The secretary general of the Department of Transport, Julie O’Neill, told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee yesterday that she was confident that the project could be delivered on target to meet a revised budget and deadline.
The meeting heard that the estimated cost of the project — which will allow commuters to use a smart card that can be used on all bus, rail and Luas services — has risen from e29.6 million in 2005 to e49.6m.
The deadline for its implementation had also been extended several times since the project was formally initiated in 2002.
Disagreements between various stakeholders almost led the Government to abandon the project in 2005 because of lack of progress and cost overruns.
Ms O’Neill said she accepted that the deadline and budget were “challenging, but achievable”.
She also acknowledged that an integrated ticketing system for Dublin was “long overdue”.
Similar schemes are already commonplace in many other European cities including London, Paris and Berlin.
Following criticism from a number of TDs about delays in implementing the project, Ms O’Neill observed: “In a project involving numerous organisation and where there are many business and technical complexities, there are and will continue to be difficulties that pose challenges to all participants in delivering the agreed programme.”
The smart card system will initially allow commuters to travel on Dublin Bus and Luas services as well as routes operated by private bus firm, Morton’s Coaches. Smart cards, which provide average savings of 10%-15% over standard tickets, are already in use on the two Luas lines in the capital.
It is anticipated that the scheme will be expanded to Irish rail services, including the DART, some Bus Éireann routes and other private bus services by 2010.
Dublin Bus is also set to launch an interim smart card scheme this summer, while Irish Rail will introduce a similar scheme, incorporating an electronic purse, in 2009.
Ms O’Neill said that the project had been kept on track since the establishment of the Integrated Ticketing Project Board in July 2006.
The Department of Social and Family Affairs is expected to issue new Public Services Cards later this year which will allow Free Travel recipients to avail of integrated ticketing in the greater Dublin area.