In July 2005, the government of Victoria. Australia awarded a AU$500 million contract for development of a smartcard ticketing system for public transport to the Keane Australia Micropayment Consortium (Kamco), with a planned go live (public trials) date of 1 March 2007. The system's design was to permit passengers to use a single plastic Myki smartcard to travel on a network that spans 270 railway stations, 480 trams and 1,650 buses. Passengers would be able to store value on their cards via self-service machines, the telephone or the Internet.

By December of 2007, however, the Myki project was already 9 months late, and over-budget by some AU$500 million. The plan then was for the ticketing system to become operational by June 2008.

Well, according to The Age, late last month, the Victorian government decided to rush the now AU$1.3 billion project into operation in order to meet a political promise to have Myki operating in Melbourne by the end of 2009. However, the government announced that Myki would only be working for the train system - not for trams or buses. Those would have to wait until later this year.

Well, even with that restriction, the launch of Myki has been less than auspicious.

Since it's launch a week ago, there have been major operational problems that have caused the government much embarrassment.

For instance, some 1700 commuters received the wrong Myki smartcard, getting ones they did not order or receiving cards that couldn't be activated. There have also been problems with commuters being charges incorrect fares, or not being able to pass through entrance or exit gates because the cards wouldn't work properly. Things have gotten so bad that the distribution of Myki cards was temporarily halted.

The Acting Premier Rob Hullscalled in the Transport Ticketing Authority executives responsible for Myki for a dressing down, telling them that the system's problems were "unacceptable."

I doubt that this chewing out will have much affect on the Authority or Kamco, however.

When asked, Kamco refused last week to apologize for the Myki project being so late and over-budget. Instead a Kamco spokesperson was quoted in The Australian as saying, "We are rapt that it's out there... No, we aren't going to apologise for anything."

Rapt?

Well, one definition of rapt is "to be transported with emotion," which sort of describes the feelings of James Rowan and Dean Fidock, who headed South Australia's State Transport Authority when Adelaide's Metroticket system was introduced in 1987. According to another story in The Australian, the two said they were "stunned at the amount of money wasted in the Myki fiasco."

Adelaide's was the world's first electronic ticketing system and, like what Myki is supposed to eventually do, covers buses, trains and trams. However, the Adelaide ticketing system only cost AU$10.5 million to develop.

Even accounting for inflation since the mid-1980s, AU$1.3 billion does seem a wee bit excessive for a ticketing system in comparison.

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