ZB

Wellington steps into 21st century with electronic payments on trains

Author
Georgina Campbell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 Apr 2022, 3:23pm
Greater Wellington Region Chairman Daran Ponter. (Photo / Supplied)
Greater Wellington Region Chairman Daran Ponter. (Photo / Supplied)

Wellington steps into 21st century with electronic payments on trains

Author
Georgina Campbell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 Apr 2022, 3:23pm

Wellington is stepping into the 21st century with commuters soon being able to use electronic payments via Snapper cards across the entire rail network.

The decision follows a successful trial of Snapper on the Johnsonville train line, where four out of every five passengers now use the card to pay for trips.

Previously, Snapper had only been used on buses. Cash payments were taken on trains or paper tickets could be purchased ahead of a trip.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter wouldn't go as far as calling the system embarrassing but rather described it as "quaint".

"It's certainly a Victorian system of payment and quite literally this system was around in Wellington on our tram network when Queen Victoria was still alive."

Metlink general manager Samantha Gain said the Johnsonville line trial, which started in November, provided the opportunity to get to grips with the physical, operational and passenger requirements needed for electronic ticketing.

"Within three months more than 80 per cent of passengers had adopted the new system. We are delighted by their ringing endorsement of the service."

The regional council plans to roll out Snapper across the Kāpiti line in early November this year, then across the Hutt Valley, Melling and Wairarapa lines later in the month.

The process will require the installation of Snapper validators at all stations.

Heritage New Zealand has previously voiced concerns about these validators at Wellington's central train station because they were not in keeping with the building's colour palette.

Concerns were raised about the posts being intrusive and too bulky. The heritage recommendation was for any new elements to be in keeping with the railway station's historic colours and "recede in prominence, ie dark brown, black".

Further correspondence showed Heritage New Zealand eventually backed down from that position, fully supporting the installation on the validators on the Johnsonville line.

However, if Metlink wanted to install permanent validators, this will be subject to further consultation with Heritage New Zealand with respect to size, design, colour, location, number and scale.

Ponter said international and local experience showed customers increasingly preferred and used cash-free methods of payment for public transport.

"Our focus is on providing better services to passengers and, in our regular customer satisfaction survey, passengers tell us that convenience of paying is an area we can improve on with 68 per cent of rail passengers currently satisfied compared to 78 per cent with our bus passengers.

"Clearly there's room for improvement here and Snapper on rail will have a profound impact."

Regional council transport committee chairman Roger Blakeley said customers would benefit from the convenience of not having to buy a paper ticket.

"Many also prefer to use electronic payment to track and manage their travel budgets, and often, that of their dependants. And as we've seen during Covid we need to have safe, contactless methods of payment available across the region's network."