February 15, 2008

South Africa seeks to formalise introduction of electronic fare collection soon

An electronic fare collection system (EFCS) for public transport modes should be formalised by the first quarter of this year, says Department of Transport director for public transport policies Ibrahim Seedat. “Our country needs a national ticketing standard with the impending roll- out of public transport systems and has to grapple with what kind of standard to look at,” he says.

He adds that the department is in consultation with banks and transport stakeholders to commit to a process of exploring an open payment solution.

The authority for the formalisation and gazetting of the ticketing system lies with the Minister of Transport, Jeff Radebe.

The National Land Transport Transition Act of 2000 calls for public transport to be integrated through ticketing and the interoperability of payment mechanisms that avoid duplication of payments and resources.

An effective integrated fare-management system (IFMS) should ensure intermodality – commuters could use one payment mechanism across various transport means. It would also prevent fraud and promote secure transactions.

An IFMS would be used not only for the payment of fares, but also for the collection of data about passengers and their travel information. The IFMS would be State-owned and could be used for the creation of regional data bases.

Techso MD Dr Johann Andersen says an EFCS should be looked at “critically”.

Techo is a solution-driven company, providing services in transportation, law and technology applications.

“The system should be flexible enough to accommodate varying user needs. Open standards should be applied to ensure interoperability and banking and payment regulatory framework must be adhered to,” warns Andersen.

Intelligent Transport Systems South Africa CEO Dr Paul Vorster says that various existing and future public transport operators are currently planning the introduction of an EFCS.

“There are also pilot projects being deployed. The challenge is to develop the procedures based on internationally accepted standards that will promote better integration between the transport systems,” adds Vorster.

He points out that the integration of ticketing systems is by no means a simple issue, with some of the issues easier to resolve than others.

“A more vexing issue is that of the software that ‘drives’ the hardware. Another complex challenge is the issue of data structures that are needed to facilitate better integration. The security of the different transport systems also needs to be sufficiently addressed, if we are to achieve integrated transport systems. Currently being debated is how a back office system, or ‘clearing house’, could look to promote the achievement of electronic fare collection.”

Dr Christopher Querèe of the Association of Train Operating Companies, in London, says that opening standards and a common security method are vital for the country’s benefit.

“A business case for payment based on mobile phones may be valid in South Africa, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup is a deadline, but transport ticketing will last forever.”

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South Africa seeks to formalise introduction of electronic fare collection soon

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