Government accused of ‘contempt’ for commuters over travel smartcards

System used during COP26 climate change summit has failed to materialise despite being announced almost 10 years ago.

Government accused of ‘contempt’ for commuters over travel smartcards iStock
Smartcards would allow money to be pre-loaded for travel on public transport.

The Scottish Government has been accused of showing “contempt” for commuters after cutting the budget for Scotland-wide travel smartcards.

The cards, which would allow money to be pre-loaded for use on trains, buses, ferries, trams and the Glasgow subway system, were announced in 2012 by the First Minister.

Almost 10 years later, the system has failed to materialise, despite a similar system being used to implement free travel for all delegates at the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

Weeks after the UN climate conference, the Scottish Government announced funding for the system would fall from £4.9m to £3.9m.

In response to a question from Labour MSP Paul Sweeney in November, the First Minister said the Scottish Government was “working towards” the goal.

Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “It’s clear we shouldn’t be holding our breath waiting for the SNP to deliver on their years-old smart-ticketing promise.

“After years of delays and downgrades, the impossible suddenly became possible for COP26 delegates – but the Scottish public are still stuck with a second-rate service.

“Despite the First Minister’s warm words, she has clearly ditched this flagship pledge.

“The SNP are showing total contempt for the people they are supposed to represent.

“Scotland deserves the same seamless, affordable public transport service COP26 VIPs enjoyed – and the SNP need to make it happen.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Our vision is that all journeys on Scotland’s public transport networks can be made using some form of smart ticketing or payment and progress has already been made towards achieving this ambition.

“Scotland is the first in the UK to offer smartcard compatibility across modes – where multiple tickets for different modes can be loaded on to a single smartcard – and contactless payment is now being accepted on over 95% of buses in Scotland.

“We have also strengthened measures in the 2019 Transport (Scotland) Act to support local ticketing schemes and continue to work with local authorities, regional transport partnerships and operators to enable ticketing schemes to move on to smart platforms.”