South Australia is following NSW and Victoria down the path of cashless smart card ticketing for public transport, with AU$29 million laid out in its budget over three years to kick start the system.
Ticketing for the state public transport system's 812 buses, 99 trains and 15 trams will be automated by the scheme, with implementation due to begin in 2009/2010. However, it is unlikely to be operational until 2013 when a new block of funding will be approved, according to a spokesperson for the South Australian Transport Minister, Patrick Conlon.
The department has been working on specifications for the project for about a year, the spokesperson said, which should be ready in another three months, after which the tender process will begin.
The SA budget, handed down this week, showed that maintenance of the current ticketing system is increasing due to its age, with an estimated AU$1,200 to be spent per 10,000 validations in 2008/2009 — for 67.4 million journeys, that adds up to around AU$8 million.
The system is also failing to validate tickets, costing the public transport AU$500,000 a year according to the spokesperson — a cost the department hopes to recoup with the new system.
Despite plans to avoid the rising costs of the current ticketing system, the South Australian government will tread carefully as it chooses its supplier, after seeing other states battle with implementing their planned ticketing systems.
"We are obviously interested in the adventures of our colleagues interstate," the spokesperson said, adding, however, that South Australia's system will be a smaller system. "We're not talking about the volume of transit in Sydney and Melbourne."
NSW's automated ticketing system Tcard was cancelled in January after the government baulked at giving a fourth extension to ticketing company ITSL to implement the system.
The government is currently embroiled in a law suit, having filed with the Supreme Court to retrieve the around AU$90 million which it is out of pocket.
ERG Group's parent ITSL subsequently filed a counterclaim for over AU$200 million saying the termination was unlawful, and that the project did not work due to a lack of government cooperation.
Meanwhile, the Victorian smart ticketing system — Myki — looks unlikely to surface until 2012 and has suffered a cost blow-out of AU$216 million, according to Fairfax reporting last month.
Victorian Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky has previously said the AU$500 million Myki ticketing system — originally due in 2007 — would be ready in 2010.
AAP contributed to this article.