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Plans progress to replace Leap cards with cashless payments by 2027

The plans would see contactless debit and credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, and possibly QR codes being used to pay.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Maksim Safaniuk

PLANS FOR THE introduction of “next generation ticketing” on public transport in Ireland are being progressed in a move which ultimately could see the Leap Card being replaced by 2027.

The National Transport Authority has issued a market consultation notice to engage with potential service providers as part of its plans to advance the implementation of an Account Based Ticketing (ABT) system across the bus, rail and light rail network.

It will allow passengers to pay for their journey through their mobile phones, bank cards or official ID card or passport, removing the need to carry a special card for commuting.

The NTA said the introduction of ABT would facilitate a move towards cashless operations with all self-service ticketing to initially operate on urban bus services, which would require no interaction between passengers and drivers.

ABT will validate payments through contactless debit and credit cards, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, while there are also plans to introduce equipment to accept QR codes and electronic tokens as methods to pay for travel.

The NTA said some of the challenges with existing forms of bus fares include that taking payments from passengers boarding at bus stops is the second biggest cause of delays after traffic congestion.

An NTA spokesperson said cash payments were still common among some passengers and accounted for up to 20% of all journeys, which slowed down boarding time.

“Even with Leap Card, the complexity of stages means a large percentage of passengers have to interact with the driver with resultant delays at bus stops due to the fact that the NTA does not currently have a flat fare and operates a tag-on only system,” the spokesperson said.

He claimed delays caused by such interactions on busy routes added significantly to journey times on some services.

The NTA is now seeking to discuss its plans with interested parties to scope out the requirements of back office services to facilitate ABT on public transport services as well as the supply and installation of validation machines on Dublin Bus and Go Ahead services in the capital.

It is also examining using Bluetooth or location based technologies which will not require commuters to tag on or off when using public transport services.

The NTA said it was looking at a possible future “Be-In-Be-Out-Model” which would track the commuter on their journey to determine their fare without the need to place any card near a validation machine.

ABT is regarded as particularly beneficial for foreign tourists wishing to use public transport services as it removes the need for them to source a smart card on arrival.

It is estimated that ABT will bring about the end of existing smart cards within a decade.

In Britain, Transport for London is already allowing commuters to use a system for contactless payments as an alternative to the popular Oyster card.

Although its introduction was around 10 years behind target and over-budget, the Leap card scheme has proven immensely popular, with fares usually offering large discounts of around 30% or more on cash prices for the same journey

Over three million Leap cards have been sold since the since the €55 million smart card system was introduced in December 2011, with transactions worth over €320 million processed last year – up almost 16% on 2017.

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Seán McCárthaigh

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