update The technology provider behind the NSW e-ticketing push has revealed that the city's 6000 buses will be the last to receive contactless ticketing.
The 2012 roll-out will see Cubic Transportation Systems and other members of the Pearl Consortium deploy a contactless e-ticketing system first on Sydney ferries, then on Sydney trains and last on Sydney buses as part of its $1.2 billion contract with the state.
Speaking at the Cards and Payments Australasia conference yesterday, Cubic's vice president of Business Development in Australia, Bob Deiter said that the roll-out is set to directly mirror London's closed-loop Oyster Card system.
"We proposed that the system for processing contactless payments across buses, trains and ferries be identical to technology provided in London. What Sydney is doing is taking a well-considered approach of letting London prove out the technology."
Sydney could potentially, however, score a newer technology than is currently deployed in London. Deiter said that London is set to trial open-loop EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa standard) payment systems on its buses in the near future: with banking cards being able to be swiped for transport in the way that an Oyster Card is now. The aim is to deploy such a technology across the whole transport network in time for the 2012 London Olympics.
Deiter said that due to the sheer volume of users in London, it made more sense to get the system working there, and iron out bugs before using it in Sydney.
"I think that the very sensible solution is to deploy something that is definitely proven, well-documented and let London do the hard work of making this thing work in a volume environment so we can be confident when we deploy it in a place like Sydney," he said.
Deiter said that the Sydney e-ticketing system is likely to work in a similar fashion to the Brisbane go card which works by "tagging-on" and "tagging-off" to determine the charge for the route travelled. He added that the point-to-point tagging system would also provide important transport data to ticketing agencies for future development.
"Currently as the fare rules sit now it will be tag-on, tag-off. The reason for that is because they get a lot of information on the transport network in terms of planning — where people get on and get off, volumes of people exiting services," Deiter said.
Challenges to the successful pilot program include the ability to be able to process customer requests quickly to avoid congestion and safety issues, Deiter said.
"For use in public transport, transactions must be completed within the range of 300 to 500 milliseconds, otherwise you have people queuing up on platforms and that becomes a safety hazard," he said.
The e-ticketing executive said that NSW public transport may also present challenges due to its zone-based fare structures.