A multi-regional bus ticketing system - aimed at making paying for buses easier for thousands of users - has been delayed by two years and blown $3.5 million over budget.
The new Regional Integrated Ticketing System, similar to Auckland Transport's Hop card, was due to be rolled out to nine regions in mid-2018. But an "over ambitious project timeline" for designing and testing the system has meant the project is unlikely to be rolled out across the nine regions until April 2020.
And it may only be in use for six years before it is replaced by a national public transport ticketing system, Project NEXT, already in the pipeline and due to be rolled out first in Wellington in 2021.
The RITS project is a collaboration between Otago, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Manawatū-Whanganui, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Northland, Nelson, and Invercargill councils who have been working together to replaced their existing ageing system with a single ticketing system.
The original cost of the project was expected to by $11.1m, but it is now expected to reach $14.6m.
In 2017, the RITS consortium said in a statement that working together would save money for ratepayers, but it has also been the reason for some of the delays as they try to develop a system to meet all their needs.
RITS governance group chairman Mike Garrett said $1.5m the increase was due to increases in supplier costs, more buses being added to the networks and configuration changes required over this time.
The remaining $2m overspend relates to implementation including additional scoping and testing.
"It's fair to say the original project timeline was ambitious and the system design phase and testing has taken considerably longer than we had first thought it would. The focus on rigorous system testing has been especially important to the consortium to ensure the change is smooth for our customers when rolled out in each region," Garrett said.
The system is predominantly being tested in Northland before it is rolled out to the other regions in the first half of next year. Testing on a Waikato bus is due to start next month.
In Waikato the cost has blown out from to $891,979 to $1.248m, the Bay of Plenty's share has gone from $930,582 to $1.23m, Otago's has risen from $976,273 to $1.227m, Northland is up from $106,360 to $160,121 and Hawke's Bay has gone from $225,115 to $289,630.
The new system is aimed at making bus travel easier for customers as they will be able to top up cards online and it will enable faster boarding and exiting, Garrett said.
It would also enable the councils involved to have improved financial management and give rich data on customer journey for use in future network planning.
German-based technology provider INIT was awarded the contract in 2017 following a competitive tender process. The consortium has a fixed contract price from the supplied so there has been no additional cost to councils for the development of the system.
A NZTA spokesperson said it has been working closely with the councils to ensure the new system makes it easy and convenient for people to pay for public transport. NZTA is funding 65 per cent of the cost.
The system will be in place until a national solution dubbed, Project NEXT, is rolled out to allow commuters to use either mobile devices, credit or debit cards, or a national transit card to access all forms of public transport.
Project NEXT is to be used by all the regions involved in the RITS, as well as Auckland, Canterbury and Auckland. The national system is expected to be rolled out across all regions by 2026.
Garrett said the RITS project had provided some valuable learnings for the national ticketing project and resulted in the vendor putting more resources into it.
2016 - Budget for Regional Integrated Ticketing system estimated at $11.1m
2017 - German-based technology firm awarded contract
2018 - Initial date when RITS was due to be in place
2019 - RITS being trailed on Northland bus system. New figures reveal cost $14.5m
2020 - Due to be rolled out across all nine regions by April
2021 - National ticketing system to be trailed in Wellington
2026 - To be replaced by national ticketing system