COMMUTERS across Merseyside will from next week be able to pay for their weekly, monthly and annual travel passes using a smart card.

From Monday, Railpasses will be loaded onto Walrus cards and used across the Merseytravel network on the Wirral and Northern Lines, as well as on the City Line operated by Northern.

It will mean rather than inserting the paper tickets into barriers at stations across Merseyside, customers will tap in and tap out with the Walrus.

The good news comes after months of speculation over when contactless payments will be made available across the Liverpool City Region rail network. It’s the latest step towards implementing a contactless and smart ticketing system, and comes after a joint effort by Merseytravel, Merseyrail and Transport for the North.

Further work to enhance the smart ticket offering on the Merseyrail network will come later this year, with platform validators being installed at all stations – first revealed by the Local Democracy Service last month.Those will allow passengers to access and exit the network by tapping the Walrus cards on the validators.

Speaking after making the announcement on Friday, Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Introducing a smart ticket that makes using our transport network simple and journeys as cheap as possible was one of my election promises.

“Smart ticketing technology will give customers greater choice about when and how they pay for travel, and help ensure they always get the best value fare.

“Tens of thousands of bus and train users in the city region can already make journeys using smart cards, with Railpass just the latest product to become available on what has been known as Walrus.

“But we’re now looking at how we create a new smart ticket – as well as contactless and online payment options – which is fit for the future and will work seamlessly across the entire city region transport network.”

From Monday, they will be available at all staffed Merseyrail, Northern and Wirral line stations. Smart Railpass tickets will also be available to buy from City Line stations in the next few months.

Mayor Rotheram said the network of different operators across the region’s transport network make it “more complicated” than London to get a similar scheme here.

But he added: “We’re working hard with our partners to deliver the smart ticketing scheme that our people deserve.”

It was revealed by the Local Democracy Service in December that customers could start using their bank cards to pay for journeys from as soon as early 2020.

It was revealed at a meeting of the city region’s transport committee that phase one of the roll-out would see customers use contactless just on the Merseyrail network, with the second phase allowing customers to use contactless on other services including buses and Northern trains.

On Friday, Merseytravel said that work was “continuing”.

Andy Heath, Managing Director of Merseyrail said: “The introduction of the weekly, monthly and annual Railpass season tickets on the smart card is a key step towards offering a simpler and more robust ticketing solution for passengers.

“Smart ticketing and new state-of-the-art trains will transform the experience of travelling on the Merseyrail network in the future and we are looking forward to working with Merseytravel to deliver this for our passengers.”

Alastair Richards, Transport for the North’s integrated and smart travel programme director, said: “From Liverpool to Hull, passengers across the North’s rail network are increasingly able to buy and renew their season tickets onto a smartcard. This roll-out is the first step in our ambitious plan for a multi-operator, account-based travel system, using contactless card payments, on all modes of public transport.”