Smart cards for bus passengers will soon be introduced in Brighton and Hove.

Roger French, managing director of Brighton and Hove Bus Company, which operates the vast majority of routes in the city, told The Argus he hopes to start installing system in early next year.

He is working with rail operator Southern to make sure the cards can be used both on bus and rail services.

The entire process is expected to take between 12 and 18 months to complete.

The system will be similar to Oyster cards used in London but will be based on new technology being developed by the Department for Transport that will eventually be rolled out nationwide.

Mr French warned the introduction of the cards may be delayed as a result.

He said: “This is not something that we can get off the shelf. There is a lot of work to be done making sure that the technology is what customers expect.”

Plans to introduce smart cards on Brighton buses were unveiled several years ago but postponed while the franchise to run the city's mainline rail route to the capital was put out for tender.

Southern re-secured the franchise last year and as a result is committed to introducing smart cards by the end of January 2012.

Mr French announced his smart card plans while thanking passengers for placing his company first in a user satisfaction survey conducted across the whole of England.

Brighton and Hove Buses had an approval rate of 92%, higher than any other bus operator, the majority of which scored about 80%.

Mr French put his success down to “happy smiling drivers” as well as three other main factors.

He said: “Firstly people like our frequency of services. More than 80% of our routes have buses that arrive every five to ten minutes during peak times.

“Secondly they like our simple fair system and saver tickets are becoming hugely popular. About 85% of passengers use a one-day or weekly saver, with more and more buying online where prices are even cheaper.

“The third thing is the real-time displays at out bus stops and that the same information is available on iPhone apps and online.”

Mr French said he hoped to increase passenger satisfaction even further in September with the introduction of bendy buses to the 25 route between the universities and city centre, which can hold more passengers than double deckers.