CHENNAI: Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) has finalised its ticketing machines and universal travel card. If things run to plan, a single smartcard can be used to make payments for use of all transport systems—buses, trains, metro and autorickshaws.
The card that will be issued by metro rail will accommodate payments for 32 different agencies—from Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses to autos and even parking and long-distance trains. "But these cards are not open-ended. In Hong Kong, you can use the card in countless ways. The cards are compatible with any machine, just like a credit or a debit card," said an expert working closely with government who did not want to be named.
A senior metro rail official said, "When we drew up the detailed project report, this card was the best option available." Commuters can use the card only in places approved by CMRL.
"We will eventually move to an open system, just like other countries," he added.
Metro rail has tied up with State Bank of India (SBI) to integrate bank accounts with metro rail cards. "This will take time. Smartcards, which are integrated with other transport systems, will come into use first," said the official.
Delhi has introduced 'Unifare Card' that can be used in any outlet like a debit or credit card.
"We have tied up with a private bank. Those who have an account in the bank can use the same card in ATMs and with 22 million merchants," said an official from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Of the 23 lakh trips made in metro rail a day in Delhi, 70% are paid for using smart cards. "It is convenient and there is a 10% discount for those using cards." In Chennai, things could be different as people are generally averse to investing up front even for convenience, going by the experience and data of the suburban train system. Only 50,000 or 0.5% of the 10 lakh passengers have season tickets, one of the lowest in the country.
Government officials from the state transport authority, MTC, Southern Railway, Centre for Railway Information Systems, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, IRCTC, call taxi operators and representatives of bus ticket booking websites have been discussing the possibility of integrating all systems into one card.
MTC has purchased electronic ticketing machines that are compatible with metro rail smart cards. Railways will have a tough time implementing smartcards as their system is open, unlike metro rail. The government will make new GPSenabled meters for autorickshaws compatible with smart cards.