Sunday 11 December 2016

Companies made millions from Leap card fiasco

Published 27/02/2012 | 05:00

A LEADING law firm was among several companies to profit from the integrated ticketing fiasco -- which finally resulted in the introduction of the Leap card, 10 years late and €26m over budget.

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It allows Dublin commuters to top up on credit in advance and then swipe it for cheaper fares on trains, buses and trams.

Records obtained by the Irish Independent reveal for the first time how a host of companies benefited from repeated delays in the project, which pushed costs up from €29.6m to €55.4m.

The big beneficiaries include:

• Lawyers, led by Dublin law firm William Fry, who earned more than €1.2m providing advice on competition law and public procurement rules.

• Computer firms IBM and Hewlett Packard, along with their subcontractors, received €12.8m and €2.9m respectively for software, website, callcentre and payment services.

• Australian firm Sequoia Smart Solutions, which got over €5m for designing the smart- card system.

• Irish electronics firm Real Time Technologies and their subcontractors got €2.8m for designing and making 5,000 smart-card readers.

• Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Luas shared €7.8m for ticketing equipment and implementing the new system.

Documents released under Freedom of Information rules also reveal that the National Transport Authority (NTA) and its predecessor, the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA), got €13.5m for directly managing the scheme and employing skilled staff to implement it.

They also show the two state bodies then spent further large sums on outside advice.

Advisers on financial management, IT-security arrangements, smart-card technology and testing netted €1.4m between them.

Some €328,000 was spent just getting smart cards for testing, trials and the initial launch period, while a further €564,000 went on marketing.

Future

The NTA said that while capital expenditure so far had been €49m, the full budget, including future enhancements, would amount to €55.4m.

This compares with an original pricetag of €29.6m for the scheme, which was first mooted in 2000, with a completion date of 2002.

Planned improvements include rolling the service out to Bus Eireann commuter services and private-bus operators, extending use to annual and monthly ticket holders and introducing cheaper fares for journeys where you hop between the train, bus and tram.

The NTA defended the high costs and delays, saying they were in line with similar projects abroad, such as the London Oyster card and the OV Chipkaart in the Netherlands.

More than 60,000 commuters have now signed up for a Leap card. But difficulties with topping up credit online and issues with fares have been the major cause of complaint.

This included a problem with a Leap-card reader at one Dart station that was set to the wrong time meaning commuters were charged much more than they should have been for short trips.

Irish Independent

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