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Buses to be upgraded with smart ticketing system

Buses in Shetland will soon be fitted with a new smart ticketing system. Photo: Shetland News

BUS passengers will be able to pay fares with debit and credit cards in the near future after funding was secured to introduce a smart ticketing system in the isles.

ZetTrans officers have sourced £200,000 to buy and install equipment on the council’s bus fleet in the coming months.

They are also looking to secure funding to fully roll-out a similar smart ticketing system on the council’s inter-island ferries.

A report discussed at Wednesday’s ZetTrans meeting says the new “hardware provides the capability to introduce various payment methods, including debit and credit cards, as well as opportunities to developed a wider range of ticket products”.

The European Low Carbon Transport and Travel Challenge Fund will provide £82,000 towards the costs, while Transport Scotland is putting forward £60,000.

Shetland Islands Council is set to stump up £58,000 towards the cost.

ZetTrans members approved the spending its latest meeting on Wednesday.

Lead officer Michael Craigie said it was a “substantial amount of funding” which will see the SIC’s contribution come from underspends.

He said there is no firm date set for its implementation, but it could happen by mid-summer.

Craigie added that a smart ticketing system has been trialled on the ferries, but more funding needs to be secured to roll it out fully.

North Isles councillor Duncan Simpson questioned what the cost of the proposed ferry hardware would be, but Craigie said only the “broad costs” are known and added that it would be more specialist than the bus system.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, chairman Ryan Thomson paid tribute to those who helped to bag the funding.

“Credit to the officers and lead officer for their hard work in securing the funding for this project which will go before the ZetTrans committee next week,” he said.

“The software on the existing hardware would be due for an upgrade which will be expensive, and effectively papering over the cracks.

“The new smart ticketing equipment would be installed on the local bus network and would offer the introduction of alternative payment methods to that currently on offer.”

The existing system was installed on Shetland buses in 2007 and it allowed concessions cards to be used.

But the new system should allow a more integrated approach where bank cards can be used in a contactless way instead of cash.