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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Smart Fares - Passenger Friendly Shelters

The pandemic is forcing transport operators to minimise interaction between staff and passengers especially in fare transactions. Blackpool's tram operation is unfortunately well behind what is now acceptable practise on light rail systems in the UK and foreign systems. For a start its station stops lack any style or user friendly information on arrival times - which is now normal practise.

The operator is pushing its online fare and travel information accessible through dedicated app technology but the long familiar 'paying the conductor/driver' in cash is still very much a persistent hurdle to eliminating cash payments entirely. Given concerns over transmission of the viral infection through handling of goods and coinage - overall the role of conductors is being reduced if not eliminated in favour of advanced electronic payment systems.

In fact cash handling in retail and travel transactions is likely to become a historical feature in generational change - with all age groups excepting the very old accepting smart cards and electric payment as the norm. We are moving towards a cashless society ever more quickly expedited by the deadly covid 19 infection throughout the world.

Most UK light rail operators (few in number though they may be) had already adopted smart fare payment systems. Compact and user friendly terminal and information points being essential elements at all stops to reduce entirely onboard payments. Nottingham's two light rail lines enjoy well designed electronic equipment and ticketing points with integrated corporate design and styling - as well as user friendly seating, lighting and real time arrival in formation at all stops. Examples here. Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham systems likewise ensure a seamless delivery of fare payment at stops and onboard.

Nottingham's light rail network shows how best practise greets the customer :

Blackpool's current set up determined by the Council and its consultants - has a long way to go to achieve the standard of other UK tram operators, partly due to cost constraints; and possibly a lack of professional input in capital procurement processes. Not that the tramway is alone in having a poor image with its shoddy shelters, minimalist seating, cheap lighting and lack of real time information at any of its station stops. The bus system is a contrast between smart well designed (and driven) vehicles to a singularly distinctive style; and a mishmash of bus shelters of varied types, many desperately needing a thorough cleaning, with bus stops exhibited faded service information and usually bereft of seating. The latter being notably absent in a town with a large ageing population where elemental seating would be particularly welcome especially in residential districts.

No doubt if the Council were to finally relinquish its grip on delivery of stops and shelters and associated street furniture for public transport within the Authority - there might well be a massive improvement in the current state of affairs. Blackpool Transport Services has shown itself to be a forward thinking operator; importantly delivering a quality product year round. Its a pity it is being let down by poor, dated and unkempt infrastructure . These shortcomings of Council oversight does the image of the town no good at all.

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