Melbourne's Ticketing - The Way Forward

The Flinders Street Display

Page last modified/checked: Friday, 20 January, 2006
From November 1st 2002 to mid-January 2003, the State Government and Department of Infrastructure (DOI) are sponsoring a display on the Flinders Street station concourse to demonstrate options for smartcard-based ticketing within the next 5 years. The contract with Onelink for the current Metcard system finishes in 2007, and the Government is seeking to have a new system either in place or in transition by this time. The process of replacement/augmentation will go through the normal competative tendering channels. It is interesting to note that this date falls before the expiry of any of the franchises currently operating Melbourne's rail and tram services. How these operators will choose to participate in developing a new transport ticketing system is presently an outstanding question. This display originated in Brisbane, where Queensland Transport, also seeking a smartcard system for South-East Queensland, had it set up for approximately 18 months. There, it could only be viewed by appointment.

The display consists of a variety of equipment supplied mostly by ERG, some from Cubic Transportation Systems, and Wayfarer Transit Systems; now in use in a number of major cities. The purpose of the display is to demonstrate the effectiveness of what is commonly referred to as "Smartcard", but known within the industry as "contact", "contactless" or "combi-cards". In Melbourne, any such application is likely to be towards contactless or combi-cards. Certainly, a form of stored value card is useful for both regular and occasional users who can choose, for example, what value they wish to have stored on their card. Ideally, this could be linked directly to a bank account but the card could be reloaded at locations both on and off the transport system by other means. Some of these options can be demonstrated at the display by staff members on hand. The aim is to reduce the actual number of ticket purchase transactions by encouraging people to carry a smartcard; of course exactly how its value is deducted depends on the fare structure the card works with.

It should be clearly understood that the display is NOT a final decision or last word on any factors associated with developing and implementing new metropolitan transport ticketing methods for Melbourne. An informative and well written brochure is available, as is a brief questionaire.

A breakdown of the equipment exhibited is as follows:

London Underground Barrier Gates

1 set of electric/hydraulic bi-fold gates supplied by Cubic Transportation Systems. The example shown works only by contactless card whereas those in London also operate with magnetic strip tickets. These gates are quite impressive and totally unlike anything most of us would have encountered. Some of their features were developed after the findings of the Kings Cross fire in London.

ERG Retracting Gate Barrier

This set of (blue) gates closely resemble those currently in use in Melbourne and at Circular Quay and Manly ferry wharves in Sydney. However, the unit is shorter and slightly lower as it does not incorporate a ticket intake, read and return mechanism; working only by contactless card. There are some other variations for display purposes.

Post-mounted swipe meters

An odd description for an unusual device (supplied by ERG). These are a form of validator with a hood; one is labelled "Enquiry" and the other "Entry". They are suitable for locations where physical barriers are not warranted but smartcards must be swiped to "enter" the system and therefore successfully "exit" by whatever means. The enquiry meter shows a full statement of the last 8 transactions when the card is held in front of the scanner. These are curently in use on the Hong Kong light rail.

Bus/Tram Log on/Log off meter

Similar to the component above but developed for street based transport, they are connected to allow demonstration of smartcard swipe on/off procedures. These could be mounted at the front ("on") and rear ("off") entrances on buses, but both would be required within the vicinityof the multiple doors on Melbournes trams (ERG).

ERG Smartcard add value machine

This is the largest item of equipment on display and demonstrates how a smartcard value can be topped up by inserting both it and a debit/credit card or banknotes. The process is much like using an ATM.

Bus Drivers Console/Keypad

There are two of these on display, one supplied by Wayfarer Transit Systems (illustrated) and the other from ERG. Both can issue paper based tickets and incorporate a smartcard swipe pad at the top. A card can also be placed on the pad and programmed as a certain ticket type by the Driver. The units, of course, incorporate a portable memory device for the downloading into the depot computer at shifts end.

There are also two video programs running. One outlines current and upcoming smartcard applications worldwide and identifies other smartcard based technologies many of us are using everyday. This video also incorporated an advertisement for the Hong Kong "Octopus" card system. The second video is purely on the use of smartcard across all transport modes in the greater Hong Kong region - this is excellent and worth viewing more than once. The Hong Kong environment would put any electronic based ticketing system through the rigours. Contactless cards have been chosen for a region where practicable human mobility is vital.

Lastly, the staff at the display carry an ERG contactless card supplied by Motorola. Communication is made via a built in reader antenna. These have an exposed processing chip, similar to Telstra phonecards, but unlike them, are not physically placed into the reading devices (contact cards). With these cards, staff are able to make various working demonstrations with or between the different items of equipment we have described.

The display appears to have finished during mid-February 2003. The equipment was still in place as at mid-March 2003, but totally removed by April 2003.

For those interested in further reading on this subject, we can also recommend an excellent article on smartcards in the October 2001 issue of Transit Australia.

Smartcards move forward

A new section of this website has been established to follow the implementation of
smartcard ticketing in Victoria.

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