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Department for Transport pours millions into eTicketing

Electronic tickets are coming, like it or not

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The UK's Department for Transport is to pour £20m into eTicketing outside London, and £60m into eTicketing within the smoke.

The numbers come from the Department's Smart and Integrated Ticketing Strategy, which lays out who is to get the money and what for. It asserts the Department's belief that if only people didn't have to scrabble around for change they'd all be taking the bus every day.

The £60 million for London will pay to upgrade the existing Oyster system to "Prestige" - enabling support for the new ITSO specification cards, the Department for Transport (DfT) having poured 5 million into developing that standard and ensuring it remains compatible with Near Field Communications (NFC). The DoT is firmly of the opinion that NFC is coming into mobile phones real soon now, and wants to be ready.

"We could even see the death of the paper ticket, as direct payments and mobile phone technology pick up pace" said Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, as reported by NFC World.

The £20 million will subsidise buses in major urban areas that want to use eTickets - to the tune of around 800 quid a bus - and another £32 million goes to local authorities in the hope they can get companies working together on cross-system ticketing.

And if they don't agreed to play nicely together it then they might find themselves legislated into it, as the DoT reckons compatibility is vital to get punters onto public transport.

London's new Prestige System won't, of course, be compatible with the existing Oyster system, so there's another five million in the pot to cover the cost of making Oyster cards into a dual-format card while the system is being deployed.

It's enough to cheer the hearts of the NFC lobby, who've been having a hard time convincing anyone to pay for the technology. O2's NFC trials in London went well, with almost a quarter of those taking part saying they travelled more.

But there's no revenue stream for the network operator so no incentive for them to pay, which is why it's so nice to see the government stepping in to fill the void at this time of year. ®

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