Tcard is dead, Tcard mark II coming this year?

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

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at 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 the site.

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  • T card Failure

    The NSW state government and ERG are just playing the blame game. Lets release the details of this failure, so taxpayers can actually know how their money was wasted.

    Look at examples overseas and see how efficient their ticketing systems run. The pricing of public transport also needs to change in order for this type of system to work. The government is very ignorant in avoiding any blame on their end.
  • T card Failure

    No modern transit ticketing system on the world has a fare structure as complex as Sydney. Many of the fares go back over a century - the politicians are being badly advised by the bureaucrats who are trying to save themselves from the embarrassment of the 4th and most spectacular failure of an integrated ticketing tender in a row!! The politicians need to force the warring transit modes into a simplification of the fare structures before any system will work. The fare tables must be simple enough for a politician to understand them! (That means one fare table, not 120). Look at London Oyster and Hong Kong octopus systems – they are incredibly simple for the consumer to understand.
  • Oh what a failure

    I'm surprised the minister can still put up a brave smile, defending the retarded piece of turd that is Sydney's fare system.

    Look at any of our neighboring countries and you'll see just how far behind we are. For goodness' sake, just outsource the dang thing if you can't do it right.
  • Definitely

    Actually you only have to look as far as say Melbourne.

    Of course that fact that the NSW gov's approach to contract management is to lawyer up, but only when things have gone well and truly pair shaped, high lights a greater problem.
  • Bad leadership all around

    I worked at ERG on the Sydney project and those business rules were so complex and not documented at all. It was a case of a "copy the existing system before you start work on the new system". The only problem was the current system has been implemented by Cubic who is a competitor of ERG and sure enough held off on the documentation required. It was basically a case of trying to make up the rules as it was implemented by observing the results. The number of calculations required to implement the business rules forced the guys in ERG's business rules team to appeal to all of ERG for computing processing power to compute the millions of scenarios possible.

    I think if the NSW government had properly lead the project they would have seen that they would have reduced the projects cost around $100 million dollars and significantly reduced the time line for the project to be completed. It still wouldnt have been ready for the 2000 olympics but at least Sydney would now have a working system that was usable and maintainable. The government really didnt want to make any decisions at all (no guts) and is putting all the blame on ERG.

    ERG also changed project management multiple times so if that is still the problem how would one fix it? I bet the government wouldnt know what to do. The government is really going to have to look at those fare rules and simply them heaps. Not doing this will just mean Sydney waiting another 8 or so years and being at the same point we are at now.
  • ERG should have something to say.

    Its' such a shame that NSW govenment is blaming everything to the supllyer, which had implemented many similar system around the world (although they have some problem internally...).
    And I am also shocked at the Gov decision to dump the whole project when it's so close to finish. Why don't they just sit down with ERG and give them a chance to listen to what their plan is. It will be much much better that to scrath the whole contract and startover.

    Another 8-10 years before Sydneysider can get the system... almost certern!

    At least double the cost ($500-600Millions) ... sure thing!

    Beter system than ERG's without any delay or problems... who can say that?

    And on top of this, what if ERG fight back and to take NSW to the court for compensation of damege... ERG has a chance to win I believe.
  • Sound similar to Qld Transport's efforts to deliver on the "Smart Card"

    Why are these companies trying to reinvent the wheel? It can't be that hard to copy a system in place elsewhere & modify it to suit our zones/fares etc.

    Qld Transport has been working on the rollout of the Smart Card for years to no avail. God know how much money has been wasted on projects that run years past the due date.
  • Really

    LOL how hard is it? How many smart card systems have you developed?
  • Media

    I love how the media twists things to make it look like it's all ERG's fault.

    NSW didn't want to simplify their fare structure. The requirements were crap and the various entities like Rail didn't want it in the first place. Every time something was released they'd change their minds and wanted something different.

    The truth always comes out.
  • Watkins is a Gone, or going...

    Transport Minister John Watkins will have his head on the chopping block after this botched decision.

    There is no scope for litergation on the government side - this is face saving. The PTTC failed in a core component of the original contract - to provide the IP of the current transport system in Sydney, and work with the various stakeholders and unions in the simplification of the fare structures.

