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Integrated Ticketing fiasco

Jon C at Auckland Trains has done an excellent post on the fiasco that Auckland’s integrated ticketing project is becoming, with Infratil using every dirty trick in the book trying to win the integrated ticketing contract, even though:

  1. ARTA announced in July that they had awarded the contract to Thales.
  2. NZTA’s review of ARTA’s previous decision to award the contract to Thales found that decision was sound.
  3. Infratil themselves accepted that decision.

The main arguments Infratil, through its subsidiary Snapper, are putting up is that they can deliver the system faster and cheaper than Thales can. While this may well be true, I do suspect that there must be a number of good reasons why ARTA (in detailed consultation with NZTA) chose to award the contract to Thales rather than Infratil not once, but twice. Infratil is effectively asking us to trust them rather than ARTA or NZTA. To trust that they can roll out an integrated ticketing system in Auckland when they haven’t managed it in Wellington yet (try using your Snapper Card on the train there); to trust them that it won’t be a conflict of interest between Infratil running the ticketing system through Snapper and a big chunk of the bus system through NZ Bus; to trust them that the system they do roll out in Auckland is a true smart-card and not the kind of “souped up Go-Rider” that regular commenter on this blog Jeremy Harris termed the Snapper Card after his most recent visit to Wellington; and finally, to trust them to actually deliver on this project compared to the proven track record of Thales.

Given that Infratil is the very same company that had such little respect for users of Auckland’s public transport system that they suspended all bus services for a whole week simply because the drivers threatened to work to the letter of their contracts, I think I trust Infratil about as far as I can throw them.

Which certainly isn’t very much.

17 comments to Integrated Ticketing fiasco

  • Steve

    Having used both Oyster and Octopus in the last month, Snapper is fairly similar to both of these except that as yet the monthly and day passes are not yet available though this type of functionality is easily possible. Though Infratil bashing is fun when they deserve it, the technology behind Snapper is that used in Seoul where they handle all sorts of payment requests every day across different modes and ways. Integrated ticketing is the most important thing in Auckland after getting the wires up and EMU’s under them as far as PT goes. Given the failures/blowouts in Australia, if the private firm is willing to assume risk and get something up and ASAP and before RWC 2011 at minimal cost to the region, as well as providing assurance that the cool stuff they do in Korea is on the cards here, I’m beginning to think it may be a better option than starting from scratch

  • Yes Steve I have heard that Snapper has the potential to be basically the same as Oyster and Octopus. I wonder why they haven’t fully enabled it in Wellington yet?

    Remember that Thales would hardly be “starting from scratch” either though. They have done integrated ticketing systems for over 100 cities around the world already.

    • Mike

      A point of clarification on this.

      The proposed ARTA system will be introduced by the funding authority, and will therefore effectively be compulsory for all participants in the game. Snapper is a purly commercial venture, and it’s up to participants to choose whether to be involved or not.

      In Wellington, Snapper is on all NZ Bus buses, will be on all taxis, will be on the harbour ferries as a trial, and according to Snapper, will be on Mana/Newlands buses – so next year it will be on all public transport in Wellington except the trains. They’ve done all that without any public subsidy (except for the taxi business, which they won in an open tender).

      Whatever might be thought about other Infratil subsidiaries, Snapper have done a very good job indeed in Wellington, giving excellent value for money. Thales cannot match that.

      The challenge now is to make all smart-card operations open access, using any card anywhere (just like EFTPOS or credit cards).

  • Mike, there are two aspects of ticketing that need to be improved in Auckland.

    1) We need an integrated ticket.
    2) We need a smart-card ticket.

    Having an integrated ticket is far more important than a smart-card ticket (they aren’t necessarily the same thing, as it being shown in Wellington). Maybe Snapper has done OK in Wellington, and maybe they would be able to pull it off in Auckland, but as I said in the main post – there must be a good reason why ARTA and NZTA went with Thales and not Snapper. Effectively we are being asked to trust Infratil more than ARTA/NZTA, and to be honest their behaviour to date makes it impossible for me to do that.

