Brian Rudman writes in today’s Herald that
Auckland Transport board members gather in secret today to finalise a divorce settlement with smart card operator Snapper Services, and hopefully come up with a rescue plan for the stalled $98 million integrated ticketing project.
If the reports leaking out of the Auckland Council are correct, Snapper has turned the tables on AT’s attempt to sack it from the project and collect more than $1 million in damages for missing deadlines.
And again, Rudman raises the issue of Government interference:
The story then goes that Infratil’s founder, the late Lloyd Morrison, a friend and neighbour of Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, lobbied vigorously to get Snapper back into the picture.
Arms were twisted and AT, which relies on Government funding for rail electrification and the like, was persuaded that bringing the dead Snapper back to the table wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
How wrong they were.
If there really was central Government interference to get Snapper back into AIFS as Rudman is alleging, then this should be investigated immediately as it borders on corruption. However, I would have expected that the Board of ARTA and AT would have had this covered and not simply have gone along with central Government. If they didn’t then they need to answer some pretty serious questions.
Without doubt the decision to include Snapper has contributed to additional delay and cost for the ratepayer. Rudman points out that Thales is charging an eye-watering “$627,000 a month for the expense of having to retain a reduced project team until a bus system is in place and fully interoperable and tested.”
I wrote a brief timeline over at the CBT website a while back:
2 December 2009: On the eve of the confirmation of an integrated ticketing system for Auckland public transport, unsuccessful tenderer Snapper announces the rollout of Snapper on NZ Bus services, to be completed by the end of 2010. A spokeswoman for ARTA said there would be no public funding for Snapper. Authority chief executive Fergus Gammie called Snapper’s announcement “premature”.
7 December 2009: Auckland Regional Transport Authority sign a contract with a capital component of $47m with Thales to provide integrated electronic ticketing for buses, trains and ferries.
14 December 2009: Brian Rudman cites a confidential paper from Infratil director Paul Ridley-Smith, which states “if Snapper can’t expand into Auckland then its business will be permanently sub-economic and it may have to withdraw from Wellington, where it was introduced 12 months ago.”
16 December 2010: Auckland Transport announce that:
“Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program.
“Interoperable equipment will be deployed onto services run by NZ Bus early next year. Customers of North Star, Waka Pacific, Go West, Metrolink and LINK will use a contactless smartcard which will launch Auckland Transport’s Integrated Ticketing brand…”
Bruce Emson, NZ Bus CEO, announces the roll out of the card will commence in March 2011. Programme Director Greg Ellis maintains that the key objective is still to have one card across all modes, and that the new card won’t be called Snapper.
17 December 2010: Ritchies and Howick and Eastern Buses say they are still investigating options, and are unlikely to sign up in time for the Rugby World Cup.
24 December 2010: The Herald runs a story that there is a budget of $1m to publicise the “Hop Card”, which is a “a new electronic ticket for seamless travel on buses, trains and ferries. It refuses to confirm the name until launching an awareness campaign late next month for the $98 million card, although chief operating officer Fergus Gammie has assured Auckland Council’s transport committee that the region’s public transport brand would be prominent on it.”
More recent Snapper articles are here on Transport Blog.