The introduction of contactless payments across the public transport system with fares paid using credit, debit cards, or phones, is “years away” National Transport Authority (NTA) chief executive Anne Graham has told a meeting of Dublin City Council.
Ms Graham was referring to reports that trials of the system where bank cards or devices could be “tapped” to pay for fares would be rolled out under a pilot scheme before the end of this month.
What the NTA was trialling was the use of card payments on Local Link rural services only, she said. However, she said the ticketing equipment on Dublin Bus and other transport services in the capital and nationally were “too old” to allow trials of the system to go ahead, let alone see its permanent implementation.
“There was something in the media saying it was going to be very shortly. We are trialling contactless payments but not in Dublin,” she said. “We do need to have next-generation ticketing and new equipment to deal with bank cards and our current system on our bus service is too old to actually manage to deal with contactless payments.” The Local Link service has “much more modern ticketing equipment which allows contactless payments to be made”, she said.
A contactless payment system that allows travellers to pay using their bank cards or smart devices was implemented in London in 2012, and has been rolled out in a number of other cities in Europe, the United States and beyond.
The NTA was in the middle of procurement of a contractor who would develop a system that would allow contactless cards to be used. “Once we have that contractor appointed we will have a better idea of the timeline,” but she said it would require new infrastructure, new IT systems and would take “a couple of years” to implement.
Separately she said, driver shortages were delaying the implementation of the BusConnects programme. “All our operators are finding it very difficult to recruit and retain drivers, and this has impacted on our BusConnects Dublin network delivery.”
Competition with other industries, such as the construction sector, and the difficulties in workers securing housing were factors in the recruitment deficit, rather than anti-social behaviour on buses, she said. “We don’t believe it’s an issue of safety.”