now taking part in a ‘Beta Test’ of stored travel rights carried on the ‘Pop’ smartcard brand developed through the North East Smart Ticketing Initiative (NESTI) – a partnership of local authorities and transport operators. Tobyn Hughes – Managing Director of Nexus which has led delivery of the NESTI programme – explains that the number of passengers using Pop for Pay As You Go journeys will grow rapidly as the test is expanded into full commercial availability during autumn 2015.

Smartcards: ‘Pop’ goes the Northern Powerhouse?

The launch of multi-modal travel in the North East makes Pop, and the NESTI programme that sits behind it, a potential model for a much wider area of northern England, as the government demands to see firm proposals for a ‘Northern Oyster’ by spring 2016. Nexus has overcome the challenges of working in partnership across 12 local authority areas and multiple bus and rail operators, big and small, in an unregulated environment. The result is a single Pay As You Go (PAYG) functionality that means a single card can be used to travel from Berwick on the Scottish border to Middlesbrough and Redcar on the Yorkshire coast – an area of several thousand square miles with a population of more than two million people.

Every bus in North East England has ticket machines equipped to read the Pop card (and already process all ENCTS concessionary travel transactions via their smart reader). So far, about 30 bus routes accept Pop as standard with further expansion coming soon as bus companies train drivers in use of the card. The Tyne and Wear Metro – the busiest light-rail system outside London with 38 million passenger journeys a year – also accepts Pop as standard, as does the Nexus-operated Shields Ferry across the Tyne. Pop meets the challenge to be a ‘Northern Oyster’ and exceeds the functionality of the London smartcard in a number of key respects…

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