Sydneys electronic ticketing tender closes next week

By: Jason Whittaker

The Public Transport Ticketing Corporation (PTTC) is less than a week away from accepting final tenders for a contract to

The Public Transport Ticketing Corporation (PTTC) is less than a week away from accepting final tenders for a contract to deliver an electronic ticketing system to Sydney.

The multi-modal system will allow Sydney commuters to travel across all forms of public transport with one tag-on/tag-off smart card.

Bids close at 11am on July 28. PTTC Chief Executive Elizabeth Zealand says evaluation of the proposal will begin from 3pm on the same day. PTTC plans to award a contract early next year, she says.

Fifteen responses were submitted to the PTTC after an expression of interest was issued in August 2008.

Of the 15, three finalists were announced. Scheidt and Bachmann and The Pearl Consortium will submit bids before Tuesday. The Glide Consortium pulled out earlier this year.

In a bid to understand the logistical challenges of installing the new ticketing system first-hand, the finalists visited private operator Forest Coach Lines, a State Transit Authority depot, a rail station and a number of ferry wharves.

Zealand says PTTC will not oversee the execution of an integrated fare structure to accompany the roll-out of the electronic ticketing system.

"The card will be based on an electronic purse, like the e-tag. It will calculate the amount that needs to be deducted from the e-purse," Zealand says.

"Entitlements and discounts will be programmed into the system. Concession and school student transport fares will be recognised."

The system will replicate the frequent use discounts travellers are now entitled to, she says.

The new system will favour point-to-point sales over vending machine produced tickets. Says Zealand: "If you’ve got vending machines to buy tickets, you’re still going to have queues lining up".

"We’re trying as much as possible to keep distribution, sales and reloading off-system – off buses, off train stations and really push it to retail outlets or the internet or call centres. We are removing that need to handle cash."

After the installation of the new system, commuters will be greeted with a soft introduction to the new world of smart ticket technology.

PTTC will run parallel systems for a time, allowing commuters to purchase a paper ticket, a magnetic strip ticket or the new tag-on/tag-off electronic purse ticket.

"We need to get take-up, we need to get customers loving our product, we need to get a critical mass and then we’ll look where those other channels can be reduced," Zealand says.

The previous electronic ticketing system, Tcard, was developed by the NSW Government and its successful contractor, ERG Group.

The contract demanded that ERG replace all existing fares, as well as new Tcard fares. Accounting for variations in geographic zones, periodical tickets and concessions, Tcard was required to process around 500 fare variants.

At the time, ERG told the Sydney Morning Herald its other projects around the world were far simpler. In Rome there were about 10 fare products, in Hong Kong there were about 12, and Melbourne's magnetic-stripe regime was underpinned by 13 fare products with a total of 54 variants.

In 2005, a limited trial of the technology involving school children using the School Student Transport Scheme was undertaken, and expanded to cover all private-sector bus services in 2006.

The project was terminated in January 2008.

Use of smart card technology on public transport services was first flagged by the NSW Government in 1996, with hopes of a system being in place before the 2000 Olympics.

Public Transport Ticketing Corporation Chief Executive Elizabeth Zealand spoke about the new system at the BusNSW Leading Edge seminar in Sydney last week.

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