Door is now open for rivals to enter the digital payment sector
BY VASCO VEN DER BOON
AMSTERDAM – Interpay, the electronic payment organisation owned by the Dutch banks, has been dropped from the tendering process to run a revolutionary new electronic ‘smart card’ ticketing system to replace the existing national bus and tram payment scheme, or strippenkaart, from 2003.
Shortly before Christmas, the board of directors of Trans Link Systems (TLS), the body administrating the bidding process, decided that the bid by Interpay and Australian partner ERG Transit Systems was to be dropped from the race, sources told Het Financieele Dagblad. The reason for the decision is not known. The surprise move has been described by some bank sources as a set for Dutch banks, as it leaves the door open for the entry of a new and large competitor into the electronic payment sector in the Netherlands.
Two groups in the bidding race. They are a consortium made up of Siemens Nederland and US IT firms EDS and Cubic and another consortium consisting of Vialis, a subsidiary of Dutch construction group Volker Wessels Stevin, consultants Accenture, Hong Kong public transport firm MTR and French IT company Thales.
The project to replace the paper card with an electronic chip card is believed to be the first nation-wide system in the world, is estimated to be worth at least 1 bn. The competition is being run by TLS on behalf of Dutch Rail NS, bus company Connexxion, and the municipal transport companies, RET (Rotterdam), HTM (The Hague) and GVB (Amsterdam).
Together these companies are responsible for 90% of the public transport in the Netherlands.
TLS have organised an additional selection round because at the moment the bids by the two consortiums are judged to be very close at the moment.
This will add four months to 12 months allocated to pick a winner. Now, the aim is to sign a contract by April to allow the introduction of the card in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and the Veluwe regions for trams, buses and the metro by Autumn 2003. The new card would go nationwide in 2004.
Similar cards introduced in Washington, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris have been studied intensively by the consortia bidding for the contract.
Last July, Gregory Garback, executive officer of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, said the US city’s existing smart card was a great success.
It allows users automatic access to buses, trains and parking facilities in Washington. The card can be ‘filled up’ to the value of $ 200 (euro 192) and it can be blocked in cases of theft or loss.