E-ticketing to go ahead this August

Electronic-ticketing is set to start on August 1 for more than 450,000 bus travellers who need to adjust to the scheme and eventually stop using cash fares by October 1 but commuters we spoke to said they had not received cards yet.

Land Transport Authority CEO Carmine Piantedosi said as far as their meeting with relevant stakeholders was concerned the e-ticketing scheme was set to start next Tuesday.

“As far as I understand with all the planning and the meetings that we had with the stakeholders including Vodafone they are progressing to complete or be ready by August 1 and have it 100 per cent compliant by October 1. That is what they are working towards now which is basically their goal and that hasn’t changed,” Mr Piantedosi said.

“The bus operators have 60 days to fully comply until October 1.”

He said the authority would have a minor enforcement role when dealing with the e-ticketing scheme.

“Our responsibility lies on inspection and the enforcement of cards and the bus fare people will pay,” he said.

“We cannot give more details about it until we go through the period of 60 days in monitoring and reviewing the scheme after August 1.”

Fiji Bus Operators Association vice- president Pyara Singh said this week all 66 bus operators had agreed to provide the service by August 1 and to fully comply with the scheme by October 1.

Mr Singh said the operators would be flexible with passengers during the trial period of August 1 to the end of September, but on October 1 no one would be allowed to board the bus without a funded card.

“We will give people time and Vodafone will be promoting and creating awareness on the issue,” Mr Singh said.

“The problem we faced before was that some operators did not agree with the service, but now we realise that around the world cash payment is slowly dying out and we need to implement electronic cards now.”

He said Vodafone and the operators would be working together to install machines on all buses.

“For one or two days after August 1 (and the trial period) we will allow students to board the bus if they have lost their cards or do not have enough funds in it. We will board the students free until they get a new card with funds in it.

“Bus drivers are obliged by law to charge students with normal school fares (under the scheme) if the child comes in uniform, even after school hours,” he said.

Fiji Teachers Union general secretary Agni Deo Singh said the system was a good one because it would allow some level of transparency and accountability for parties involved particularly bus operators and bus drivers.

Even though the union supports the implementation of e-ticketing, it highlighted the need to look more into extending the transition period, so children can adjust.

“The transition period must be longer because children should be allowed at least one term (14 weeks) to adjust to the new service,” Mr Singh said.

“There should also be a level of common sense from drivers because sometimes a child will lose, misplace their card or not have enough credit in their cards, but they should still be allowed to travel in these situations.

“Drivers need to be considerate towards students and elderly people who may not understand how e-ticketing works.

“If there is a mistake in swiping the card, the driver has to be patient when dealing with passengers and know that most people are still adjusting to the new system. For example in the city areas it would take longer because a lot of people board the bus and if there is an error the passenger has to re-swipe until they get it right which will take time.”

At least seven principals and head teachers contacted by this newspaper in the Western, Northern and Central divisions on Thursday said they were not updated by the ministry or any other stakeholders about e-ticketing for their students.

They said they had not received any new cards as well and did not know where to get one from.

A mother of three schoolchildren Viniana Raione of Kinoya said two of her children will easily adjust to the e-ticketing scheme because they used it when it was implemented in 2014.

She said this week the family was still not aware of whether it would really be implemented come August 1 because there wasn’t any update on the issue from school or any other stakeholders.

Another concerned parent Urmilla Reddy of Nakasi who has two children attending school said so far her family did not know much about e-ticketing even though it should be effective by Tuesday.

“Apart from the news we have heard and read, we are not aware of whether the service will really come into effect.

It would be nice for those implementing the service to continue to inform us about the details of the scheme so parents can prepare children for this. Primary school students will need time to adjust and they will need to be taught about the importance of keeping their card safely.

I haven’t bought a single card yet and am not sure where to buy it from. These are things that we need to be informed about.”

Vodafone Fiji CEO Pradeep Lal said when contacted for an update this week that they would only comment during a press conference to be held soon.

In June Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum held a meeting with FBOA and Vodafone Fiji to discuss protocol issues and other aspects relating to e-ticketing.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum called on the bus operators and Vodafone to work together and be solution-driven for the commencement of e-ticketing from next Tuesday.

FBOA and bus operators had been requested to come up with various protocols to be implemented and certain amendments needed to be done, he said.

He stressed the interest of the travelling public and that they needed to be protected at all times.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they needed to see the plan in terms of the roll-out, as well as the kind of promotions Vodafone would have to get the people to buy into the system.

The e-ticketing machines proposed to be used by Vodafone are T3, which should have arrived into the country by now.

When this edition went to press on Thursday no E-ticketing cards, had been distributed free, and neither had there been registration with schools consulted and other customers.

Mr Lal said earlier 1600 e-ticketing POS terminals would be made available for people to top up their cards.

He said they would have the tap-on system with driver intervention and cards for school students would be different.

Mr Lal had said Vodafone would create awareness and educate customers about the processes and that they were working closely with Government and the FBOA on this.

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