[holding answer 22 October 2007]: We have been providing regular guidance and support to Travel Concession Authorities (TCAs) to help them issue ITSO compliant smartcard passes. This includes issuing detailed bulletins and holding a series of regional seminars.
We have put in place a network of mentor authorities to provide additional advice and guidance to TCAs and have a dedicated and experienced team within the Department to provide support to TCAs and to monitor their progress.
We have put in place a framework agreement which TCAs can use to produce their smartcards, though they are free to other ITSO compliant smartcard producers if they wish. We have also put in place a number of other framework agreements offering related services, such as smartcard database management and the provision of equipment to allow TCAs to produce passes in house.
We are paying TCAs a grant of around £30 million this year which covers the cost of ordering passes under the framework agreement.
We are funding a new company, ITSO Services Ltd, to remove from TCAs most, if not all, of the financial and administrative burdens associated with becoming an ITSO member.
We have no plans to require smart readers to be installed on all buses in England. In areas where there are no smart readers, the passes will simply be shown to the bus drivers as they are now.