The system will eventually cover a north-to-south territory spanning 300 kilometres in south east Queensland. This encompasses 143 rail stations, 1500 buses, and 20 ferries. When full deployment occurs -- presently scheduled for next year -- commuters will be able to use smartcards holding financial value as an 'e-purse' for all public transport travel.
The pilot follows extensive government planning on the project over the last seven years. The automated fare collection system is expected to deliver improved data for management of the network, standardised fares and faster boarding times for commuters.
Five train stations will be encompassed by the pilot: Brunswick, Central, Petrie, Roma Street and Sandgate; as well as Hornibrook bus services in the Redcliffe Peninsula and Sandgate area.
The pilot user group will consist of up to 1,000 people, according to Queensland Transport. This includes peak and non-peak commuters, seniors and people with special needs.
Speaking at a smartcard conference in Sydney, TransLink's Greg Ellis said the trial would specifically test the cards' 'touch-on, touch-off' system.
When a commuter gets on board a public transport service -- the 'touch-on' stage -- an issued smartcard will record details such as time, location and service type (eg rail). When exiting, commuters must 'touch-off' the card by scanning it at a nearby reader. This compares the exit point to the entry point, and adjusts the fare to the actual distance travelled.
Ensuring commuters do this will be a major challenge of the new system, according to Ellis. Bus commuters would be most likely to have difficulty adapting as they are not in the habit of undertaking a transaction -- such as inserting a ticket into a turnstile device -- after they depart the vehicle, unlike their rail and ferry counterparts.
TransLink will train around 3,000 staff on procedures and operation of the new system.
Scanning of cards at multiple points during a trip will be a focus of the pilot, said Ellis, with TransLink testing the cards under a range of travel scenarios, he said.
The smartcard system will also force change in legislation. "In Queensland, an offence will soon be 'failure to tag on with a smart card'," said Ellis.
About 8,000 smartcard devices will be installed throughout the network, according to Ellis. All will communicate to a central TransLink computer, which has multiple redundancy points in case a reader fails. Readers on buses and ferries communicate wirelessly.
The system is being built and will be managed by Cubic Transportation Systems, which has a 10-year contract with the Queensland government to do so.