Article Highlights

Key Takeaway:

Recent reports in the Irish press suggesting the country would launch a contactless fare-payments pilot as part of its planned national open-loop rollout were overstated, a rep of the National Transport Authority told Mobility Payments.

Key Data:

The national ABT project would cost between €260 million (US$273 million) and €440 million for capital expenses. Operational costs would amount to between €800 million and €1.2 billion over the first 10 years. An extension for a second 10 years is an option, and if NTA exercises it, then the entire fare-collection system could cost just under €2.8 billion in total.

Organizations Mentioned:

NTA
• TFI Local Link

Recent reports in the Irish press suggesting that the country would launch a contactless fare-payments pilot in the second quarter as part of its planned national open-loop rollout were overstated, a representative of the National Transport Authority, or NTA, told Mobility Payments.

The pilot may, in fact, happen by Easter, as reported, but it would only be a small trial on the country’s rural bus network, and is not connected with Ireland’s large next-generation ticketing project. As Mobility Payments has reported, this large account-based ticketing project, now in the tendering process, would include multimodal open-loop payments nationwide. It’s due to be awarded by the end of 2023.

The published reports stemmed from a Christmas roundtable interview with local reporters by Irish Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, who reportedly said a full contactless system across all bus services is a “first priority.” Another publication, a tabloid, declared that “contactless payments on buses, trams and trains could be with us on some services by Easter.”

The tabloid then appeared to tone down expectations, quoting a ministry spokesman as saying  that the “the NTA are aiming to pilot the scheme on some PSO (Public Service Obligation) services from Q2 2023.”

This latter statement may be closer to the actual context of NTA’s plans. The NTA has said publicly that it was looking into holding an open-loop pilot on Ireland’s TFI Local Link, which provides rural bus service, mainly between towns and villages using mini-buses and small coaches, Dorgan noted. The pilot would be held under the “Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan,” an initiative that seeks to improve mobility and connectivity for people living outside Ireland’s major cities.

NTA’s Dorgan

“It was in this context that we said we’d see if we could pilot contactless payments on a few services to reduce cash handling on board,” Dorgan told Mobility Payments. “There is no fare aggregation, just single-journey payments, and we are trialing a separate Bluetooth bank card reader to provide some more payment options for customers of the pilot services.”

But “technically, the pilot is not 100% confirmed yet,” he added.  

The open-loop pilot was linked in the local press reports to the next-generation ticketing project, which was not intended, he said.

TFI Local Link buses also accept the country’s closed-loop Leap card and the TFI Go App for “eligible services.” The app enables users to purchase mobile tickets and then validate them by showing the digital tickets to bus drivers when boarding.

As Mobility Payments reported earlier, NTA plans to roll out an account-based ticketing system that will support open-loop payments and other fare-payments methods. It will encompass all modes of transport in Dublin and elsewhere in the country, including buses, rail, trams and a proposed metro line.

NTA said the account-based ticketing project would cost between €260 million (US$273 million) and €440 million for capital expenses. Operational costs would amount to between €800 million and €1.2 billion over the first 10 years. An extension for a second 10 years is an option, and if NTA exercises it, then the entire fare-collection system could cost just under €2.8 billion in total, according to 2020 estimates.

Four vendors are in the running to be named the main vendor for the  “single-party framework agreement.” This type of contract would allow the agency to buy technology outside the contract, though the main vendor is expected to get most of the orders.

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