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West Midlands bus and tram passengers who pay by contactless 'at risk of being overcharged'

West Midlands bus and tram passengers who pay by contactless are at risk of being overcharged with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) saying: “it’s a real problem”.

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By contrast, passengers who use a Swift card can benefit from the ‘capping’ service which automatically calculates the cheapest deal no matter which operator they use.

For example, if you take several single journeys in a day, or three days, or a week, the card will charge you for a day ticket or whichever costs the least regardless of whether they travel on National Express, Diamond or another provider.

Customers using a bankcard to pay don’t currently have that option when using several different operators – but transport chiefs think they have a solution.

Matt Lewis, technical director of Swift, the electronic ticketing scheme developed by TfWM, explained the situation to councillors at the most recent West Midlands Combined Authority Transport Delivery committee meeting.

He said: “The way that contactless payment works, it’s really protective about data exchange.

“National Express uses INIT ticket machines, most others use Ticketer ticket machines, and they’re not allowed to share data.

“So what that means is, if you get on say, the 16, you come into Birmingham on a Diamond bus, you come out on an NX bus, there’s no data exchange that allows best value capping and you can have the customer being overcharged.

“It’s a real problem.”

TfWM has been working for three years to solve the problem, alongside transport group Midlands Connect and digital ‘solutions’ experts Coral Team.

A design has been finalised and government funding provided so that procurement can begin in the next few months, with delivery expected by late 2024.

Mr Lewis explained that once the system is rolled out in the West Midlands, it will then be used in the rest of the UK outside London.

He reported that the success of the region’s Swift card scheme – the largest of its kind outside of London, with over a quarter of a million regular users – meant other regions were looking to the West Midlands for similar travel solutions.

He added: “It’s a really good piece of work from our perspective I think because of where we got to with Swift, the UK looks to us to resolve some of these huge problems so this will be solved in the West Midlands first, and this solution will then be used to solve all around the UK, other than London who have solved it in a more expensive way.”

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