Queensland, operating in 'smart state' mode, has lined up as the first Australian state to introduce a smartcard-integrated public transport ticketing system.
On track for launch in mid-2004, Queensland Transport has contracted Smartpos, a consortium including Cubic Transportation Systems, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, EDS and Philips, for an as-yet unfinalised amount.
Negotiations, expected to take between six and nine months, are under way to finalise the 10-year deal.
The consortium will design, build and operate the South-East Queensland ticketing system.
A spokesperson for Cubic said the consortium was unable to talk about specific technological aspects of the implementation at this stage.
The rollout of the smartcard system will occur in parallel with an integrated paper-based ticketing system, which will then be phased out as the smartcard solution is fully implemented.
At present Queensland's public transport system involves 18 transport operators selling more than 100 different ticketing products.
ERG has been contracted to upgrade the current system to accept a common set of integrated products from mid-2004. ERG was unable to be contacted for comment before print deadlines.
Queensland Transport Minister Steve Bredhauer said: "The smartcard system will be the centrepiece of a simple zonal system that will integrate bus, train and city ferry services using common fares and concessions."
Commuters will make a one-off purchase of the smartcard, which the Premier Peter Beattie said would "essentially be a long-lasting debit card".
Bredhauer said the secure technology smartcard will allow passengers to choose to have their cards automatically reloaded directly from their bank accounts or credit cards.
"If a smartcard is lost or stolen, the owner will be able to cancel the card over the phone."
The cards will also be "contactless", meaning they will not have to be inserted into a machine.
"The new readers will validate the smartcard without it being removed from a wallet or bag."