Oyster card would be a real pearl for SE Hants

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We have consistently argued in this column that government, both national and local, needs to do more than simply urge people to use public transport.

Somewhat akin to the celebrated edict in the film Field of Dreams – ‘if you build it, they will come’.

In other words, we need to continue to innovate and expand in order to make the public transport system attractive.

And, crucially, that attraction must extend beyond those who have no real alternative but to use buses and trains.

Public transport should be good enough, efficient enough and cheap enough to persuade people to leave the car at home.

So we welcome the initiative to introduce in south-east Hampshire a pass similar to the Oyster card used by commuters in London.

The Transport for South Hampshire group, which includes representatives from Hampshire County Council and the city councils of Portsmouth and Southampton, has already made a convincing application for Whitehall funds.

We hope that it will be shortlisted for a £2m Department of Transport grant to set up the scheme, and that in turn will prove to be a major stepping stone along the road to its implementation.

The beauty of a pre-paid pass covering all major public transport has been demonstrated in London, where the vast majority of commuters choose to carry an Oyster card.

The key here will be a swift integration of all forms of transport. At present, the idea is for a Hampshire card to be used for buses only.

The plan entails co-operation too from train companies, ferry firms and the like and it is important that agreements are reached as soon as possible.

The card is just one part of a development plan, for which Hampshire is seeking a total of £17.85m of Government money.

And, as Hampshire’s leader for transport, Cllr Mel Kendal, points out, such developments lead to further improvements.

The more people who use public transport, so the more funds will be available to make it better still.