FOR MUMBAI commuters who use buses, suburban local trains as well as auto-rickshaws or taxis for a single journey, the time spent in queues to purchase tickets or looking for change is a daily inconvenience. But Mumbaikars could soon be the first in the country to skip the repeated cash payments for a single trip through the proposed Integrated Ticketing System (ITS), which is expected to be rolled out partially later this year.
Also significantly, as the ITS will mandate entry control through fare-collection gates, like the ones installed at the metro and monorail stations, Mumbai’s suburban railway stations could suddenly see only bonafide commuters inside, it is anticipated.
With ITS, commuters will be able to enjoy ‘seamless travel’ within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) using a single travel card to commute on multiple modes of transport. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is set to soon invite bids to finalise the nodal bank and vendor for implementation of the system. “While in the initial phases it will include buses, suburban rail, monorail, the current Metro One (Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar) and the upcoming metro corridors and ferry services, we will later also include taxis, autos, toll payment and parking charges,” said a senior MMRDA official.
For this year, the plan is to offer a single travel card for use on Mumbai’s municipal bus transport services within the MMRDA and the suburban railways. The ITS will allow commuters to travel using a single smart card that will be tapped in and out during entry and exit. It will be an open loop system so commuters can also use debit/credit cards on the ticketing machines. Gradually, the MMRDA proposes to move to contactless cards and mobile applications with QR codes to purchase tickets.
For suburban railway commuters, ITS will significantly alter daily travel with the introduction of Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) gates. These gates, like the ones installed at metro and monorail stations, will make the stations access-controlled with commuters having to queue up to enter. Trespassing of all kind, including by hawkers and beggars, will be prevented. This, too, is to be introduced gradually.
“Some stations such as those on the Harbour line in Navi Mumbai are well structured. So we are planning to begin the installation of AFC gates at those stations. Most other stations will have to be redesigned to install such gates. We are in discussions with the railways and will see how this can be done,” said the official. The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC), appointed as the nodal agency for the implementation of the ITS, concedes that the introduction of AFC gates will take some time.
“We have 120 suburban railway stations across the three lines and some of these will have to be modified for the introduction of these gates. This cannot happen overnight,” said a senior MRVC official. So, the focus in the initial stage will be on use of smart cards, especially by season ticket holders, and the installation of tap in/out points.
“Initially, the benefit will be limited. It will be implemented only on two public transport systems – the trains and the BEST buses. However, in the coming years when a large number of metro corridors are being introduced, with multiple service providers, then it will be a huge benefit to the commuters. We are trying to keep it open loop so there is no one particular card and they can even use credit/debit card. That will be a big advantage for commuters as they do not have to waste time in purchasing different tickets at different stations,” said UPS Madan, Metropolitan Commissioner.
Officials believe that the introduction of this system will also encourage the use of public transport. With the end of over the counter ticket sales, the railways is also likely to save money. “Currently for every Rs 10 ticket the railways has an expenditure of around Rs 2 to Rs 2.5. So, with ITS we can save around 8-10 percent of the cost incurred on tickets. This system will also prevent revenue leakage. Sometimes commuters are forced to travel without tickets as they cannot afford to wait in long queues. Their time will be saved and such leakage will be prevented,” added the MRVC official.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed as consultant to study how the ITS can be implemented in the city. With PwC having completed their survey to determine the feasibility of the system, the MMRDA is now finalising the finer details with different transport operators. “Once the vendor is finalised we can begin implementation of the system by the end of 2018 for BEST buses and suburban railways,” said the MMRDA official.
Meanwhile, MMRDA is also in the process of establishing a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for its implementation. Until the SPV is formed, the MMRDA will act as interim administrator of the ITS, for planning, issuing specifications, testing, card services, scheme management, revenue management and central clearing house facilities.
An earlier experiment on similar lines, named the ‘Go Mumbai’ smart card introduced a decade ago on BEST buses and suburban railways, failed and had to be phased out. The MRVC official said its failure was on account of hardware issues and the company’s financial issues. “The technology we are bringing in this time is totally different. We will also increase commuters’ awareness so that more people opt for it,” he added.