This post by Cam Pitches originally appeared in August 2012. With integrated ticketing and integrated fares now completed, it’s interesting to remember how tortuous the process was.

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.

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  1. Wow, it’s just incredible that nearly seven years after that 2010 Herald story we are still waiting for integrated fares and ticketing for seamless travel on buses, trains and ferries.

  2. NZ Herald still publishing Rudman’s ramblings? Can’t say I’m surprised as that paper has a large left wing bias as evidenced by their employment of a bevvy of far left writers. Bryan Gould, Peter Lyons, Lizzie Marvelly, Rachel Stewart etc.

    As for Rudman’s allegation he is world famous for twisting the truth to try and protect left wing authorities of which AT is definitely one. I’d be surprised if his allegation had anything more than a semblance of truth to it. The allegation will most likely die a death and take it’s place in the Rudman pile of mistruths.

    1. Its a post from 5 years ago TRM, not from “today”. See the intro to the post.

      So that was Rudmans comments as he saw it then. Way back when. When he had a paying job at the Herald.

      Since then, Snapper has continually demanded ongoing special treatment, threatened court action more than once if they didn’t get their way. Pleaded with various transport ministers (Joyce and Brownlee), and once thrown off the buses, by HOP they did indeed launch legal action.

      But like the proverbial snowman on a summer day, the legal action simply melted away to a dampish patch on the ground, ‘cos it didn’t actually have a leg to stand on.

      So much for conspiracy theories eh?

      If Snapper we so sure of their case why have they dropped it? Maybe the only conspiracy was as was alleged back then, *their* behaviour and collusion with the current Government?

      But the downstream effects of their hamfisted meddling of them, sibling company NZ Bus and parent company infratil to keep the status quo as long as possible, still manifests today with the long drawn out slow rollout of the new network.

      Maybe HOP isn’t perfect, but its way, way better than Snapper ever was – “on a good day”.

      And pretty much like Wellington’s weather, there are usually not enough of those in reality to make it worth bothering with. And even GWRC lost patience with NZ Bus and has tossed them off most of their routes in Wellngton. Thats how good in reality that these Infratil owned offerings actually were.

      Snapper: A yesterdays wannabe payment solution looking for a problem.

      As for the imminent arrival of contactless payment systems like Apple Pay, Paywave and the like which we were all told 5 years ago were about to take over, and would make dedicated payment systems using special “HOP type” cards completely and utterly redundant when they did so.

      Well like Godot, we’re all still waiting for that future. And seems we all continue to wait for it.
      And like a badly run (NZ Bus) bus service, is becoming more and more apparent to all, that it may never actually arrive either on time – or indeed at all.

      Meanwhile “proper” HOP continues to go from strength to strength.

      1. I believe NZ Bus’s legal action was an attempt to stimie the Auditor General’s inquiry into the whole issue. She duly dropped it, and never pick it up again when legal action was discontinued.

        Would have been interesting to see what had really gone on but I suspect we’ll never really know.

        1. I hope a new Government may well direct the AG to take a fresh look at this issue.

          Might not fix the Snapper issue but might bring enough light on to the issue to stop future attempts at special pleading to Ministers of Transport from the likes of NZ Bus next time NZs PT Plans are up for a rejig.

        2. The disturbing thing about NZ Bus / Infratil’s propaganda war was that it went far beyond lobbying the government. They even got Labour MPs like the awful Mallard to repeat their propaganda, with a nationalist bias that Snapper was “KIWI” while Thales was “HORRIBLE AND FOREIGN”. And remember the Infratil shills ho used to infest public transport forums back in the day? It was like a mini-version of the Kremlin’s basement of paid trolls who disrupt social media conversation critical of Putin.

        3. Daphne L: you may regard statements that Snapper is NZ owned and Thales isn’t as “propaganda” and “nationalist bias”, but the fact remains that that is actually the case (though of course the relevance can be debated).

          Sorry about that!

