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Account based ticketing system required for Queensland’s public transport users

by Sam Murphy •
Free resource

An account-based ticketing system along the lines of those being implemented in other jurisdictions is on the cards for Queensland. The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads’ (TMR), bus, ferry and rail service coordinator TransLink has given the first hint of the scope of an updated public transport smartcard with the issue of a Request for Quotation (RFQ) for technical advisory services for its Next Generation Ticketing Project (NGTP).

The current ticketing system, go card has been in operation for over six years. TransLink now wants a card that is more efficient and sustainable for the future.

The RFQ issued by TransLink indicates that the first stage of the NGTP will be to transition go card from a smart card ticketing system to an account based system. “While there is a strong knowledge of smartcard ticketing within the customer systems team, there is limited expert technical knowledge of account based systems and limited contacts/experience in the field”, the RFQ states.

An account based system processes ticketing data through a back-office network managed by a service provider. This is in contrast to the current smart card ticketing system which holds ticketing data on the card’s chip and operates on a prepaid system. An account based system facilitates payment for transport fares by contactless credit cards or debit cards, for example via MasterCard’s PayPass or Visa’s payWave. The account funds and information are then stored on the back-office network rather than on the card’s chip.

The International Ticketing Forum states that account based ticketing “enables the processing of information to be moved from the card-reader terminals to back-office computers with major cost savings. Travellers can be given refunds when there are problems with services and risks of overcharging are greatly reduced.”

The RFQ is the first stage of TransLink’s procurement process for the NGTP. It is currently preparing a Request for Information (RFI) which will “secure the future of its flagship product, the go card”.

An electronic ticketing system for Queensland was first flagged by the former premier Peter Beattie in 2002. It was slated for delivery in 2004, however, the $134 million contract with Cubic Corporation for its design, build, operation and management was only signed in late 2003. It wasn’t until 2008 that it was rolled-out to over 70,000 people. TransLink’s 2011-12 Annual Report revealed go card accounted for 80.4% of all trips on the public transport network during that year.

Cubic developed and currently manages London’s smartcard, Oyster. HP Enterprise Services handles the back-office work while Cubic manages the front-line ticketing. Cubic is also the supplier of Chicago’s account-based ticketing system.

The RFQ follows a 2013 mediastatement by the Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Scott Emerson, expressing a desire to implement facilities to top up go cards in retail outlets such as supermarkets and petrol stations. "Availability of go cards facilities is one of the biggest issues people raise with me and this would deliver more options to purchase, top-up, check their balance or change expiry dates,” he said. The cost of doing so was flagged as the only issue of expanding the go card network.

In 2012, incumbent supplier of the go card, Cubic launched a new account based open-payment system for Automated Fare Collection (AFC) systems.

The implementation of smart card/ account based ticketing systems in other Australian jurisdictions has been plagued by time and cost blow-outs. The electronic Myki card used in Victoria has a current budget of $1.55 billion, $32.3 million higher than the $1.52 billion budget reported in June 2012 and nearly $552 million higher than the project’s original 2003 budget of $998.9 million.

NSW is having success with the roll-out of the Opal card after a failed attempt to introduce the T-Card electronic ticketing system. The T-Card was scrapped in 2008 after costing more than $64 million. The roll-out of the T-Card was plagued with complaints including inferior software, serious delays and crashing front-line systems causing bus drivers to have to stop to fix them.

The Opal ticketing system project has been funded for $1.2 billion over 15 years from 2011-12 with the Cubic-led Pearl consortium contracted for its development and installation. The Pearl Consortium also includes the Commonwealth Bank and engineering and infrastructure management supplier, Downer EDI. Opal is being implemented in stages across the State’s various transport systems, with an aim for the system to be available on all train and bus services by 2015.

In August 2013, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian stated during budget estimates hearings that the implementation of the Opal card was a success. Unlike Queensland’s current go card, but in line with Queensland’s aspirations for the account-based card, it is possible to top-up Opal cards in supermarkets, newsagencies and petrol stations via EFTPOS.

Current supplier, Cubic was originally shortlisted as a potential supplier of the T-Card, however, it lost out to ERG Group. Following the termination of the T-Card, Vix Technology acquired ERG’s assets. Vix has supplied public transport fare mobility solutions to Stockholm, Cape Town, Hong Kong and Beijing. Like Cubic, Vix have also designed an account-based ticketing system in which it also manages the back-office operations.

Xerox also has an account-based solution, however, it is yet to secure a public transport contract in Australia.

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For more information, please contact the Editor (02) 9955 9896.

  • QLD
  • IT Services
  • Transport
  • Go Card
  • Myki
  • Opal card
  • Peter Beattie
  • QLD Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR)
  • Scott Emerson
  • Translink