€55m bill as smart card for transport delayed
No multi-use ticket before end of 2011
DUBLIN commuters will not have a smart card allowing them to hop between buses, the Luas and trains until the end of next year -- almost a decade after it was promised.
The 'not-so-smart card' has already cost taxpayers €32m and the bill will reach €55m by the time the Integrated Ticketing project is finally delivered at the end of 2011, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Yesterday, the Department of Transport confirmed that passengers would have to wait a little longer before a one-size-fits-all card was available.
Not until the end of 2011 will the system be fully rolled out, almost a decade after the first deadline of 2002 was missed.
Commonly used in other cities, the 'smart card' allows commuters to travel on bus, rail and tram without having to buy tickets for each leg of the journey.
Instead, they pre-pay and wave cards near magnetic readers installed in train stations and tram and bus stops at the start and end of their journey.
A computer system calculates the appropriate fare and deducts it from the customer's account.
Yesterday, it emerged that a pilot scheme allowing passengers to use the ticket would not begin until later this year because the computer system needed to operate integrated ticketing had not been fully tested. Computer giant IBM won the contract to design the so-called "back office" system, and promised that "phased deployment" of the system would begin in late 2009.
Now the Integrated Ticketing Board, part of the Railway Procurement Agency, which is behind the project, says it will be the end of this year before the first phase of testing begins.
"The Integrated Ticketing Board is testing the systems," a spokesman said. "What's happening at the moment is that the first phase of the back office (computer system) construction has been completed. They've moved into testing and in 2010 the testing will move to pilot schemes with Luas and Dublin Bus.
"What they're doing is the testing which is best practice, which is the only way to see if it works. During 2010 they are going to start staff testing, then a small number of customers will be invited to use them. Also during 2010, depending on how each phase goes, other operators will start to participate."
However, he admitted that it would be 2011 before all companies, including Iarnrod Eireann commuter trains and DARTs, Dublin Bus, Luas and private operators, were on the system.
Use of smart cards encourages a shift from the private car to public transport because of ease of use. Boarding times have also improved -- Dublin Bus says average boarding times have reduced from seven to four seconds since its smart card was rolled out in 2008.
Fine Gael's transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said the delay was a "joke".
"It would make a big difference because it means people could travel on public and private operators," he said.
"It's a joke. The technology is already there and in use in other countries. I can't understand why it's so frustratingly long.
"The minister should have insisted this project was at fruition a long time ago. I think ministers are complacent. They think providing the money is enough. Clearly it's not technology that is delaying this."
The Department of Transport said a "progressive approach" was being adopted to allow customers to familiarise themselves with using the new system and for transport operators to undertake testing.
It admitted it would be 2011 before the smart card was available on all public transport services and private operators.