  • Jeremy Harris

    There is a number of reasons why ARTA and NZTA went with Thales;

    - If Snapper can be extended to all modes, all trips in Wellington why has it not done so..? Because it is not in the immeadite interest of Infratil, it will be no different in Auckland, Infratil will do what is in their interest or what they are forced to do NOT what is in the publics or systems interest.
    - ARTA must control the integrated ticketing, when ARTA (or the new ATA) do something (make a decision etc) it gives Infratil leverage over ARTA and the whole system, that is unacceptable.
    - I believe one of the reasons NZTA picked the Thales technology is nationwide integrated ticketing as they have done in Holland, i.e. proven nationwide capability.

    Keep in mind a few things, Snapper is BASED on the Seoul technology but it is a watered down cheap version… The decision is closed and Infratil should not be entertained, the NZTA should have immeaditely and publicly told them to naff off… Why haven’t they..? Why haven’t we been told the results of that meeting..?

    If Infratil gets the contract it is all about money influencing politicans to make decisions that are not in the public interest… Welcome to the banana republic…

    If that happens and you look at the fact both National and Labour ignored the result of the smacking referendum and Parliament is going to pass the Search and Surveillance Act (NZ’s very own Patriot Act) which will allow, amongst other things, remote surveillance of computers without a warrant, again with both National and Labour support and we should start getting very worried…

  • Steve

    Jeremy: GWRC does not have the same priority on integrated ticketing as the ARC/ARTA do, which is why it has not really progressed that much further till now than NZ Bus, when the Matangi EMU’s come online next year I’ve heard that Snapper will be available for use on trains. As it is now, you can purchase train fares with Snapper at certain stations, what you cannot do though is travel on one fare across modes.

    Did not know that Thales was doing The Netherlands solution, have seen all the gates going in at Amsterdam Centraal in the last week and many buses and trams with their readers on them. In the mean time while the chipcards have been being rolled out, buses and trams have these cool strip cards that are usable nationwide and get stamped with the journeys being taken, valid on all modes for trips ending within an hour of the stamp. Very low tech, but very functional.

  • I think that Auckland needs a simple interim integrated ticketing system ASAP, if Thales are going to take so long to roll out their system.

  • Nick R

    They could, and should, bring in a paper time-based integrated ticket as the first phase. That would make some immediate improvements and get people (and ARTA/the providers) used to the new fare style before the electronic cards are introduced, rather than changing both the fare structure and the payment method in one go. The Australian experience suggests that switching to RFiD cards is problematic enough, without a fundamental change in the way fares work at the same time.

    I can’t see any reason why they could not extend the northern pass to all operators, as all operators can print a simple ticket and people are supposed to hang on to their receipt for the duration of the journey anyway. People could still use the individual operators stored value cards in the meantime also.

  • Well before integrated ticketing turned into a debacle with the cancellation of the regional petrol tax in March this year I think that was the plan. ARTA’s timelines for integrated ticketing pointed towards a simple system being introduced by the end of this year, with the smart-card system to follow later on.

  • Nick R

    So where does that now stand with the modified PTMA reforms? Is that still possible even, or do operators of commercial routes still get to do whatever the hell the feel like without anything making them play along?

  • Latest news is that the changes to the PTMA aren’t happening any time soon. Perhaps the bus lockout made the government think twice about having Infratil determine their transport policies?

  • sydneyhasatunnel

    Jon’s post was excellent wasn’t it.

  • For an interim solution all we need to do is extend the Northern Pass to cover the whole city.

    (The Northern Pass divides the North Shore into two zones, and offers two-hour, daily, and weekly tickets. It seems to be loosely based on Melborune’s Metcard fare system, albeit on paper).

  • [...] Fortunately the Monthly Discovery pass I’ll have for November will mean it will be easier for me to transfer than it is for most people. There is no such thing as an integrated “A” zone pass for the Auckland City area, for example. The otherwise excellent Northern Pass is regionally limited to North Shore trips, with a slight rail extension. A shame really, as the Northern Pass model (based, I believe, on Melbourne’s excellent Metlink fare structure, if not their tickets) would have made a really good interim integrated ticket for Auckland, while we wait for the smartcard system (which is another story). [...]

  • Weird, wasn’t expecting that.

    Apparently the above is called an automatic pingback. I linked to this blog post from my own blog and somehow a copy of it showed up here? Was that supposed to happen?

  • Yeah they happen occasionally… all good.

  • Is Thalys talking about an ITSO based smartcard, beyond Oyster and Octopus (which have insufficient capacity to carry multiple types of tickets)? Oyster is yesterday’s technology, it would be good for Auckland to move beyond that, because the more functionality and flexibility, the better.

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