After many many years of waiting, hoping, and much head-bashing against brick walls, today we finally saw the contract between Thales and ARTA signed to provide Auckland with a full and proper integrated ticketing system. Here’s the press release:
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), in conjunction with its partner Thales and its funders the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), today signed the contract to deliver a super transport ticket for Auckland. The ticket will be Auckland and New Zealand’s first, true multi-modal transport ticket. Thales’ strategic partner of Hong Kong’s leading contactless smart card payment system, Octopus will supply the core central clearing house system.
ARTA’s Chairman, Rabin Rabindran said, “This is history in the making for Auckland and New Zealand. After a long and often challenging process, ARTA is at the gate and very happy to be signing the contract for the supply of a superior, multi-modal transport ticket for Auckland, which forms the basis of a core central ticketing system for New Zealand. This is about winning the big game.
ARC Chairman, Mike Lee said, “Integrated ticketing is fundamental to Auckland’s public transport jigsaw. It will enable a quantum leap forward for Auckland public transport patronage.
“Seamless movement between trains, buses and ferries using a smartcard ticket will make public transport much more attractive for Aucklanders”.
Mr Rabindran said, “Thales has over 40 years proven experience in the design and delivery of ticketing systems in some of the world’s leading cities. Thales has been established in New Zealand for over 20 years and plans to invest in local skills and infrastructure, establishing a second office and an Integration Test Facility (ITF) in Auckland.
“Auckland will receive a proven, mature, multi-modal and multi-operator system leveraging some of the best fare collection systems already in operation in the world including Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Dubai. This international, multi-country expertise will be bought into the New Zealand market adding value to our transport offering and aiding us significantly on the way towards a world-class transport system for Auckland.
“This is an investment in Auckland’s future. In selecting Thales, ARTA was focused on identifying a best value for money, proven, risk minimised solution. Thales offers a proven multi-modal integrated solution thus minimising any development, implementation and operating risk.
“The system allows us to incorporate NZTA’s preferred approach including a centralised system and contestability of options available for parts of the system. The Thales offer is flexible and able to adapt to changes and developments in ARTA’s public transport offering. It is also extendable in that it is able to move into small payments such as coffee purchases, parking meter charges and other small retail charges as they arise.
Mr Rabindran said, “The cost of the project has generated significant interest and speculation. We are pleased to advise that while previous figures in the media have mentioned a $135 million figure for capital investment at times, the capital cost of the project has come in at $47 million. The fact that NZTA is developing a core system for New Zealand means a greater contribution has come from central government, lessening the impact on the pockets of Auckland ratepayers.”
Thales, Vice President, Pierre Maciejowski said, “Thales is pleased to introduce a world-class integrated fare collection system to Auckland and New Zealand. Thales is pleased to be teaming up with Octopus again to leverage the successful implementation of the Netherlands nationwide transport OV Chipkaart. Octopus is supplying the core Central Clearing House System.
Through the Central Clearing House, ARTA will process the daily transactions from the transport operators fare collection systems, undertake financial reconciliation and securely manage cardholders’ records. In respect of timelines, initial core functions will be implemented with additional functionality progressively phased in. Base functionality will be in place in time for the Rugby World Cup.
“Auckland will benefit from Thales and Octopus worldwide experience. Launched in 1997, Hong Kong’s Octopus is recognised as the world’s most convenient and widely used smart card payment system with broad applications for public transport and retail use. Building on its local success, Octopus has been exporting its proven technology and operational expertise from 2003, supporting other markets developing and implementing proven automatic fare collection and contactless smart card payment systems.
“The Thales AIFS system is scalable, using open architecture and standards, ensuring flexibility and interoperability with 3rd-party suppliers and supports the future delivery of a fully integrated national fare collection system. The ticket also has the future potential to offer payment options for car-parking and other applications”, he said.
Mr Maciejowski said he and Thales New Zealand team looked forward to a good working relationship with ARTA and to delivering on a first for Auckland.
This is an historic moment for Auckland in my opinion, on a par with the announcement a couple of weeks ago that we would indeed be getting electric trains in the future. Both of these critical projects, although delayed by the cancellation of the regional fuel tax, have come through in the end.
However, for both projects there do remain some important unanswered questions. How many trains will Auckland end up with? Will the infrastructure be able to handle that many trains without significant upgrade? How will Thales’ integrated ticketing system work with the roll-out of Snapper, that we saw announced last week? Will ARTA have enough legal power to require NZ Bus to use Thales’ system? On the “Snapper note”, they have also made a press release following on from today’s contract signing, which seems to indicate that their best hope is to work with ARTA, NZTA and Thales to get a piece of the action – rather than the confrontational approach that we have seen so far.
Personally, I don’t think Snapper has much of a future in Auckland after today’s contract signing. ARTA will be able to require all services to use the Thales system, and Snapper Cards will have to be compatible with Thales machines (and vice versa). I suppose that if Snapper can roll out first and get a lot of their cards floating around Auckland people might be a bit unwilling to switch cards, which may give them a bit of a foothold. It will be interesting to see how it pans out though.
For now, let’s just enjoy the end of a very long process. Integrated ticketing is coming to Auckland!