Wellington has been making some noises about moving towards integrated ticketing and fares for some time and doing so is formally listed Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). In the RPTP they say “Improving the fares and ticketing system is the next significant element in the modernisation of Wellington’s public transport system”.
As Auckland learnt changing a ticketing system can be very difficult, especi byally when you have some operators wanting to force their own system on the public. Now it seems that Wellington could be set to have a repeat of some of Auckland’s ticketing issues.
The days of Wellingtonians swiping their Snapper cards on the capital’s buses could be numbered.
The Government is pushing to have Auckland’s Hop card system in the capital instead and Wellington’s political leaders are worried about the potential impact of that on ratepayers, as well as the future of Snapper.
In 2018, the entire Wellington region will shift to having one electronic smartcard that people can use to pay for all bus, train and ferry travel, in much the same way Aucklanders use their Hop card.
Snapper, which is already on more than 300 Wellington and Hutt Valley buses, is expected to be among those bidding to provide the smartcard technology when Greater Wellington Regional Council opens the contract up to tender.
But their chances of success look slim after the New Zealand Transport Agency wrote to the regional council stating its preference that Auckland’s system be extended to the capital.
The agency also proposed that its wholly-owned subsidiary company, New Zealand Transport Ticketing Limited, be directly appointed to provide the $50 million Wellington network, as it does in Auckland.
The door was left open for the regional council to chose a different technology provider, but the agency said that company would have to represent better value and less risk than simply bringing the Auckland system south.
It is expected Wellingtonians will be able to use their new cards in Auckland, and vice versa.
Paul Swain, the regional council’s transport portfolio leader, said while the agency was leaving the decision in council’s hands, the message was that it should be buying into the Government’s system rather than Snapper.
But for a project as costly and as complicated as this, he believed a tender process was needed to make sure Wellington was getting the best technology on offer.
“We want the best deal possible for the ratepayer, for the taxpayer and for the passenger,” Swain said.
“But our concern here is that the bar is going to be set so high that it will be difficult for us to get funding for any system we get a tender for.”
The Transport Agency and regional council are planning to split the $50m cost of the new system between them. But the agency can opt to contribute less if it is unhappy with the technology provider.
I’ve seen some comments concerned by the stance by the NZTA over this but it is actually nothing new and harks back to decisions made many years ago.
- At the time Auckland had held a tender for an integrated ticketing solution which Thales won. Infratil – the owner of Snapper – didn’t like the outcome and pushed the then mister to review the decision.
- The minister asked the NZTA to review the tender process and when they did so they found the system to have been the best on offer. However they also recognised that integrated ticketing was something that was going to be pushed by many councils over the coming years for which the NZTA would be asked to help cover the costs of installing them all.
- To manage what could be a lot of expensive system requests the NZTA took over buying of the system with the intention of it being used nationally. They said at the time other regions would need a good business case for not using it.
It will be interesting to see what happens. Snapper is much more entrenched in Wellington than it was in Auckland and so I imagine there will be a lot of strong views down there.
What do you think will out should happen?