Monday 14 January 2008

Integrated ticketing costs soar to €50m

The Department of Transport has defended the estimated €50 million cost and the timeframe of the delay-plagued integrated ticketing scheme for public transport, blaming complex technical issues.

A departmental note generated ahead of integrated ticketing being discussed by the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee later this month, refers to the complicated systems required to provide a single smart card for rail, bus and Luas journeys with private and public transport companies.

The decision to include the free travel scheme for pensioners and people with disabilities has also contributed to the increased cost and to delays on a project that it not now expected to be finished until 2013.

According to the note: "One of the reasons why it has taken this long . . . is that it was decided to include a link-up on the ticket to the free travel pass [so the integrated ticket software has to be made compatible with the software in the Department of Social and Family Affairs].

"Initially, there was no provision for this link-up."

Integrated ticketing has been beset by delays, controversy and cost overruns since it was first announced by then minister for public enterprise Mary O'Rourke in November 2000.

The Rail Procurement Agency was given responsibility for the €29.6 million project with a completion date set for 2005. However by mid-2005, the agency abandoned the procurement process, prompting separate inquiries by the Department of Transport and comptroller and auditor general John Purcell.

Following criticism by Mr Purcell of project management, lack of progress and substantial wasted expenditure, a new project board was established in 2006.

It promised that the system would be rolled out in the greater Dublin area by September 2009, with nationwide roll-out compete by 2013. It also projected that €20 million more was needed to complete the project.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey made this project a key priority when he came into office last summer, according to his office. Central to his strategy has been to set up the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) which will have overall responsibility for the project. Legislation is expected next month.

Sources in Mr Dempsey's department said similar systems in Hong Kong and Singapore cost €100 million and €150 million.

Senator Paschal Donohoe of Fine Gael said: "No political will exists to decide competing requests from different semi-State organisations. This is the reason the DTA still does not exist. Not setting the business rules at the start has completely undermined the project."

PAC chairman Bernard Allen said the committee would seek assurances that there would be no further overruns or delays.

The Irish Times

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