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Manchester travel card comes under fire



Regional watchdog claims failures of Get Me There shows north-south divide while blogger outlines series of weaknesses

Manchester transport chiefs are under fire after an extraordinary list of weaknesses in its equivalent of London’s Oyster travel card was revealed.

The Get Me There card was unveiled last month, after years of promises to introduce smart technology, but quickly ran into protests and ridicule.

John Moorhouse, of the watchdog TravelWatch NorthWest, has described the Get Me There initiative as the “new symbol of the north-south divide”.

His criticism was echoed by  HisIain Roberts, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Stockport, who said he had first warned Labour-run Manchester about “the mess that was being made of travel smart cards” two years ago.

“I wonder if those Labour councillors who attacked me for speaking out will still be telling us that everything is fine,” he said, in a statement.

Failures listed

The failures of the Get Me There have been set out by blogger Susil Nash, who highlighted how:

  • The system’s app and smart card are completely separate, working entirely independently of one another.
  •  The app can only be used on Metrolink  -  Manchester’s tram network – and not on city buses.
  • If a passenger’s phone runs out of battery in the middle of a journey, shutting down the app, he or she could be hit with a £100 fine.
  •  Any tickets on a passenger’s phone will expire if it “has not been connected to the internet for a long period”.
  •  It is not possible to top up funds under a pay-as-you-go option. Instead specific tickets have to be bought for specific times.
  •  It is not possible to swap a ticket to cover a different journey if plans change – rather, the ticket disappears if not used, along with money that paid for it.
  •  An “invisible” clock counts down to zero , so that – after two hours, for tickets bought on the app – they “expire” and can no longer be used.
  • Smart card tickets bought via the website cannot be used until the day after they have been purchased.
  •  If a passenger logs out of the app, they need to re-submit all payment information upon logging back in — including card number and billing address.
  • It is not possible to move tickets between the app and a smart card, because the accounts operate independently of one another.
  •  It is not possible to buy bus tickets for a smart card online, because Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) “don’t currently have a way of making your bus ticket available to be loaded onto your smart card”.
  • Some buses don’t have smart card readers, so TfGM advises always carrying a paper receipt as proof of purchase.

TfGM has promised that a contactless system will be in place on the trams by 2019 - and across buses and trains by 2021.

A spokesman for the organisaton described the project as “complex”, adding: “Get Me there is being developed incrementally and this launch is a further step in a journey towards delivering a fully integrated smart system across the city region and beyond.”

The criticism also marks a setback for the Government’s plans to deliver better transport technology across the country. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said a year ago: “I am setting my department and the industry a clear goal. It has taken far too long to replicate the flexibility of the Oyster Card in London.”

Image by otama, CC BY 2.0 through flickr


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