Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Solent Go for a relaunch!

News out today from First Group, is that the Solent Travelcard is going through a bit of a makeover, or a relaunch, if you want to use a better word.

From August, it will be an electronic smartcard, rather than just a ticket. Details of how you get this smartcard haven't been released yet, but as it goes, this is the only bit that has changed. Well maybe one or two bits have changed.

The price is still the same, but you can now use it on selected ferries - however indications are that this will be an added extra. Oh, and it looks like one operator has pulled out, as there are nine operators with this smartcard, whereas there were ten before. Now who is the missing operator is anyone's guess, but it is either Salisbury Reds or Xelabus. My money is on Xelabus as being the one that has pulled out.

The concept of the ticket is brilliant - the idea that you can hop on and hop off between operators, without buying a ticket each time, is something that all users of public transport need, and can go a long way in getting people to leave their cars behind.

But my problem with the Solent card is that the area it covers is too big to be worthwhile, just using buses. If if it were to include train travel, then it would be onto a winner.

For sake of argument, if you wanted to go from Southampton to Portsmouth, you wouldn't take the bus, as the quickest journey takes 97 minutes! (yes, over an hour and a half). Depending on traffic, the car takes 38 minutes, and the quickest train journey is 49 minutes. You may save something on the cost, but you won't be saving time if you go by bus.

So, the travelcard will be great for travelling between two areas, where two or more operators exist, but as long as the journey time is reasonable (less than an hour). After that, you don't really gain that much.

What would be better, and would more sense, if three type of travelcard were made available. The full conurbation ticket, and then one to cover Solent West (Southampton, Eastleigh and Winchester), and one to cover Solent East (Portsmouth, Fareham and Havant). Obviously the two smaller tickets would be at a cheaper price than the full conurbation ticket.

It's even possible that zoning tickets might actually be better - it works very well for London. Who goes to London these days by train, and doesn't buy a London travelcard? It's almost unthinkable.

If you want to entice people out of their cars, you really need to think of these things. The Solent card will be great, but it won't appeal to the majority - which is where it will let itself down, again.

The Solent card doesn't need a relaunch - it needs a rethink to make it better and more appealing to everyone, otherwise it will never work.

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