Bad news for anyone too young to buy a scratchcard. From today, you won't be able to get the same empty thrill of rubbing off a bit of foil for very little gain from a Saveaway any more. They're on their way out.
Actually, that's not entirely true. You can still get one of the traditional Saveaway tickets, valid on all of Merseyside's public transport, if you go to a bus station or newsagent. If you choose to buy it from a Merseyrail station though, from March 7th, you'll be given something that looks remarkably like a train ticket - a special version of the one-day rangers available for other railway routes. Good luck to the first couple of people explaining it to the bus drivers. ("Yes, I know it's a train ticket, but it's valid on this bus. Yes, it is. It is. Oh look, is that the pavement zooming up towards my face? Yes, it is.")
Presumably this is a much overdue attempt to bring the Saveaway ticket into the 21st Century. It's always been a brilliantly anachronistic, and charming, little item. You have to scratch off the day, month and year you're going to use it, so they can be stored months in advance, and then fold a piece of sticky backed plastic down over the card to seal it.
No matter how hard you try, no matter how long you spend on it, no matter if you are using a robot in an air-tight vacuum, you will always get a big crease in the plastic. They're specially designed that way. Thousands of tiny microfibres, invisible to the eye, are inlayed into the plastic like velcro, and they magically draw together as soon as they detect oxygen. It cost Merseytravel billions of Council Taxpayer's money to come up with this innovative polymer, but they agreed it was worth it because the look of frustration and anger on people's face as they fold it over is frigging hilarious. CCTV footage of people trying to not get a crease in their Saveaway is usually the highlight of the Christmas party at Merseytravel Towers. Usually this crease will go over the date, so the ticket inspectors will have to give it an extra squint, to enhance the comedy humiliation.
The Saveaway's a brilliant idea, and an absolute bargain. If you're planning a day trip to, say, Southport, or New Brighton, it's worth getting a Saveaway just for the freedom it affords you to leap on and off trains and buses. It's also worth bearing in mind that it's valid on the ferries, though they keep that quiet at the terminal to try and get you to pay again.
The move to a train-ticket-style Saveaway means that it can be used in the ticketing gates at seven of the stations, freeing up a bit of capacity, and leading to more thorough checks. And since it's computer printed with the date, it'll also mean an end to those chancers we've all seen on the trains, saying "Oh, I just forgot to scratch the box off" to the inspector, while wielding an untouched Saveaway that's clearly been kept in their back pocket for a couple of months.
While the bus technology remains behind its train equivalents, we won't be seeing a complete end to the scratch-and-stick Saveaway; it'll probably be around until Merseyside gets its own version of the Oyster card. Which by the looks of it, probably won't be until the dawn of the next millennium.