New card gives pas­sen­gers a ticket to ride


A debit or credit card may soon be all you need to travel on buses, trains and fer­ries across the coun­try - un­less you are in Auck­land.

Af­ter years of de­lays, Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil, on be­half of most of the coun­try’s pub­lic trans­port au­thor­i­ties, is look­ing for an op­er­a­tor for the new sys­tem, which could ar­rive in Welling­ton as soon as 2020.

Nearly all of New Zealand’s pub­lic trans­port net­work is ex­pected to even­tu­ally be­come part of a sin­gle ticket-free net­work with sim­i­lar pay­ment tech­nol­ogy to the pay-wave sys­tem.

Auck­land, with its own smart­card sys­tem called Hop card, will be the only ex­cep­tion. The na­tion’s big­gest city won’t be able to join the wider na­tional net­work be­fore 2026, ac­cord­ing to Gra­ham Al­ston, Greater Welling­ton’s pro­gramme man­ager for in­te­grated fares and tick­et­ing.

What this all means is that, even­tu­ally, 16 ex­ist­ing tick­et­ing sys­tems across 12 re­gions will be rolled into one, Al­ston said.

Each time you board pub­lic trans­port – be it Welling­ton’s East by West ferry, a Christchurch tram or a Hamil­ton bus – you will swipe your debit or credit card.

All the in­for­ma­tion will be sent back to a com­puter and you will be the­o­ret­i­cally charged the most cost-ef­fec­tive fare for the journey, even if it cov­ers an ar­ray of dif­fer­ent types of pub­lic trans­port.

But it will not stop there. If at the end of a month’s travel, it would have been cheaper to get the equiv­a­lent of a monthly pass, that is what you will be charged.

There are al­ready sim­i­lar sys­tems overseas, but this will be the first in New Zealand, Al­ston said. ‘‘I am very ex­cited.’’ Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil re­cently asked po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers of the sys­tem, from around the world, to give their feed­back be­fore it opens for ten­ders.

In­tro­duc­ing a na­tion­wide pub­lic trans­port pay­ment sys­tem has been on the Govern­ment’s radar for some time. Auck­land’s Hop card was rolled out across all pub­lic trans­port in 2012, and a Welling­ton-equiv­a­lent was sup­posed to be in place by 2018.

But de­lays crept in af­ter Welling­ton re­sisted the Govern­ment’s moves to have the Hop card sys­tem thrust upon it, which was the rough plan for the rest of the coun­try as well.

Last year, the New Zealand Trans­port Agency sig­nalled there would in­stead be ‘‘one or two’’ pub­lic trans­port tick­et­ing sys­tems na­tion­wide.

Greater Welling­ton’s re­gional trans­port com­mit­tee chair­woman Bar­bara Don­ald­son said she was ex­cited to be work­ing on a sys­tem that would meet ‘‘chang­ing and in­creas­ing’’ cus­tomer ex­pec- tations.

It would pro­vide the ‘‘free­dom’’ to get on or off our buses, trains and fer­ries with a ‘‘min­i­mum of fuss and in­con­ve­nience’’, she said.

Auck­land Trans­port spokesman Mark Han­nan said they would con­sider join­ing a new sys­tem.

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