Smartcard response to fare fury

Plans to introduce smart tickets on the public transport systems in Athens and Thessaloniki are being stepped up, sources said yesterday, to tackle fare dodging, which is threatening to get out of hand as citizens’ groups have started actively encouraging commuters not to stamp their tickets as a sign of protest against imminent price hikes. Members of consumer pressure groups gathered at Syntagma metro station in Athens and at the electric railway station in Piraeus yesterday to protest the rise in the cost of transport tickets from February 1. As opposed to the 1-euro 90-minute travelcard that exists now, passengers will have the choice of a 1.20-euro or 1.40-euro ticket. Protesters encouraged passengers not to validate their tickets in order to display their opposition to the hikes. A similar movement has recently been active in Thessaloniki as well. According to the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) fare dodging is as high as 40 percent, particularly on the buses. Authorities have pledged to increase the number of ticket inspectors but they are also placing their faith in new electronic tickets. Over the past five years, the Transport Ministry has announced on four separate occasions that it would introduce tickets that would allow fare dodgers to be detected electronically. Sources said that the government wants to launch the tender for the 82-million-euro project by the end of the month so that work on the scheme can begin by the end of the year. Once installed, the system will allow transport authorities to introduce plastic smartcards to replace paper tickets, which would allow passengers to credit money to their card. Officials expect to gain 30 million euros over the next three years by tackling fare dodging.