    2. Ha ha, did our resident ACT troll really just call former British Labour Party MP Bryan Gould “far left”? I don’t know what TRM would do if he actually met a real socialist, his head would likely explode.

  3. They demonstrated AT HOP nfc topup and nfc tagon/off like so long many years ago now. Something which snapper had and I really miss. Yet still nothing.

    There’s also still tons of issues with VRDs (topup machines) which drive me up the wall. The alternative being a painfull online portal where topups/products take too long to reach the card.

  4. I bet snapper wouldn’t have cancelled 3 of my cards without notice because a voluntary auto top up failed. I bet they would have a better website too.
    AT have made an absolute shambles of HOP, they wouldn’t survive as a private enterprise.

    1. You are right, they wouldn’t have – but only because they didn’t have that feature.

      Who cares anyway, Snapper is and was, simultaneously, a Dead Duck and a Red Herring,

      1. Snapper is alive and well, to be extended go cover every bus in Greater Wellington. Pretty good for a dead duck!in

        1. Yes, I never could quite understand what the issue was – the Snapper works perfectly well in Wellington, but I know some people in Auckland were getting very worked up over “how terrible Snapper is/was” – I use it every time i catch a bus, no issues at all.

          And then I use my Hop when I go to Auckl – works fine as well. So, what was the issue?

        2. I find the whole subject most strange when HOP is so user-unfriendly. But I don’t remember Snapper well… just that I was overseas the year HOP came in and lost the value on all our Snapper cards…

        3. “Snapper is alive and well, to be extended go cover every bus in Greater Wellington”

          Oh really?

          Whats that, 10+ years since they started out with a hiss and roar on NZ Bus buses and aiming to go big?

          And now, 4+ years after the NZ standard system (using HOP cards in Auckland) became universal on Auckland buses, trains and ferries. Snappers just getting round to used on more than *some* buses? Its progress, guess? But only of a sort.

          And you know, HOP works on trains, buses and ferries.
          Even the Airport Skybus takes HOP.

          Shame Snapper can’t buy anything else other than a bus ticket though eh?
          Even in 2018, once it arrives on all Wellington buses. All it can buy is: A. Bus. Ticket.

          All GWRC said about Snapper back in July 2016 was this pretty tepid comment:

          “The new bus (aka Snapper) electronic ticketing system is an interim solution for the bus network only … “The Regional Council is committed to introducing a fully integrated electronic ticketing and fares system for the entire Metlink public transport network of trains, buses and harbour ferries. And we are working with the National Ticketing Programme (a group of Regional Councils and the NZ Transport Agency) on a national road map for a ticketing system.””

          Ah damned with very faint praise indeed.

          Snapper was always touted as the “one card for everything” solution.
          Bit of a comedown if it can’t get you a ticket on all GWRC PT [including trains and ferries] isn’t it?

          And this will be in 2018! I think PT users all expect a lot better these days.

          Its nearly 20 years into the 21st century man. And Snapper still doesn’t, well, have much snap anymore. Its snap seems to have basically bent.

          And does the fact that Snapper is also a NZ Bus’ parent owned company mean that the patronage data from all those Snapper wielding Wellingtonians, now goes right down the gullet of their occasional competitors as well?

          Or does GWRC own and manage all that valuable bus patronage data as well as the float of unused Snapper money itself?

          And if so, exactly then what value is Snapper providing to GWRC [and Wellingtons rate and PT fare payers with this “interim” solution?

          You may be right that Snapper is still alive, but its clearly, only just so, and only really ‘cos the head [and GWRC it seems] doesn’t realise its a dead fish, slowly turning turtle.

        4. Greg N: the point is that AT Hop is not (and never will be) NZ’s standard system. It’s been overtaken by such things as contactless cards, and in that technological respect Hop is just as dead a fish as Snapper – Hop as it stands will never extend beyond Auckland.

