herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

The €55m Leap Card is a fiasco, blast furious commuters

IT cost €55m and came 10 years late - and now the woes for the transport system's Leap Card are continuing.

It was billed as the system that would finally bring our capital's public transport into line with top European cities.

The Leap Card system, which integrates all public transport for city travellers, has already resulted in hundreds of complaints, with passengers also taking to the internet and the airwaves to voice their dissatisfaction.

The system, which allows passengers to swipe a single pre-paid card on Dublin Bus, Luas, Dart and commuter rail services, has already cost the taxpayer €55m.

But despite only launching in December, some 250 people have complained about the system, condemned as "archaic and slow".

However, despite the public anger, the National Transport Authority (NTA), which oversees the system, said the complaints represented only a small proportion of the 55,000 users.

"Total customer service contacts that could be classified as complaints stands at 250, which is approximately 0.4pc of card-holders. While this represents a small proportion, we're constantly striving to reduce this ratio. Primarily these complaints related to online top up and fares issues," a spokesperson for the NTA told the Herald today.

Flabbergasted

Despite promises of an integrated system, passengers are annoyed they cannot top up at railway stations, since Iarnrod Eireann does not provide the top-ups itself. While the cards can be topped up at Luas ticket machines, they must find a vendor to top up near train stations. A slow online system, which does not allow online credit to be uploaded automatically and can take 48 hours for credit to be ready for collection, and the overcharging of some customers, have all been raised repeatedly by angry passengers.

Roger Lambe, from Donabate, was flabbergasted when, after attempting to top up online, was informed he would have to pick up his credit in Killester.

"They don't actually have any place in Donabate to do it at the moment, it's not even at the railway station," he told RTE's Liveline.

Another customer, Niamh, had planned to use her smart card for the journey home from Heuston Station. But, after discovering there was nowhere open in the station to top up her card, she was forced to return to the rainy streets in search of a shop that sold credit.

"The person at customer service was very apologetic but said I'd need to go back over to Cunningham Road to the Londis to top it up," she added.

Defending the system, a spokesperson for NTA said: "The nature of smart-card ticketing requires a subsequent collection action by cardholders after they complete an internet top-up because the travel credit is stored on the card. Smart cards are not like mobile phones in that they are off-line devices and cannot receive messages over free air as phones can."

While in theory passengers are meant to benefit from lower fares if they use the prepaid Leap cards, dozens have highlighted cases where they have been overcharged for short journeys.

Criticised

Some passengers also criticised the system in place for using the cards on short Dublin Bus journeys. Hundreds discovered they were being overcharged by scanning the cards when getting on the bus. Instead they must queue up and let the driver swipe the card.

However, on doing this, some passengers complained they have been told by Dublin Bus drivers that the city-centre fare of 60 cent wasn't available and the minimum Leap fare was €1.25.

This is despite the fact that Dublin Bus has promoted the city-centre fare as 50 cents when using Leap cards. Other passengers have criticised the fact that the system is not available in the greater Dublin area.

The NTA say a number of changes are in the process of being tested and implemented which will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this process. And despite the complaints, the NTA insists the system is working and any glitches will be rectified.

"Overall the Leap Card scheme has got off to a positive start. Well over 55,000 people are already using Leap Cards to travel into and within the GDA and these cardholders have completed over 850,000 journeys to date. The National Transport Authority is working with the transport operators to further enhance the scheme and continue to improve the convenience Leap Cards provide," it says.

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