Barriers go up at Auckland's two busiest railway stations tomorrow as an upgraded version of the electronic Hop card is finally introduced to trains.
Passengers will have to either swipe new cards for the barriers to be lifted before they can enter or leave platforms at Britomart and Newmarket, or buy paper tickets beforehand to show station staff on duty at manually operated gates.
Those boarding trains elsewhere without Hop cards must pay first at platform ticketing machines, or risk being caught by roving "revenue protection" officers armed with wand-like reading devices.
Train operator Veolia is employing 55 revenue staff, although Auckland Transport is waiting for new legislation next year to fine non-payers. Veolia's only power till then will be to ask offenders to get off at the next stop, but Auckland Transport chief operating officer Greg Edmonds says police can issue two-year trespass notices.
It is not known what fines will be but fare evaders in Sydney and Melbourne pay at least $250.
Of 43,000 daily passenger trips on Auckland trains, Mr Edmonds says 70 per cent will begin or end at gated stations and he is confident the new system will reduce revenue loss estimated at 6 per cent from fare evasion or other "leakage".
Holders of Hop cards will also have to remember to tag off at machines at the end of trips or face a penalty deduction of $5.04.
Mr Edmonds said no major errors had been found in a trial with about 400 people and he was confident everything would run smoothly.
That will be the hope of taxpayers and ratepayers footing a $98 million bill for introducing Hop cards on most of Auckland's transport network and bus firms paying $12 million for new ticket-reading machines next year.
Trial participant Louis Olsen said he was finding the new system "ridiculously easy" apart from a small "hiccup" on Wednesday, when he tagged on at a machine at Grafton Station but, after deciding not to wait for a late-running train, could not tag back off.
Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said that although passengers would have up to 20 minutes to change their minds without fares being deducted, they should wait for about 20 seconds for tagging off to work.
On the web
Holders of old cards should register for free replacements at AThopsignup.co.nz
(Mark II) introduction
Ferries: November 30
Buses: from April