Oyster-like smart travel card for West Midlands rail

Pilot scheme to simplify fares and payments sees Swift smartcard scheme used on buses and trams extended to 75 railways stations from 2025  

Bus and tram passengers in the West Midlands already enjoy the benefits of the Swift Go smart card. By simply tapping in and out, they get the best value fare for their journey. 

Photo of Stewart Fox-Mills (GBRTT), Ian McConnell (West Midlands Trains), David Collyer (West Midlands Trains), Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP, Jane Stevenson MP, Mal Drury-Rose (WMRE / TfWM) and Cllr Craig Collingswood (WMRE / City of Wolverhampton Council). Photo courtesy of WMCA.

Presenting their Swift smartcards are: Stewart Fox-Mills (GBRTT); Ian McConnell and David Collyer (West Midlands Trains); Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP; Jane Stevenson MP; Mal Drury-Rose (WMRE / TfWM) and Cllr Craig Collingswood (WMRE / City of Wolverhampton Council). Photo courtesy of WMCA.

Until now, the scheme did not include the region’s trains. That’s been especially galling given the success of Oyster cards, which can be used on all modes of public transport in London.   

But last year the Trailblazer Deeper Devolution Deal was agreed, giving West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) a greater say in the way the region’s railways are run. To oversee improvements, Transport for West Midlands (WfWM) – which is part of WMCA and WMRE – has duly teamed up with the Department for Transport and Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT). The pilot scheme to extend the Swift smartcard scheme is a result of this partnership. 

Fares will be capped over a day or week. Once that cap is reached, passengers can travel for no extra cost. That gives them flexibility over when and how they travel – and ensures they’re never overcharged. 

The 75 railway stations included in the scheme are those within the TfWM operational area. This covers seven metropolitan local authorities: Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solilhull, Walsall and Wolverhampton – or zones 1 to 5 on the regional network. It also includes five new stations that are currently under construction. 

Alongside the extension of the Swift system, TfWM is also working with bus operators and Midlands Connect to develop a new payment system so that passengers can use contactless debit or credit cards on services. Again, this will automatically secure the best-value fares across a range of bus and tram operators, and it’s hoped it can be extended to train services in future. 

Last year, the opening of an extension to Wolverhampton City Centre Metro completed the development of an integrated transport hub with rail, bus and Metro services based in the same location. 

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, says: ‘Our Swift smartcard already enables passengers to transfer seamlessly between our various local bus operators and Metro tram services whilst guaranteeing they get best value fares. Thanks to this pilot scheme, we will now add rail to our offering – making Swift truly multimodal and bringing us much closer to a London “Oyster card” style system. 

‘This is a practical example of how the Deeper Devolution Deal we agreed with government is delivering tangible benefits for local people right across our region.’ 

Stewart Fox-Mills, Director for Fares, Ticketing and Retail at GBRTT, adds: ‘Buying a train ticket is often too complicated. Which is why work to simplify the experience customers have is such a vital part of wider rail reforms.  

‘Partnership working, bringing the railway together to work with local partners, has unlocked pilots that will deliver a more seamless travel experience for customers in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester. GBRTT will continue to work with partners to deliver a more locally accountable, integrated rail network.’ 

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