According to Centro the roll-out of smartcard ticketing machines on all the West Midlands buses* is now complete. Currently the card readers can only be used by national Concessionary passes, but plans for paid Oyster-style ticketing are apparently in the pipeline.
Optimistically, it looks as if Centro might even be implementing some of the policies which I called for in my previous post: "passengers [will] pre-load their card with cash which is then deducted as it is used on the public transport network, regardless of which bus company’s service they get on", indicating that the card will indeed be an integrated Network West Midlands-branded product rather than simply directly deducting different amounts electronic cash depending on which bus operator's vehicle a passenger gets on. The other piece of good news is that Centro "are also looking at giving Smartcard holders discounted fares" just like in London, which will be a massive boost for the ever-increasingly squeezed West Midlands public transport users.
Let's just hope the roll-out occurs trouble-free, and before the short-sighted Tory cuts to bus services drives a critical mass of passengers away from public transport forever.
*Except for the smaller companies with rather dodgy-looking and shabby buses who, presumably, are just there to make money off the Concessionary scheme by under-cutting the established bus operators.