Tcard is dead, Tcard mark II coming this year?

Summary:The death knell has sounded for the Tcard project, with Minister for Transport John Watkins announcing the end of the troubled scheme -- but there is still hope the e-ticketing show will go on, according to the Minister.

The death knell has sounded for the Tcard project, with Minister for Transport John Watkins announcing the end of the troubled scheme -- but there is still hope the e-ticketing show will go on, according to the Minister.

A Tcard Reader (Credit: Tcard)

The final decision to scrap the Tcard system was made by a cabinet subcommittee yesterday.

The Tcard, envisaged as a contactless card ticketing system for Sydney's public transport network, had been endangered since last November. Following a series of missed deadlines for the project, Watkins demanded the company developing the system -- ITSL -- meet milestones in 20 days or provide remedial plans for how they intended to meet them.

The company put together a plan of action which, according to Watkins, included a very much delayed completion date of February 2010. "This would have been the project's fourth completion date since the contract was signed in 2003," Watkins said in a statement.

The plan failed to satisfy the government agency overseeing the project, the PTTC (Public Transport Ticketing Corporation), that it could deliver the system: "Ongoing delays, failures and the company's appalling project management have left the government and the taxpayer no choice," Watkins said of the decision.

The government is now preparing to start litigation against the Tcard's developers, to recoup AU$95 million worth of public money thrown into the project, including AU$18 million for the purchase of new equipment for buses and rail stations; AU$32 million for the development of new technology and implementing the system; AU$16 million to launch the interim ticketing scheme used by 430,000 school students; and, AU$29 million on interest and other payments, internal operations and insurance.

The government has already seized the AU$10 million performance bond.

The announcement has already hit the share price of ITSL parent ERG Group, which dropped from around seven cents a share yesterday evening to below five today.

Despite the debacle, cashless ticketing is still on the cards, according to the Minister. "Cashless ticketing for Sydney's public transport system is a must as we move into the 21st century, but we have to get the right system for Sydney," he said.

"The PTTC and some people from the government are going to sit down and see what we've got," a spokesperson for the Minister's office told ZDNet Australia, adding that it should make a decision by mid-year on how to go forward.

"We will have an electronic ticketing system, it's just a matter of how we go about doing that."

The trial being conducted on buses in the inner west will now be stopped, with participants refunded the balances on their cards, although there are provisions in the contract for it to continue for 20 days, the spokesperson said.

According to Watkins, the trial was not considered a success story. It started 13 months late with participants scaled back from 1000 to 106 and was dogged by system failures during its lifetime, according to the PTTC.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren will continue to use their Tcards on the buses.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Government : AU

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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