Campaigners have written to the chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) calling for an audit of the Government’s South East Flexible Ticketing programme (SEFT).
It follows the publication of a letter from rail minister Claire Perry to the Rail Delivery Group, which Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) says confirms ‘the demise’ of SEFT.
In the letter, Ms Perry said the time had come for future innovation to be ‘led by the private sector’ and for the rail industry to ‘set out what it will do to deliver a real step change in smart ticketing’.
Too light a touch? Has government passed the buck?
However, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) new Single Departmental Plan 2015 to 2020 says ‘we will roll out the South East Flexible Ticketing programme’.
Earlier this month, CBT called on ministers to ‘come clean’ about the programme, after transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin failed to deny it has been abandoned.
CBT has written to Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, asking for scrutiny of the £37m DfT has spent on the programme.
Its chief executive, Stephen Joseph, said: ‘The Government must answer some very important questions on how the introduction of smart ticketing on rail across the South East has gone so badly wrong and how £37m of public money has been spent on the South East Flexible Ticketing Programme with very little to show for it.
‘SEFT was meant to pilot new technology which could enable simpler ticketing across services, but the Government has decided it's too difficult and is just passing the buck onto the train operators. What we need to see is a national strategy to deliver ticketing and fares that will allow for seamless travel across all operators with flexibility for part-time workers, not just in the South East but across the whole country.'
He added: ‘Passengers need to know what has actually been delivered for the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money that has already been spent on this debacle.’
In her letter, Ms Perry said the DfT’s investment had helped smart ticketing technology to mature and industry expertise to grow and had enabled operators to put in place smart ticketing schemes that interoperate with each other.
The PAC has been approached for a comment.