NSW Govt settles Tcard dispute

news New South Wales Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian has announced the settlement of the long-running Tcard legal dispute with Videlli (formerly ERG). The trial had been due to start next Monday in the Supreme Court of NSW. The resolution of the matter will spare taxpayers a potential loss of around $200 million.

Tcard was slated as the government’s public transport ticketing overhaul, designed to allow commuters to ‘tap on and tap off’ from Sydney buses, ferries and trains, similar to the systems established in Queensland and Victoria.

The dispute began in 2008, after the previous NSW Labor Government cancelled the Tcard contract with smartcard firm ERG. In mid-2008, the government sued the company for damages over the aborted project, which was initiated in the late 1990s. Then-Deputy Premier, John Watkins, had revealed that the state had consumed $95 million on the project to date, and that ongoing delays, failures and “appalling project management” had forced the government to drop the ERG deal.

In April 2010, Pearl Consortium had won the NSW Tcard contract. The Consortium’s members include the Commonwealth Bank, Cubic Transportation Systems Australia (which had set up a similar ticketing system in South-East Queensland) and Downer EDI Engineering Power.

Berejiklian explained that the settlement enables the State Government to retain about $27 million previously recovered, and that the defendants had currently paid an additional $5 million in cash. She said that the cross claim against the Government was discontinued.

“Labor first promised we would have a Tcard integrated electronic ticketing system for public transport for the Sydney Olympics. Twelve years later, their mess has been cleaned up by the NSW Liberals & Nationals,” Berejiklian said. “Apart from sparing the State a potential multi-million dollar payout, this resolution means Transport for NSW experts working on the introduction of the Opal card can now do so without the distraction and demands of a long and complex court case.”

The development of the government’s new smartcard ticketing system, the Opal, is progressing well, according to Berejiklian. The Opal project is on track to roll out to ferry customers in December this year. Following its introduction on ferries, the Opal will be progressively introduced on trains, followed by buses and light rail. Calling Labor’s legacy in public transport shameful, Berejiklian stated that the government is moving on with the task of building infrastructure, restoring services and streamlining the back office to improve efficiency.

I’m glad that the Tcard saga is finally finished, but it’s too early for the Coalition in NSW to be dancing on Labor’s grave here. The new State Government still needs to prove that it can implement a public transport smartcard ticketing system where Labor failed. I think Sydneysiders are pretty tired by now of dipping bits of paper into meters and buying new bits of paper to travel around our fair city. The technology is available right now for people to simply tap their smartphones on and off when they enter and leave a bus, ferry or train. Let’s hop to implementing it, people ;)

Image credit: Kim Navarre, Creative Commons. Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay


  1. How to have a successful smart card system for Public Transport in two easy steps.

    1) Rationalise and greatly simplify your fare structure.

    2) Beat anyone who objects to step 1 with a bound copy of the current fare structures that exist across all the disparate Public Transport systems in NSW.

    • Have to agree with Craigs two points. It was the fare structure that delayed ERG – they could not fit the fare structure calculations into their POS terminals. Attempts to present this to the minister of the day were blocked by the public servants and hilarity ensued. MyZone fixed most of that in time for the new contract but I have to wonder what could have been if not for our state apparatus.

      I would suggest a point 3.

      3) Eliminate the flag fall charge – distance or zone charging is fine but why build in a disincentive to even board public transport let alone trying to link routes or modes?

  2. The last thing NSW wants is a system that works like South East Queensland’s GoCard. Dodgy readers, faulty cards and an inept authority running the show. Cubic were surprised that indoor GoCard readers were prone to failure when mounted outside on a ferry. Duh!

    Perth & Fremantle have had a smart card ticketing system longer than anyone, and from all accounts it works well. Do people forget about Perth because it is in the west, or because the system works so well it never rates a mention?

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