Iori Nishida and Samier Davis are renting myki cards to travellers through their Mykihire business.

Iori Nishida and Samier Davis are renting myki cards to travellers through their Mykihire business. Photo: Eddie Jim

Myki was fatally flawed from its inception almost 10 years ago, but it will live on as Melbourne’s public transport ticketing system well after the day the contract with system operator NTT Data expires in June 2016.

Public Transport Victoria has confirmed to Fairfax Media that ‘‘while the term of the revised operating contract with NTT Data is until 2016, the myki system itself will operate well beyond that’’.

But any further cost incurred in repairing myki’s remaining deficiencies, such as speeding up the slow response times of myki gates and readers, will be borne by the state, not the contractor, under an agreement finalised last year.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

And there are no plans to fix the system’s most glaring deficiency and reintroduce short-term tickets. When asked, a Public Transport Victoria spokesman did not identify any other city in the world with a smartcard system that does not have a short-term ticket option, but said no further changes to the scope of the system are planned.

But the fact that the Napthine government has effectively deemed myki fixed after a 2011 review has not stopped others from attempting to change the ‘‘scope’’ of the system.

Two tech-savvy entrepreneurs have just launched a small business renting myki passes to visitors, offering a service they consider to be badly needed and at the same time seeking to profit from the system’s biggest shortcoming.

Iori Nishida and Samier Davis began their web-based business Mykihire this month, which involves posting myki passes in the mail to visitors to Melbourne.

Cards loaded with credit are rented to tourists for anywhere between three days and three weeks, for less than the going cost of buying a card and paying fares. Customers are charged between $6.50 and $6.25 a day, depending on how long they hire the card for, plus $2 postage.

Mykihire has so far had just 10 customers, Mr Nishida said, and a warning from Public Transport Victoria that the business might be breaking the law, although the authority has taken no action yet.

‘‘They’re [PTV] not particularly happy about the idea but I think this is something that helps other people because travellers are paying so much more than what they should be – the fact that the government got rid of the short-term tickets makes it so much harder for travellers,’’ Mr Nishida said.

It has not been possible to buy a single-use ticket in Melbourne since the death of Metcard in December 2012.

The Napthine government scrapped single-use myki tickets in 2011 on the advice of a review by professional services firm Deloitte, which it has refused to make public. The government claims the decision will save $30 million a year. Meanwhile, $15.7 million worth of single-use myki tickets have been destroyed.

The decision has been criticised for penalising irregular users of the system. Both the Victorian Tourism Industry Council and the Public Transport Users Association say the lack of short-term tickets simultaneously discourages people from using public transport and encourages inadvertent fare evasion.

The need to buy a card before travelling is also an unreasonable financial burden on visitors, says Tony Morton, the Public Transport Users Association’s president.

‘‘Some of the biggest frustrations we see are people visiting from the country with their family, say a family of four, and they have to spend close to $20 on myki cards before they can start paying for fares,’’ Dr Morton said.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Dianne Smith said myki was still not as widely accessible as it should be. 

She said the myki visitor pack released in 2012 as a salve for put-out tourists – a $14 pack that includes a myki card, $8 of myki money and discount offers to 15 attractions – had so far been only a ‘‘moderate’’ success.

The council has calculated that 2.5 million to 3 million visitors to Melbourne last year might have used public transport, while 183,000 myki visitor packs were sold in 2013, meaning between 6 and 7 per cent bought one.

‘‘Out of 3 million visitors potentially, 183,000 is a modest percentage,’’ Ms Smith said. ‘‘This is why I go back to the Skybus idea: we need to make sure that at every possible intersection for a tourist or visitor it’s really clear that yes, you can get it and it’s easy to use.’’

Integrating myki with the Skybus service to Melbourne Airport is one of two key proposals the council has submitted to government on how to improve myki: the other is making the cost of unused travel redeemable.

This can be done, but involves submitting a refund form to Public Transport Victoria and returning unwanted myki cards in the mail.

 Among other lingering myki flaws, the slow response times of myki readers - which leads to long queues at railway stations and delays in the peak hours – is finally being improved, although it may take years for most public transport users to benefit.

Fairfax Media has learned that new, faster gates will be installed at the freshly rebuilt Springvale and Mitcham railway stations next month, with busy Richmond station soon to follow. The new gates, which have eye-catching red paddles, will no longer display fare change or account balance information, only registering whether or not a passenger has successfully touched off.

The new gates can clear 55 people per minute, Public Transport Victoria says, a 20 per cent improvement on the current rate of 45 people per minute.

‘‘These next generation myki gates will be installed progressively across the public transport network as new stations are built or existing stations are upgraded,’’ it says.

Myki never reached its contractually agreed touch-on speeds, but NTT Data will not contribute to the cost of installing the new, speedier gates. The company, which reported a dramatic profit turnaround to corporate regulator ASIC in 2012 following a ‘‘major contractual change’’ to its agreement with the state government, could have a limited future as myki’s operator.

The government will put myki out to tender in 2016, and plans to award the next contract to ‘‘a ticketing operator with a demonstrated track record operating major smart ticketing systems, meeting operational requirements and delivering maximum value for Victorian taxpayers’’. Given no further modifications are likely, other companies are likely to be interested in competing to operate the system.

In 2012, Kamco chief executive Greg Purdy criticised the original contract awarded in 2005 at a parliamentary hearing, stating that it was signed before the Labor government knew what it required. 

‘‘Given the system complexity that was being undertaken at the time, it would have been better served by both parties - both by the contractor and the government at the time - to have invested more heavily in the beginning to flesh out the requirements before the system had started to be developed,’’ Mr Purdy said.

The changing requirements that followed saw the 10-year contract blow out by half a billion dollars, from $994 million to $1.55 billion, a price tag too high even for its harshest critics to contemplate replacing the system two years hence.

 ‘‘The time to scrap myki was really back in 2010 when there was political momentum to stop throwing good money after bad and ... that hasn’t happened, so we’re stuck with this system now,’’ Dr Morton said.