Bus ticketing system ‘not fit for purpose’

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SERIOUS mistakes were made in the purchase of a bus ticketing system which is having to be replaced after less than five years.

The Almex system, which was introduced at a cost of £381,483 in September 2008, is now deemed no longer fit for purpose.

The Department of Community Culture and Leisure is due to seek Tynwald approval for a replacement system called Ticketer at a cost of £400,000.

A public accounts committee report on the fiasco was presented to last month’s Tynwald sitting but never debated.

It concludes that serious mistakes were made in the procurement of the Almex bus ticketing system.

A civil servant with no experience in this area was put in charge of procurement and this hindered the selection of the most appropriate ticketing system.

When Almex was introduced, it didn’t deliver the required specification. Giving evidence to the public accounts committee in September, director of public transport Ian Longworth said key routines were missed in the software and more than £30,000 had to be spent to fix it for immediate use.

‘That was shortly after I arrived. I was somewhat uneasy about what I had inherited,’ he said.

Never more than a minor player, according to Mr Longworth, Almex has now withdrawn from the UK market entirely – confirming that the system was a ‘poor choice’, the committee concluded.

Its report found: ‘The department has not received value for money in spending £381,000 on the Almex system and having to replace it less than five years after it became operational.

‘Indeed we expect the overall cost to be much higher than £381,000 when considering the additional costs incurred in servicing.’

Unlike Almex, the proposed new Ticketer system, which will also cover the heritage railways, will include a smart card reader so that the island can have a system like the top-up pay-as-you-go Oyster cards used in London.

Mr Longworth told the committee it was expected that the new system would save about £200,000 a year and that it would help to combat ticket fraud.

He said: ‘Because of the flimsiness and crudeness of multi-ride tickets here, we have a fairly major fraud problem and we expect cards to eradicate that.’

DCCL chief executive Nick Black said details were still being worked on but they were hoping to seek Tynwald approval very soon.

DCCL Minister Graham Cregeen suggested that instead of Oyster cards Manx travellers could have ‘Kipper cards’.

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