Glasgow subway's new smart tickets aren't, moan passengers

Technical snafu or sneaky excuse for a price rise?

Glasgow's new smart tickets, for use on the city's underground network, aren't smart enough to count the journeys made, forcing the operator to withdraw carnet tickets at the end of June.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has named the new system Bramble, eschewing its traditional seafood nomenclature. Bramble, which comprises smartcards and new ticket barriers equipped with smartcard readers, will be phased in following the introduction of a “bridging” ticket that is compatible with both old and new barriers.

But what's most annoyed passengers is that the new tickets won't support carnet-style ticketing allowing a specific number of journeys for a discounted price, despite their enduring popularity.

SPT reckons weekly and daily passes, allowing unlimited travel within a specific time period, will fill the gap, but some passengers will be worse off.*

The SPT claims this is "better value for money", which is true as long as one goes home for lunch, or takes the underground a lot at weekends, but for those shuttling to and from an office the cost of commuting is about to go up.

The problem isn't the Bramble cards, which El Reg understands are smart enough to cope with journey deductions, but the cheaper, disposable, smart tickets which will be issued to anyone not registered with the Bramble system.

Those tickets have the cheapest of ITSO-compliant chips embedded in them. However, the ITSO specification (which ensures compatibility between transport networks' smart ticketing systems) won't allow them to be updated - so they can't be used for multiple journeys under a single, capped fare.

Limiting carnet tickets to those registered with Bramble and issued with a proper smartcard would be too complex, apparently, leaving the SPT with no alternative but to double the cost of commuting in Glasgow.

We've asked the SPT to explain why other options haven't been explored, and if this isn't just an excuse to make more money from the Clockwork Orange, as Glaswegians fondly refer to their subway network, but they've yet to respond to our enquiries. ®

* SPT has clarified that the carnet tickets apply both ways, so the price increase is marginal rather than twice the price, though still represents an increase.

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