Scrapping Metcard a tourism 'risk'
Removing metcard machines will force once-off public transport users to buy a Myki card. Photo: Jason South
THE decision to phase out paper tickets could drive overseas visitors away from Melbourne's public transport system, according to a technical designer of London's successful ticket system.
London's Oyster card has been credited with vastly improving the efficiency of London's public transport system by replacing a host of paper tickets with one smart card. But London's rail network operator Transport for London has not scrapped paper tickets, to ensure the city's public transport is accessible for all.
''Completely removing paper tickets is higher risk, because you then don't have any alternative back-up for people who don't have a smart card to be able to travel on the system,'' said John Verity, chief adviser of ITSO London, which designed the Oyster card's technical specifications. ''You're simply excluding some people who may wish to travel. They have then got to go and find an alternative way of travelling.''
In Melbourne, the paper Metcard tickets are due to disappear at year's end, after which anyone who uses public transport will have to purchase a myki card, even for one trip.
The Transport Ticketing Authority has been discussing with tourism bodies ways to make myki more user-friendly for short-term visitors.
Mr Verity said that although it was decided to keep paper tickets in London, it was significantly cheaper to use the Oyster card. Last week the Oyster card was awarded the 2012 international transport achievement award at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's annual International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany.
The Oyster was introduced in 2003 and is used for about 2.5 million trips a week around London. Transport for London found that the Oyster card so improved the flow of passengers through ticket barriers that it could scrap an expensive plan to redesign underground station platforms.
By contrast in Melbourne loop stations, the switch from Metcard to myki has led to barriers being thrown open at times to relieve passenger crushes.
Commuter Clinton Betzein said his morning trips were frequently marred by problems with the myki system.
''I travel from various stations to my work near Flagstaff,'' Mr Betzein said, ''Not only are the gates flooded with frustrated people whose myki cards don't work, I have yet to have a morning where they didn't just open the barriers for myself and several others because our cards simply don't work at the stalls.''
In emails to The Age, disgruntled commuters have also criticised myki readers for frequently breaking down, which increases the time spent queuing at stations. Many railway station platforms in Melbourne are now being redesigned to provide extra exit and entry points and myki readers to cope with passenger flow.
Mr Verity said he was not aware of a single example in Britain of a smart card system that had slowed down passenger flow at station barriers.
Adam Carey travelled to Leipzig as a guest of the OECD.