Auckland’s HOP card somewhat baffles

Auckland Transport, a subsidiary of the Auckland Council, is creating a integrated ticket for public transport in Auckland, called the HOP card. Phase One of this was completed on Monday. However, personally, I do not understand how this is part of the integrated ticketing process.

Phase One was to change Go Rider cards, which run on all NZ Bus services (North Star, Waka Pacific (incidentally, the worst name for a bus brand ever…), Go West, MetroLink and Link services), to a new card branded HOP. However, this card will need to be changed during Quarter 4 of this year. See, the card we have now is a card that runs on the Snapper system (see www.snapper.co.nz). This makes things interesting, but I’ll get to that later. Anyway, in Quarter 4 this year, we move to a new card that runs on the Thales system (see www.thalesgroup.com). This involves getting a whole new card and transferring your balance over again. Why? Please, someone explain why…

What makes this really interesting is that Phase One is not really integrated ticketing at all, down to the fact that the tickets and the buses are all run by, the same company.

If we start by looking at the ownership structure of Snapper Services Limited (Snapper). There are 100 shares in Snapper. All of these are possessed by Swift Transport Limited (Swift Transport) (see http://www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/1891262/shareholdings).

There are 100 shares in Swift Transport. All of these are possessed by Infratil Limited (Infratil). Infratil is a publicly listed company. (see http://www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/1733241/shareholdings)

Then we move to the ownership of NZ Bus. The brand NZ Bus is run by Transportation Auckland Corporation Limited (TAC), according to the old Go Rider cards (I have one in front of me, so I know). There are 30 million shares in TAC. All of these are possessed by New Zealand Bus Limited (NZ Bus Ltd). (see http://www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/446298/shareholdings)

This is where things get slightly weird. There are 133 shares in NZ Bus Ltd. 100 of these shares are possessed by Swift Transport (who own Snapper). The other 33 are possessed by New Zealand Bus Finance Company Limited (NZ Bus Finance).

What makes that weird is there are 100 shares in NZ Bus Finance, all of which owned by Swift Transport. So Swift Transport directly own about 75% of NZ Bus Ltd, but indirectly they own 100%. Why do those 33 shares even exist? Well, other than to defraud banks into thinking that NZ Bus Ltd isn’t owned by one company that is. The really weird thing is they even have different directors……

But anyway, when it boils down to it, the current HOP cards are run by Infratil, who own NZ Bus. And really, all we have is a rebranded Go Rider card. There are two things I don’t understand about this, putting the ownership stuff aside. Firstly, why did Auckland Transport get involved with this, when it’s simply NZ Bus rebranding their Go Rider cards, and secondly, how is this, to quote the HOP website, “First introduction of public transport integrated ticketing”. In reality, there is no difference between what we had before and what we have now.

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Posted on June 11, 2011, in New Zealand Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Completely agree with what you’re saying. In a nutshell, Thales beat Infratil so Infratil threw a sook an decided to introduce a Snapper to provide some competition/confusion (whichever word floats your boat). Auckland Transport thought a competitor under a different name would detract from the ‘one ticket’ idea so negotiated a deal whereby HOP branding would go on the Snapper card in return for all the initial HOP revenue would go to Infratil – so Snapper’s a rebranded Go Rider, and the current HOP is a rebranded Snapper. Later the Thales system will come on, providing proper integrated ticketing on NZ Bus/Train/Ferry services, extending to Richies and other bus companies next year and finally a zone based fare system by the end of 2012. Revenue from this system will go to Auckland Transport. In the end there will be one integrated ticket.

    Auckland Transport got involved because it wanted its HOP branding to be dominant – it didn’t want a competitor in the form of Snapper derailing the integrated ticketing process. However I can’t help but think they’d have been better off leaving it alone – they needed to have faith that their product would be superior – which it will be – the Thales system is more advanced and will be accepted on all operators. In the meantime there’s a lot of confusion “what’s HOP, what’s Snapper” and there’ll be a need to “upgrade” cards in the coming months.

    The only redeeming ‘plus’ of the process is that Auckland got smartcard tag-on-tag-off technology a few months sooner than it otherwise would have and people get into the habit before the real HOP comes on later this year.

    • I don’t understand how they can say it is integrated ticketing at all right now though. False advertising much?

      I do agree that getting people into the habit is probably a good thing, given that NZ Bus does control most of the bus companies in Auckland. I still don’t get it though. The real HOP will obviously be a dominant product, because even if someone is going to use the NZ Bus services more, they would be better off getting the real HOP rather than the Snapper, because if they do need to use a train or a ferry or other bus, they have that option. All this has done is complicate the situation.

  2. Agreed. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time – it gets the HOP brand exposed and yeah it gets people into the habit, and we get the smartcard technology a few months earlier…but yeah the whole deal with a second swapover is going to be confusing and a big mess. They needed to have more faith that their product would be superior – which it will be. A card accepted on all modes and operators (eventually) with a cheaper zone-based fare system will obviously be alot more popular than a glorified Go-Rider card.

  1. Pingback: HOP shambles – the media’s turn « Politicalisation

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