Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today backed plans from the north’s transport partnership Hitrans to pilot a smart card pass in the Northern Isles to make travelling easier.
The proposals, described by Orkney’s MSP as a “step change in how we deliver public transport”, would see ferry, bus, rail and air routes across the Highlands and islands booked and paid for through the one smart card system.
Hitrans have pinpointed the Northern Isles as one of the areas that could act as a “test bed” before expanding the smart card scheme across the whole of Scotland. The north transport agency has also suggested wrapping the proposals within a package of improvements aimed at improving integrated public transport.
Mr McArthur welcomed the plans and said:
“There is no doubt that a smart card scheme could really open up travel for people living and working across Orkney. Indeed, it offers opportunities for tourists to get much more out of their time in our islands. That is why I was pleased the Liberal Democrats committed to such a scheme in our manifesto last year.
“It is therefore welcome news that Hitrans have pinpointed the Northern Isles as one of the areas that could lead the way with this technology. Given the lifeline nature of our air and ferry services, and the vital importance of joined up connections, it is right that our islands should be at the front of the queue.
“I will now be looking for confirmation from the Transport Minister that the Northern Isles will indeed be considered to trial this new scheme.”
Turning to integrated transport, Mr McArthur added: “Exploring a smart card system is also an opportunity to re-examine how we integrate public transport.
“I am all too aware, not least because of recent concerns about ferry and bus connections between Orkney and Inverness, that onward travel for rural areas is too often an afterthought for transport operators. That has to change.”