    Cubic insured that this wasn't going to be forthcoming - ie. the litergation which resulted in the late start of the project in the first place (3 years). Obviously any released IP came so wrapped up in mumble jumble and confusion that it was almost unusable. This resulted in the requirement to "re-create" the current transport system.

    We also haven't heard how the PTTC is going to deal with Cubic and the legal web (including muli-million $ penalties) that came with the releasing of that IP. The court case released the IP to ERG, not to any other vendor. Are Sydney going back to court (with Cubic) to regain use of this IP??? I think so.

    ERG has spent close on $100m on building 80% of what woud become on of the most powerful smart-card systems in the western world. Based on the foundations of the Octupus System (London & Hong Kong) and ready to work on next-generation credit card smart-card technology.

    ...get the ghist??? Sydney whilst complication and confusing to develop was built on a highly successful platform that was to be used to extend and expand past "public transport".

    Ever been to Hong Kong? Used their card to travel? Bought soft-drink and chips, the paper, a magazine? Awesome right?

    This is ERG technology that is 10 years old.

    ERG is building a massive system in Beijing for the 08 olympics, on track and looking good. Wy is this different from Sydney?

    One hint; it isn't the technology, the project managers at ERG or the workers. It is the people (the government and government contractors) that "ERG are working with".

    It has been reported that Transport minister, whilst refusing to deal directly with ERG, has been i talks with alternative suppliers. Coincidence? Ummmm.. No.

    Government lawyers have indicated that ERG is unlikely to be in a financial position to challenge the government for their costs - and unfortunately Transport Minister John Watkins has used this knowledge to mislead the public in the prospects of a fund recovery; and also the entitlement to them.

    We can all be assured that if ERG was in a stronger financial position there would be no contract termination as ERG would be entitled to substaintial costs.

    Well done Transport minister John Watkins; you have misused your position to terminate the contract of a once Market Leading 100% Australian Technology company; a company that Australia with limited leaders in IT fields can ill afford to lose.

    The truth will come out in the parlimentary committee and Johnno's head will come a rolling.

    Whilst ERG haven't been blameless; in fact the contract was silly to begin with; lets hope that they survive and find the funds required to get the money from the State Government that they richly deserve.

    In the meantime Sydney siders can read about the (new &) state of the art ticketing systems in France, America, China and the rest of the world tat ERG are successfully building and consumers are enjoying...
  • ERG outside Australia

    As a french user of ERG AFC solutions, I would like to point out that ERG is in France the leading supplier of AFC solutions for intercity public transport. The company has been delivering more than 20 systems every year for about 15 years and has always met project schedules and delivered advanced solutions for buses, light rails, P+R, etc.. I could see in their references that they have more than 30 000 devices in operation in our country alone.
    As a customer, I feel very sorry to see how little NSW representatives care about local companies and employment. I can't even imagine the same happening with US suppliers that would be sacked by their own politicians... Sad world we live in.
  • Sydney fare structure/business rules

    I keep hearing the comment that the failure of the project was down to the complexity of the fare structure and/or the undocumented business rules, and therefore not ERG's fault. I can't believe that any major company of any standing would bid a large project like this without having assessed the complexity and risk associated with those issues and having a plan to mitigate their impact. Further, I can't understand why Sydney is judged to be so complex when most European public transport systems with legacy infrastructure are usually significantly more extensive and complicated. I would also note from the Scandinavian press that ERG is also under threat of termination on their projects in Sweden, again for substantially late delivery and software bugs.
  • Ummm yeah...

    As a matter of fact I have been to London, and the system is called Oyster....not 'Octupus' (or Octopus as is should be correctly spelt)
  • umm yeahh

    he/she was referring to the octopus system in HK
  • ERG incompetence

    Blaming the complex fare structure is just a smoke screen. It's not that hard, people! All you need is a look-up table with a dimension for each of the inputs - the 2 stations, time, date, fare type (pensioner, full, etc)... Blaming the fare structure is just a smoke screen for incompetence.