90 railway stations in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester will introduce tap-in and tap-out ticketing from next year.
Rail minister Huw Merriman confirmed that the 90 stations will be fitted with technology ensuring passengers get the best fare by tapping payment cards.
The trials are being part-funded by £100 million reallocated from scrapping sections of HS2.
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Pay-as-you-go ticketing is already used throughout London and other parts of south-east England.
Mr Merriman said: “We want to encourage more people back onto our trains, with tap-in technology meaning using our stations couldn’t be easier.
“Our railways have a long history, but projects like these – part of the Government’s wider plans for reform – will ensure they have a bright future too.”
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: “Our Swift smartcard already enables passengers to transfer seamlessly between our various local bus operators and Metro tram services whilst guaranteeing they get best value fares.
“Now thanks to this pilot scheme, we will now add rail to our offering – making Swift truly multi-modal and bringing us much closer to a London Oyster card-style system.”
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “We are transforming how people travel in Greater Manchester, with the aim for people to pay for journeys easily and seamlessly across buses, trams, trains and cycle hire.
“We look forward to progressing with these new contactless rail pilots, and working together to develop a more meaningful and accountable partnership that allows us to integrate local rail services across the city-region into the Bee Network by 2030.”