Smart Cards for Local Buses

Public transport users in the region are finally able to use an easier way of buying tickets.

Signature cardA long-awaited prototype bringing the equivalent of London’s Oyster card to the West Midlands has begun trials in Solihull. Regional transport authority Centro has teamed up with Rotala buses to launch the Signature card, allowing passengers to pay fares electronically for the first time. They will also enjoy a cheaper fare compared to paying by cash.

The technology is being road-tested on Rotala’s Signature services in and around Solihull – the S2, S2A, S3, S4, 30 and 82. Passenger feedback and the performance of the technology will be monitored over the coming weeks as part of an on-going evaluation.

Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, said: “This is a massive step towards our aim of eventually rolling out Smartcard technology later this year for all bus users across the Centro region – we have already been in discussion with a number of other operators to sign up to a wider scheme.

“For the first time, fare paying passengers can do away with the need for cash and will be able to make their journey by using electronic technology, a development which takes bus travel into the 21stcentury.”

Passengers are able to place their pass on a card reader as they board the bus, which will deduct the fare from the pre-paid sum held in its memory. A ticket is then issued in the normal manner. The holder will pay a flat fare of £1.60, giving a cheaper and simpler alternative to paying for a single journey using cash.

The £1.60 fare is a discount offered by Rotala, whose standard fare is usually £1.90 or £1.70 for a short hop. The Signature card is issued for free although a minimum £10 needs to be loaded on before it is used.

This can be paid for online at or from Centro House in Birmingham and at Centro Travel Shops. The card can be subsequently topped up on bus or at Centro House and Centro Travel Shops.

An auto top-up function is also available which links directly to the customer’s credit or debit card and adds £15 whenever the smart reader is presented with a balance below £2. For customers not opting for auto top-up there will be a £2 deficit facility (£1 for the child variant) giving a ‘get-you-home’ guarantee.

Mr Inskip added: “This scheme will transform bus travel for many people so it is important we ensure we get it right. We have had to identify and implement the necessary technology to get where we are today but we are confident this trial will be a milestone in the journey to a successful Smartcard.”