A ticket to ride – but when?

The most important tool in the traveller’s visit to London is the Travelcard. This little ticket allows you to travel all over London, on all forms of public transport – bus, tube or train.

I don’t know when the travelcard came about but it was well bedded in by the time I got there in the early 1990s. You could buy your one day Travelcard, usually after 9.30am and all London was yours.

The idea of a seamless ticket that will take you where-ever you want to go is as old as public transport itself. In fact, some would point out that a public transport system is not a proper public transport system without integrated ticketing. Without an integrated ticket what you have is a series of stand alone services which have no interest in connecting with each other and who are only interested in their part of the commuter’s journey.

Does this sound familiar?

Yes, but never fear – an integrated transport ticket for Dublin is imminent. It’s been imminent since 2001 when a special team was set up to bring it to this city. It will probably still be imminent next year and the year after.

Now the word “scandal” drops easily from the columnist’s keyboard. But is this not an absolute scandal that after four years work there is not the slightest inkling about when Dublin is going to have integrated ticketing?

What on earth has this “team” been doing for the past four years?

On the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA) website the introduction of the Luas smartcard is hailed as an advance for integrated ticking.

Hello?

What the Luas smartcard is – is a ticket for the Luas. You can’t use it on the bus. You can’t use it on the Dart or the Arrow. Integrated, me eye.

There simply isn’t a legitimate reason why integrated ticketing isn’t the norm on Dublin transport. I don’t know for sure but I suspect that it’s a case of each transport provider protecting their own revenue streams. This is why we have politicians. This is why we thought the Dublin Transportation Office was set up. To knock heads together and produce a top-class public transport system. The word is ‘system’, not separate services.

There’s a whole lot of talk about traffic gridlock. Talk about pollution and global warming. Talk about our dependence on fossil fuels. Talk about what we are going to do about them.

And a lot of it is just talk. There has been positive developments in Dublin such as the Luas and QBC’s. Some of the opportunities brought about by web technologies have been waved before our eye, like real-time arrival information and mobile phone info. That’s good, credit where it’s due.

But to compete with the private car, the public transport system needs to be joined up. If someone is going to get out of their car and on to a bus or train the journey needs to be as predictable, reliable and hassle-free as possible. Integrated ticketing is a vital part of such a system, not a luxury or a plug-in that can be addressed whenever someone up there decides to get around to it.