China’s T-union transport card, which is usable on all public transport systems including ferries, taxis, buses, bikes and subways, will cover 260 cities at prefecture level and above at the end of this year, the China Daily reported.

Wu Chungeng, the spokesman of the Ministry of Transport, said at a news conference recently that the integration of the transport card means that a passenger holding one card can ride buses or take a subway in any of the designated cities without buying new cards and enjoy local preferential policies.

Passengers can buy or change their local transport cards to T-union cards in line with local policy.

So far, the T-union card system has been installed in 245 cities with more than 31.5 million cards in use, and 15 more will join the network within the year. Some tier-one cities including Shanghai and Chongqing still haven’t joined the system yet, according to the ministry.

Yang Xinzheng, an expert at the China Academy of Transportation, said that transit cards were issued by local authorities who adopted different technical standards, making the integration of the program between cities in the same province difficult, let alone different provinces.

“It’s always an extra expense to purchase a new card for people to take public transportation in different places. With the ministry promoting the T-union card since 2013, it saves time and money for the public,” he said. However, he added that because the public transportation network is massive and complex, it has taken time to reach full integration.

Beijing, for instance, is now upgrading and debugging its T-union card system, with its bus system temporarily only available for T-union transport cards from 50 designated cities, while its urban rail transit system accepts cards from 188 cities.

In promoting the card, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport announced on Tuesday that it will waive the fees – typically 20 yuan ($3) – to open a T-union card in mobile devices. Users of Android smartphones and smart wristbands with NFC function may swipe their devices to pay for their public transit trips.

China expects to achieve full integration of public transport cards in urban and rural areas by 2020 as a part of its nationwide interconnectivity plan.