Londoners love to complain about public transport like they’ve never visited anywhere else in the country before. Not only do their trains and buses turn up every few minutes, but they get the luxury of being able to tap-in, tap-out with the ease of an Oyster card. But it looks like Birmingham is finally catching up with the decades-old technology.
More than 90 rail stations in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester are set to be part of two ‘pay as you go’ pilots, confirmed by the Rail Minister today (February 1, 2024). As part of the government’s attempts to reform railways, “making fares and ticketing simpler”, stations will start being fitted with the technology.
“We want to encourage more people back onto our trains, with tap-in technology meaning using our stations couldn’t be easier,” said Rail Minister, Huw Merriman. “Our railways have a long history, but projects like these – part of the government’s wider plans for reform – will ensure they have a bright future too.”
How will tap-in, tap-out work in the West Midlands?
It’s as simple as it sounds. You’ll no longer need to plan ahead or dig through your bag for the right ticket. Just tap in one side and tap out the other side – it will charge you for the correct amount. Using existing ‘Swift’ smartcards, passengers can also travel seamlessly on local bus and tram services as well.
The West Midlands pilot is planned to cover 75 stations across the Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) area (including 5 currently under construction). This means you can travel from any of Birmingham’s main stations (New Street, Snow Hill, Moor Street) as far as Wolverhampton, Coventry, Stourbridge and everywhere in between at the tap of a card.
“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,” said Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands. “Now thanks to this pilot scheme, we will now add rail to our offering – making Swift truly multi-modal and bringing us much closer to a London ‘Oyster card’ style system.”
The pilot schemes have been funded in part by £100 million reallocated from High Speed 2 (HS2) and will launch in 2025. If successful, they will pave the way for the future rollout of similar technology to more stations across the North and Midlands. Separately, the Transport Secretary and Rail Minister met with regional mayors on Wednesday (January 31) to discuss alternative rail connections between Birmingham and Manchester.
Watch the video above to see a full list of West Midlands train stations involved in the pilot scheme.