          And no, the interim solution is not good, but it’s better than nothing (and no-one could accuse GWRC of rushing the process) – and the fact that it is interim does recognise that the world has moved on (and in the process is passing Auckland by). There’s no point in Wellington (or anywhere else) investing in technology that’s not up-to-the-minute – and the rail network will be a substantial investment. Roll on the day when we see the last of Edmondson-style tickets, invented before the Treaty was signed!

          Just as Christchurch was the first to introduce cards and got overtaken by Wellington, so Auckland overtook Wellington, and will itself be overtaken by the rest of the country.

          It’s a tragedy that we haven’t got a national system, which is a consequence of a lack of national leadership – that’s where the responsibility lies, not with Snapper or Infratil.

          Roll on a national system – and Snapper-phobia won’t get anyone there any faster.

        5. This post was about the poor past practices of Snapper inc in 5 of the the last 9 or so years.

          I don’t see that the spots on that leopard have changed one iota since that post was written.

          Thales is the NZTA annointed NZ wide PT payment system, whether you like it or not, or agree it can do the job or not. It is what it is.

          HOP is merely one (the Auckland) implementation of that system.

          And note the mechanics of the tag on and tag off, while important are not the smarts that make the system work. The smarts are in the back end that works out the routes taken and divvies up the revenue proportionately across the various operators and modes the PT user has taken. Especially when you have, as Auckland now does, a integrated system, with zones not a bunch of spaghetti routes.

          Yes HOP might not ever go beyond the Bombay hills, but thats 1/3rd of NZs population right there that are being served day in and day out by that system. So its a pretty good start, considering all the previous iterations of all the various previous attempts (Christchurch and Wellington) wouldn’t add up to half that number of real life users. Given that both only worked for buses.

          So HOP is a outstanding success, because it works across all modes – despite its late roll out and generally poor product offerings and generally bad management by AT.

          When [not if ] a regional rapid rail system ala GA’s plans announced earlier this week, come to pass, I would expect that those trains that cross the “Rubicon” into Auckland would require those passengers to be HOP card carrying to get off those trains and out of the stations they alight at in Auckland, and this would have to have been tagged on at the start, or the cost of the special [manned booth] ticketing process to let them on or off the trains will make it a non starter cost wise.

          Therefore, the HOP type system will be needed for the upper North Island sooner than later.

          Maybe it will be HOP v2 that handles that and the GPS based future user pays Road Charges, but the system that drives it will likely still be a Thales one.

          If you want to raise issues of accountability and poor leadership, then without a doubt Infratil and Snapper lead that parade, with NZTA, the MoT and the various ministers of Transport – who let Snapper/NZ Bus/Infratil get away with what they did for as long as they did, are not far behind.

          And yes to some extent AT is also to blame, but they [and NZTA] were directed by certain Government ministers to let Snapper back on board – more than once – and every time it was after a fair bake off evaluation process and/or a fair chance to deliver. After which they’d been kicked off the bus.

          Those delaying tactics on their own have cost NZ in general, and Aucklanders in particular a lot of money and stymied a more timely National system rollout. Yes, poor leadership by some Government officials has added to the misery.

          But without the special pleading and on going tantrums from Infratil et al every time they didn’t get their way as documented above and elsewhere, then that wouldn’t have happened and we’d all be a lot further down the path of a national system than we are.

          While you can seek to dismiss it as “old hat” and “who cares”, but it is important, because if we don’t learn from that recent history now, we will have to relearn that expensive lesson next time, and likely the time after that too.

          Thales is no walk in the park, but then no PT ticketing system is. It is true that AT’s handling of it is poor in some areas, but then, perhaps if NZTA had been more hands on than they were [or were more hands on in the right places and at the right time and hands off the rest of the time], then it would have gone a lot smoother than it has.

          And probably why the toll system for the various toll roads is still a separate system to this day.

          No doubt, something which will irk future toll road [e.g. Penlink] users in due course once they open.

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