PUBLIC transport users outside the greater Dublin area will have to wait until next year to enjoy the benefits, including cheaper fares, of the long-awaited integrated smart card which was formally launched yesterday.
The National Transport Authority, which is overseeing the introduction of the €55.4m integrated ticketing system, admitted that commuters using Bus Éireann and mainline rail services would not be able to use the new Leap card until some time in 2012 at the earliest.
NTA chairman John Fitzgerald said it had always been the intention to introduce the system on a phased basis due to the complexity of the project.
Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly said yesterday’s launch was only the start of the Leap card, which will see a range of products for public transport users being expanded over the course of the next 12 months.
Leap cards can be now used on all Dublin Bus, Luas, DART and commuter rail services in the greater Dublin area, removing the need to buy tickets for single journeys. The system will be expanded to include Bus Éireann and some private bus companies during 2012.
The card will be available in over 400 shops following a successful trial period over recent weeks. It offers fares that are up to 17% cheaper than single tickets on Luas services and up to 19% on DART and commuter rail fares. It will be 9% cheaper than Dublin Bus cash fares.
Cards cost a refundable €5 deposit for adults and €3 for children under 12 years which can then be topped up on a regular basis similar to mobile phone credit. Children aged 12 to 15 years will need to submit a form to be approved for a Leap card to minimise the risk of abuse of cheaper fares for schoolchildren.
Card users can activate their card on automatic machines when using DART, rail and Luas services, but the card needs to be presented to drivers on Dublin Bus.
Leap card project director Tim Gaston said users could register their card, which provided additional security in the event the card is lost, while they can also monitor their usage level online.
Other Leap card services to be introduced over next year including annual and monthly passes, Dublin Bus rambler tickets as well as school and student travel cards. Commuters will also be able to choose an automatic top-up option for their Leap card for whenever their credit is low by providing the operators with a direct debit mandate.
The NTA hopes to facilitate inter-operability between the Leap card and the free travel pass.
The NTA estimated that the system will have 250,000 users annually. There are currently a combined 190,000 commuters who use single-mode smart cards for Luas, Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann. Such cards will be phased out over time as commuters switch to the Leap card.
* For further information: www.leapcard.ie
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