Changes to scope led to AT $27m blowout

ROB O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2013
AT

Hot ticket: Different developments are blamed for delays and cost increases.

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Changes to the scope of Auckland Transport's integrated ticketing system project are behind a $27 million increase in the project's budgeted cost, says Greg Edmonds, Auckland Transport's chief operations officer.

The project was budgeted to cost $58.3 million in 2009, but will now cost $99.2m with $13.4m of that to be recovered from transport operators for leasing ticketing equipment over the next five years.

Edmonds also revealed a trial of smartphone-based tickets using a technology called "near field communications" had been successfully completed. That will allow passengers to use a wallet on their phones to swipe themselves on and off public transport, though it is not planned to advance that until the core project is bedded down.

In May, Sunday Star-Times reported the indications of a blowout in Auckland Transport's accounts but the agency was not prepared to comment on or clarify what was behind the change ahead of its own announcement of the rollout of AT Hop cards on the Auckland bus fleet.

That will see AT Hop cards replace Snapper cards and equipment on Infratil's NZ Bus vehicles.

Edmonds said the budget changes are due to a number of different developments.

Initially, $2.2m was saved off the $58.3m budget when it was put to tender, bringing the capital cost of the project down to $56.1m. Then the base business case was revised up by $1.6m in 2011, taking the cost to $57.7m.

Modification so visually impaired passengers could use the system and enhancements to nine ticketing machines to allow them to accept both cash and cards as well as other enhancements followed in 2011.

More ticket and top-up machines were added at Britomart station in central Auckland and at the Northern Expressway and gating of the downtown ferry terminal and online enhancements were also added to the contract in 2012.

When the decision was made to replace Snapper's technology and cards last August, French contractor Thales was asked to deliver replacement technology leading to further costs, though that equipment will be leased to operators leading to the $13.4m recovery over time, Edmonds said.

Edmonds reiterated that third-party equipment is still allowed to connect to the core integrated ticketing system engine provided it complies with specified standards.

Of the $99.2m, $59.5m will be funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency, which will take ownership of the core system to roll it out nationally, $26.3m will be paid by Auckland Transport and $13.4m by bus operators.

Edmonds was not prepared to comment on Snapper's dispute with Auckland Transport and bid for compensation after being pushed out of the integrated ticketing project.

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- Sunday Star Times

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