Smartphone tickets set to launch on Metro - with plans for Tube-style contactless payment barriers in near future

A long-awaited deal to bring mobile phone smart tickets to the Tyne and Wear Metro could be agreed next week.

Thursday, 5th November 2020, 6:04 pm

The prospect of passengers being able to ditch their pop cards and paper tickets has been raised for several years, with network bosses even trailing a possible new system in 2019.

But it could be about to become a reality after transport chiefs revealed they are almost ready to put pen to paper on a scheme to roll out the technology.

“We’re hoping to make a decision next week to award a contract and I will say more than that at this stage,” said John Fenwick, director of finance and resources at Metro operator Nexus.

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A Metro ticket machine

“That will enable weekly tickets to go on to the mobile phone initially, and that will be as we get the contract established.

“[It will be] early next calendar year (2021) for the pay as you go tickets and then other tickets will be available after, but there’s a little bit more development work to go.”

Fenwick was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear Sub Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

According to a report for the panel, Metro bosses have told travellers to expect:

:: ‘Host card emulation (HCE) – aka smart ticketing on mobile phones – to begin its rollout in 2021

:: All tickets to be available on mobile phones by 2025, including park and ride permits,

:: They also predicted they will have ‘removed cash as a payment mechanism on Metro’ by 2025

As well as an early rollout of mobile phone tickets next year, commuters are due to see phone payments for Metro car parks introduced in the New Year.

But transport chiefs also revealed they are working on plans to allow passengers to pay directly at barriers with their bankcards, as on the London Underground.

And the prospect has also been raised of extendeding this to buses as well.

Huw Lewis, Nexus’s customer services director, said: “A lot of customers have asked just to use contactless bank cards on the gateline and on validators and not have to use the ticket machine at all.

“The HCE will do that through an app, but we want to go a stage beyond that.

“Transport for the North is preparing a bid to the government to fund that work on Metro, to make it a true open contactless system and from there provide a multi-modal contactless payment solution across the North East with bus operators.”

In 2019, Nexus’s managing director Tobyn Hughes, revealed he had been among a select group of staff on the network trialling mobile phone payments to tap in and out of ticket barriers.

At the time however, bosses claimed ‘legal reasons to do with the handling of data’ hand hampered the process of seeing the system rolled out faster or more widely.