Sunday 15 December 2019

Buses going cashless in bid to slash journey times

Ciara Harte pictured with a Leap card
Ciara Harte pictured with a Leap card
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

All bus fares will go cashless in a new plan to reduce journey times in the capital.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is planning to force all commuters to use the Leap card or a new "account-based" ticketing system, and those who insist on using cash can expect to pay higher fares.

Some 70pc of all bus journeys in the city are paid through use of the Leap card (pictured below). The NTA wants to follow the example of London, by eliminating the use of cash which would reduce "dwell times", where buses wait to allow passengers to board and disembark. This can result in delays as drivers accept cash fares and issue tickets.

The changes, which are expected to take place over the next three to five years, may involve hiking cash fares to encourage use of the cheaper options, or by introducing a flat fare for the entire city, regardless of distance travelled.

Part of the plan includes an eventual move to account-based ticketing, which would allow a passenger to pay using a contactless bank card or mobile phone.

The NTA is also considering allowing passengers to buy a ticket from a retail outlet using cash. "We would encourage more people to move to Leap, and we would like to see cashless services, where you can't pay in cash on the bus," NTA chief executive Anne Graham said.

"We have 70pc of all journeys being done through Leap. This has happened in London, and it's worked. You have to make a lot of other changes - you may have to increase the differential between cash and Leap before you get to that, or have a single cash fare.

"We've made Leap as simple as possible to use. This would take a number of years - three to five."

The NTA is carrying out a review of Dublin Bus services to see if some can be amalgamated, or new services introduced. The changes could be introduced when the new network is revealed.

A team within the authority is currently examining the "next stage" of development of the Leap card, which was introduced in 2011 at a cost of some €50m.

Account-based ticketing allows passengers to open an account, where they are charged for journeys after they are made. There may be a requirement to have a certain amount of travel credit, and payment could be made by using a mobile phone, Apple Watch, a Leap card, or contactless bank card. "You could be offered a better bundle of services," Ms Graham said.

"The customer can see what travel they're doing a bit easier because you can see your account. It would be easier to offer discounts based on the amount of travel you do.

"It also allows you to bring in other operators because you're identifying the travel made."

Discounts and offers could be made for particular journeys, and a single payment charge could be introduced for all public transport journeys made in a set period.

Irish Independent

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