Baillieu has another crack at myki

Victorian Opposition to consider scrapping the troubled smart card

The Victorian state Opposition has again sounded off on the government’s track record on the myki transport card and will consider axing the program should it win power.

Opposition leader Ted Baillieu continued his attack on the myki card - which uses smart card technology to store credits that enable users to travel on public transport similar to London’s Oyster card and Japan’s Suica card - and called it “the most useless piece of plastic in Australia”.

“It is five years since Steve Bracks and John Brumby as premier and treasurer, promised a myki card for all Victorians,” Ballieu said in a press interview video posted on his website. “It was going to cost, they said $490 odd million to implement.”

“Five years after this government promised to introduce Myki, it is not there, it has cost nearly three times as much, it doesn’t work, commuters didn’t ask for it and Myki remains a disaster,” he continued. “Arguably [it’s] the most useless piece of plastic in Australia and Myki remains a reminder that John Brumby can promise heaps and deliver little when it comes to projects of this size and nature.”

The claims of a budget blow out follow on from media reports in May that the myki implementation has cost three times more than the original estimate.

However, this claim was quickly refuted by the State Government which described it as “completely inaccurate”.

“The original budget for the myki project including ten years of operations is around $1 billion,” the government said in a statement issued in May. “Additional funding of up to $350 million was approved in March 2008 beyond the original budget. This additional funding was approved to cover the cost of additional devices required for new buses and trams which have been acquired since the original contract was signed, additional gates at railway stations and a change to increase card memory.”

The government says the budgeted figure of $1.35 billion has not been spent.

The Brumby government hurriedly launched the myki ticketing system in December after it promised to have it up and running by the end of 2009 – almost three years late.

But only Melbourne train commuters were able to use the system while the remaining 80 per cent travelling by tram, bus and multi-mode have been made to wait.

In February, the Brumby administration moved to remedy the myki smart ticketing system performance with the appointment of a new chief executive for the state’s Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA).

Bernie Carolan, formerly head of the public transport marketing body Metlink, replaced former chief executive Gary Thwaites.

Victoria’s poor showing and that of other state governments across Australia contrast sharply with Japan’s highly successful rollout of its Suica and Pasmo smart cards, which are used extensively by commuters across the country on most forms of public transport operated by different companies.

Japan’s public transport commuters that use the smart cards can often also pay for other goods and services, such as groceries and taxis, with the cards.

Additionally the contactless smart card technology has been embedded into mobile phones, which allows users to pay for goods, services and transport in the same way they do by swiping the smart cards at payment points. However, users can also automatically top up their credits and pay for the privilege through their phone bill.

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