Auckland’s smartcard to cost $100 million plus

Further details of transport smartcard project revealed

Auckland’s smartcard-based integrated ticketing project is shaping up to cost over $100 million, including operating costs for the first ten years.

Computerworld understands a decision on a contract for Auckland is due in September. The short-list is thought to comprise Infratil (with Unisys); based on its Snapper smartcard launched recently in Wellington; Downer EDI, with Wayfarer; and Thales, with Transfield.

The programme director for the Auckland integrated ticketing smartcard project, Greg Ellis, last week wrote to short-listed vendors assuring them that the tender process is still open, after Computerworld Australia (see here) reported Ellis saying at a conference that West Australia’s SmartRider system is one of the world’s best.

The reporter suggested the Auckland system would be modelled on SmartRider, provided by Downer EDI. Ellis clarified to Computerworld last week that SmartRider is one of the models Auckland will follow. He also mentions the Brisbane system as one that has “influenced thoughts”.

Ellis would not be drawn on the cost of the project because of tender negotiations, but referred Computerworld to the publicly available cost of the Brisbane project, at $142 million, as an example.

That, he says, is a whole-of-life cost. The project is in two parts: installation and implementation; then 10 years operational running. The successful bidder would probably set up a separate company to handle operations.

However, a range of industry sources in New Zealand estimated the cost of the project is between $100 million and $250 million.

Downer EDI, which implemented of the Perth system, on behalf of Wayfarer, already has technology in place in Auckland’s transport system.

Ellis confirms that Downer EDI has “expressed interest” in the Auckland project.

Computerworld understands that while the Auckland Regional Transport Authority gets to sign off on the contract, the funding will be provided by the Auckland Regional Authority and by Land Transport NZ.

Integrated ticketing systems have become a feature of public transport in cities in the developed world. Some countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland have national integrated ticket systems.

In the UK and Australia, such systems have been or are being launched in major cities. London is a case in point with its Oyster system

But these projects have also been complex and high-risk. The New South Wales government has taken legal action against its supplier ERG, seeking to regain losses of around A$90 million. ERG has counter-sued for A$250 million in compensation for termination of the contract.

In Melbourne, the overdue A$500 million myki smartcard ticketing system has had its completion date extended. It was originally due to be completed in 2007; that’s spun out to 2012 with another likely cost over-run of A$212 million.

This month, South Australia announced it would seek to automate ticketing for public transport by 2009/10.

It has budgeted A$29 million to kick-start the system.

There are political dimensions to the Auckland project. The government wants more people to use public transport: there is the 2011 Rugby World Cup to consider; the Kyoto Protocol is to be revisited soon, with the associated carbon costs of private transport to the fore.

If the Auckland project is successful, it will almost certainly be rolled out further.

Wellington, for one, has indicated it has a watching brief on the project.

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Tags smartcardARCThalesDowner EDIaucklandartaintegrated ticketing

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