A Working Forum to formalise outstanding elements of South Africa’s Electronic Fare Collection System has been established by the Department of Transport (DoT).

The Forum will include representatives from the public and private sector. This demonstrates how collaboration between Government and industry can speed up the deployment of ITS systems.

“While hosting the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010 is adding a great sense of urgency to get new public transport systems developed, tested and operational before the 2010 deadline, we need to design a ticketing system, or systems, that can serve us well long after the event.”

The establishment of the Working Forum followed a workshop on EFC co-hosted by the Intelligent Transport Society South Africa with the DoT.

The electronic fare collection system (EFCS) for South Africa’s new, and existing, public transport modes should be formalised by the first quarter of this year, Department of Transport director for public transport policies Ibrahim Seedat said.

He added that the country would need a national ticketing standard with the impending roll out of public transport systems, such as the Gautrain and the bus rapid transit (BRT). The Gautrain is a rapid rail link between Johannesburg and Pretoria and between Sandton and the OR Tambo International Airport. The metropolitan government of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban are all planning the introduction of BRT systems.

DR PAUL VORSTER, CEO of ITS South Africa, reports on the recent Electronic Fee Collection workshop co-hosted with South Africa’s Department of Transport

A complex issue
Once it was chosen, the integrated fare management system (IFMS) would be implemented across the new modes in a phased approach and would potentially filter through to all means of public transport, including the country’s most prolific people-mover, the minibus taxi industry.

“There are also pilot projects being deployed. The challenge is to develop the procedures based on internationally accepted standards that will promote better integration between the transport systems,” adds Vorster.

He points out that the integration of ticketing systems is by no means a simple issue, with some of the issues easier to resolve than others.

“A more vexing issue is that of the software that ‘drives’ the hardware. Another complex challenge is the issue of data structures that are needed to facilitate better integration. The security of the different transport systems also needs to be sufficiently addressed, if we are to achieve integrated transport systems. Currently being debated is how a back office system, or ‘clearing house’, could look to promote the achievement of electronic fare collection.”

DoT has sent a letter to the Reserve Bank and local commercial banks enquiring about the viability of an “open-system payment solution” for the country’s public transport modes. DoT was looking to explore this option for implementation.

The authority for the formalisation and gazetting of the ticketing system lies with the Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe.

South Africa’s National Land Transport Transition Act of 2000 calls for public transport to be integrated through ticketing and interoperability of payment mechanisms that avoid duplication of payments and resources. An effective IFMS should ensure intermodality – commuters could use one payment mechanism across various transport means – it would also prevent fraud and promote secure transactions.

An IFMS would function not only for the payment of fares, but also for the collection of data about passengers and their travel information, which would be Stateowned and could be used for the creation of regional data bases.

Dr Christopher Querée, Head of Systems Planning within RSP (Rail Settlement Plan), part of the UK’s Association of Train Operating Companies, was an invited speaker. He briefed the delegates on the pros and cons of various EFC systems across the world and highlighted the applicability for the South African environment.

Querèe says that opening standards and a common security method are vital for the country’s benefit. A business case for payment based on mobile phones may be valid in South Africa, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup is a deadline, but transport ticketing will last forever.

Saha International’s director for electronic transactions Neil Frost said that research indicated that lowvalue payments and interoperable fare management systems (or IFMS) were increasingly converging, using contactless fare media that was compliant with ISO 14443, which is the international standard for contactless cards.

He noted a few examples around the world, including the Oyster system in London, the New York underground, Salt Lake City (Utah), Seoul Korea and the implementation of a pay-pass system in Taiwan.

Frost added that local banks had expressed their desire and commitment to create common standards with regard to fare management.

Techso MD Dr Johann Andersen said at the workshop that an EFCS should be looked at critically. The system should be flexible enough to accommodate varying user needs. Open standards should be applied to ensure interoperability and banking and payment regulatory framework must be adhered to.