New Metro discount for 19-20-year-olds could be in place by Fresher's Week, say transport chiefs
Councillors have signed off on plans to create a new pay as you go Pop card for passengers aged 19 to 21 on the Tyne and Wear rail network.
It will mean that users will pay a maximum of £3.40 a day to travel on the Metro, compared to £4.85 for adults with a Pop card.
Huw Lewis, customer services director at Metro operator Nexus, said transport officials were “doing everything in our power” to have the new cards ready to launch for the return of university students to the North East this month.
It is hoped that the offer will entice more young people back on the Metro and generate an extra £256,000 in ticket revenue each year.
University and college students can currently get some discounts on Metro travel, but only if they commit to buying monthly or annual season tickets.
The system already offers a similar ‘Pop Blue’ card for the 16-18 market and has recently made journeys permanently free for under-11s travelling with an adult.
Mr Lewis said that the under-11s offer launched in July is thought to have delivered a 2% rise in journeys from fare-paying adults and helped double sales of older people’s Gold Card memberships as grandparents take advantage too.
Newcastle councillor Ged Bell said that making travel cheaper for young people was a “great step in the right direction” and that the next step would be to make it easier to travel across different modes of public transport in the North East using a single ticket.
Coun Bell told the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear Sub-Committee: “I would like to think that it might encourage a further step to a fully integrated ticketing system across all forms of public transport.
“I know we are doing a lot of work on that, but we need to continue with it.”
The region’s leaders have long wanted to introduce a system whereby passengers could use an Oyster-like smartcard, contactless bank card, or mobile phone-based ticket that would work across Metro trains, buses, and mainline rail services in the North East.
The Metro launched an app earlier this year that allows users to buy and store tickets on their phone and use it to open gates at stations – but it only works with one-week season tickets and only on Android phones, not iPhones.
Mr Lewis said that he hopes that pay as you go travel will be available to app users before Christmas, though this will still only work on Android.
He added that a contactless system would need “significant investment” in travel infrastructure across the entire region and funding is being sought for that.
There was dismay when the government axed £105million of funding to install smart ticketing infrastructure across the North earlier this year, though ministers have since promised integrated ticketing upgrades under a £3billion boost for bus services.