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Disposable e-Transport cards must be available in all buses

Disposable e-Transport cards must be available in all buses
February 23
11:00 2018

The e-ticketing system has been met with mixed reactions since its implementa­tion despite its good intention.

Some have embraced the change with open arms while others have raised issues relat­edto access to top up agents in rural areas or after hours and non-availability of disposable cards onthe buses.

There is another school of thought that there is a need to do away with disposable cardsal­together in order to fully realise a cashless fare system.

More recently queries have been raised on the transfer of unclaimed dispos­able card monies on toan Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Trust Fund created by the state.

Since then more discussions have been gen­erated on this subject. The Council wishes to clarifyfew issues raised on this subject through the media.

The e-ticketing system was created to curb pilferage and determine the revenue earned annually by the Bus Industry so that tax-payer’s money is not used in providing con­cessions if the busindustry is able to control pilferage and collect all the revenue.

The Council does agree that there are pas­sengers who are still facing problems with e-ticketingsystem including the sale of dispos­able cards. Currently, disposable cards are sold at all Vodafone and Valuephone outlets and on the buses. The two chains of outlets currently operate from 9am to 5pm on a daily basis and are closed on Sundays. Those who commute from rural communities earlier than these times with no top up agents near their residence have found travel frustrating. It is for thisreason disposable cards should be available in the buses.

It must be noted that every disposable card sold by the bus drivers can be accounted for andacquitted at the end of the shift unlike the cash system which relied on the bus tickets to tally therevenue.

So, there are mechanisms in place to ensure transparency and accountability in the e-ticketingsystem in comparison to the cash payment system.

Earlier, suggestions were made that the dis­posable cards should not be sold by the bus drivers to make the system cashless and let retail agents such as canteens, shops and ho­tels sell disposable cards.

This is definitely a good solution but that’s not happening on the ground right now be­causetraders are not interested as they can­not make money out of it.

In such situations, then what is the best op­tion taking into consideration that passen­gers should continue with their travel with less hassle and pilferage is contained?

Section 5A (1) of the Electronic Fare Ticketing (Budget Amendment) Act 2017 stip­ulates apassenger may purchase a disposable bus card from a solution provider, top up issu­ing agent or an omnibus driver.

The latter part of the clause indicates that bus drivers have a responsibility to carry dis­posable bus cards with them. Unfortunately, there are bus companies that do not carry dis­posable cards at all or carry disposable cards in high denominations.

This is where the problem starts. It is equally the responsibility of the bus operators to en­sure that their drivers have enough dispos­able cards in denominations affordable to general public for the trip and the passengers can then top up at the outlets.

Concerns were also raised in regard to un­claimed monies on expired disposable cards.

According to Section 5A(3) of the Electronic Fare Ticketing (Budget Amendment) which states “e-money that is not refunded to a pas­senger upon the expiry date of a disposable bus card must be transferred by the solution provider to a fund prescribed by regulations for the development of information and com­munication technologies in Fiji”

The Council would like to highlight that consumers can claim any money left on the disposable card within a month by taking the card to any Vodafone and Valuephone outlets. The card is activated upon the first use. If a consumer does not claim the balance after the expiry of the card, only then it is transferred to the ICT Development Trust. Disposable cards are temporary in nature as the name suggests.

This practice is similar to that of inactive accounts held by banks. Unclaimed money from aspecific account is transferred to the Reserve Bank of Fiji which then remits the funds to the government. The account holder is given a specific time frame to claim the money on the account before it is transferred.

The Trust Fund was created to help increase accessibility of ICT services across the coun­try.

Following the launch of a national broad­band policy in 2012, the government created an ICT Trust Fund to build capacity and in­crease internet penetration and access.

This fund is used to finance telecentre pro­jects which allow communities to use broad­band internet services at designated commu­nity centres for free.

To make this system work, every stake­holder needs to come on board and it must start with bus operators first as a beneficiary of this system, after all revenue collection should not be left to the public and the state.

What they can do collectively is raise aware­ness on e-ticketing in a cost- effective manner by playing recorded message on their bus on how to use e transport card, where to top-up, what not to do etc. etc.

Also bus operators should ensure disposable cards are available in their buses as required under the legislation and also promote e-tick­eting.

On the other hand, the solution provider needs to engage with either more retail out­lets or develop systems and processes so that travelling passengers can top-up their card easily just like how they get their recharge cards for their mobile phones.

LTA need to ensure the regulations are fol­lowed. Finally, consumers in the interim can carry exact amount of money to buy their dis­posable cardand only use disposable card in an emergency situation.

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