New deal takes Oyster overground

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The Independent Online

A deal that could lay the foundation for a nationally-accepted smartcard rail ticketing scheme was struck today.

New Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander and London Mayor Ken Livingstone announced that more Londoners would be able to take advantage of pay-as-you-go Oyster cards.

Transport for London (TfL) has agreed to pay for Oyster validation equipment to be provided for all London rail stations in the London rail-Tube zones 1-6 area.

Currently there are only 60 London main line rail stations where passengers can use pay-as-you-go. The total number of stations in zones 1-6 is 300.

Transport for London has also agreed to work with the Department for Transport to ensure that all Oyster equipment is capable of accepting other smart cards. These are currently under development for use on public transport across the country by the Integrated Ticketing Smartcard Organisation.

This is a further step towards the wider introduction of smart ticketing technology outside London. It will allow the development of fully integrated ticketing systems in and beyond the capital, extending the convenience and ease of smartcard technology to millions more passengers.

It builds on the Government's decision to require bidders for the new South Western rail franchise to set out how a new smart ticketing system could be introduced across its franchise area from London to the south coast.

Mr Alexander said: "This is a major step forward in ensuring that all passengers can benefit from the improvements new technology can bring. It lays the foundation for a national integrated ticketing scheme that will mean more flexible, quicker and simpler tickets for all public transport passengers."

Mr Livingstone said: "The extension of Oyster from just 60 rail stations to over 300 marks a massive step towards a fully integrated ticketing system in London, enabling passengers to move easily between rail, Tube, Docklands Light Railway, tram and bus using an Oyster card without having to buy separate tickets.

"It will deliver a real improvement to the journeys of thousands of Londoners who currently cannot take advantage of the benefits of Oyster.

The introduction of Oyster technology could start this year at gated stations and, once worked through with train operators, Oyster pay-as-you-go could be available at main line rail stations in London during 2008.

Brian Cooke, chairman of passenger group London TravelWatch, said: "We are delighted that Oyster will be finally made available on the national rail services in London.

"As the passenger voice for London, we have long campaigned for this, and it is great news for passengers in the capital."