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Tuesday 30 May 2017

Another €7m added to bill for Leap cardsLeap card: hit by delays

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

IT'S already 10 years late and nearly €20m over budget, but an integrated ticket for Dublin commuters is going to cost a further €7m to finalise.

The new Leap card, which allows passengers to swipe a single prepaid card on Dublin Bus, Luas, Dart and commuter rail services, has already incurred costs of €48.3m.

However, the final bill is set to hit €55m when advertising and further development costs are added on.

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the costs are split fairly evenly three ways between back-office and design costs, front-end equipment and operator costs, and project-management and promotional costs.

Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly has denied reports that the card has already cost €55m, noting that €48.3m was the spend so far.

However, his adviser said yesterday another €7m was earmarked over the next year for advertising, facilitating a wider range of ticket options and bringing Bus Eireann commuter routes into the system.

Back-office costs and payments to Sequoia and IBM and others for design and development of the smartcard system will amount to €19.2m, a breakdown of costs shows.

Equipment and establishment costs to operators already amount to €13.1m, with another €5.1m allocated for completion of the system.

Project-management costs -- including legal, marketing, advisers and contingency costs -- have already reached €16.2m and will mount up to €17.8m.

Former minister Mary O'Rourke first announced the integrated ticket scheme in 2000 and said at the time that it would be up and running by 2002 at a total cost of €29m.

But technical delays, turf warfare between the transport operators and bureaucratic inertia led to it being pushed out for years and it has only just gone live.

Campaigning group Rail Users Ireland said it was a pity the shortcomings had not been ironed out before launching the scheme, such as the need to present the card to the driver for the majority of shorter Dublin Bus journeys, rather than simply swiping it.

Passengers benefit from lower fares if they use the prepaid Leap cards, of which, according to the National Transport Authority (NTA), 15,000 have already been purchased.

The State provided capital costs but transport companies are to bear the annual operating costs of between €5m and €6m.

Users pay a refundable €5 deposit when buying the card online or from one of 400 agent shops around the capital and they must top up by a minimum of €5 travel credit.

Cards can also be topped-up at Luas ticket machines - however, they still cannot be bought, or topped up, at train stations.

Irish Independent

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