Myki: the next generation

Challenges ahead for Conduent

You probably saw Monday’s announcement on the next contract for the Myki ticketing system. It’s gone to Conduent for the cost of $1.7 billion for 15 years.

There’s a Government press release here, and you can also watch the video of the press conference with Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll. (The stream started a little early; jump to 6.5 minutes in to see it.)

I should specifically note that while there’s a big push towards bank card fare payment, dedicated public transport cards will remain an option. Some people may have special concessions/discounts, or may not have smart phones or bank accounts, or may not want to link them to their public transport use, including wanting to travel anonymously.

Which cities already offer the option of bank card fare payment? I thought I’d look around and make a list. It quickly became apparent that there’s lots of them, and it’s tricky to verify that they cover all public transport modes and operators in a region.

But I do notice the first big cities to introduce it (at least that I found) all used Cubic as their smartcard system vendor (London 2012-14, Chicago 2013, Sydney 2017-18, Vancouver 2018).

Since then, the number of cities offering it has increased rapidly, and other vendors have caught up. This Mastercard article claims 150 cities were planning to introduce it as of 2018 – noting that as of 2023, there are still plenty of big cities that haven’t got there yet. Melbourne won’t be the first, but we also won’t be the last.

Public transport authorities generally are keen for bank card fare payments. Apart from the benefits to passengers – especially new users – it reduces the burden of issuing and managing transport cards.


So what do we know about Conduent and their plans?

Their press release has some detail:

Victoria’s next transit ticketing system will be implemented in two phases. First, Conduent will install validators on buses, trains and trams and provide a contactless credit and debit card (Eurocard, Mastercard, Visa and Amex) payment system. The system will also allow passengers to pay with existing myki transit cards plus debit and credit cards, as well as NFC-enabled devices including smartphones and smartwatches with digital wallets.

During the second phase, Conduent will implement account-based ticketing (ABT). With ABT, tickets are stored virtually in the cloud, enabling a range of devices such as smartphones, smart cards or media to be securely linked to a user’s account. Flexible account-based features will deliver an improved customer experience. At the heart of Conduent’s ABT is ATLAS ® Ops, an innovative, cloud-based solution designed specifically for multi-modal transport environments. ATLAS Ops provides configurable functionality to accommodate various ticketing features and products.

Conduent press release

Sounds good. The tricky bit is getting it done with a smooth and orderly transition, while ensuring the older equipment keeps working.

Can they do it? This article throws some shade on their efforts, claiming they’ve struggled to deliver in some jurisdictions, and that their existing systems aren’t directly comparable with what’s planned for Melbourne.

The ABC has an article touching on some of the same points.

For those of you reading this blog on Sunday, expect the story on ABC’s TV news tonight. Edit: It’s on iView here (at about 4 minutes in).


Given the contract has been awarded to them, let’s assume the government is confident that Conduent’s system covers all the functionality needed for Victoria. But I wonder if they’ve taken on a system this big before.

In Australia, the Adelaide rollout is pushing ahead. So far it covers trams and O-Bahn buses, with other buses expected to be completed by mid-2023. The older MetroCard readers (also by ACS/Conduent) seem to have worked well – but Adelaide’s network is much smaller than Melbourne’s.

Conduent’s information shows the Flanders (Belgium) De Lijn network (covering cities including Antwerp and Ghent) as the biggest where they’ve deployed their newer bank card-capable readers. Flanders has a population of 6.6 million, about the same as Victoria. That system is said to have 5000 readers.

Myki has perhaps around 3 times that number of readers, and it’ll be more if the promise to cover all of V/Line and all town buses is delivered.

(One common figure cited is 20,000 devices currently on the Myki network, but that presumably includes vending machines, station booking office equipment and so on. The number grew in part due to the slow response times of the original equipment.)

Scale is important. For example, the more users, the more data the validators have to store, particularly the “Action list” of transactions awaiting presentation of the relevant card (for instance online top-ups, or card blocks). If the validators can’t cope, the response times may be too slow.

Scale of course also affects how quickly you can roll out the new equipment and get it all tested and running.

Melbourne’s tram fleet has been a challenge in the past, with vibrations and fluctuating voltages having a history of playing havoc with ticketing equipment – but this appears to have been resolved in Flanders and in Adelaide.

Timing is everything

What’s the timeline? They’re saying trials next year, and the broader rollout in 2025. The government will obviously want it done and stable before the influx of visitors for the Commonwealth Games in March 2026.

I shouldn’t be pessimistic, but Melbourne doesn’t have a good track record with ticketing systems. The scratch tickets were just silly. Metcard was troubleprone (remember when they deployed security staff to guard ticket machines?). The Myki deployment was messy and protracted.

But nobody should want this iteration to have problems, least of all passengers who are just trying to get around.

Let’s hope the government truly has learnt from past missteps, and that Conduent can roll this out smoothly.

Previously: 20/9/2022: What’s going on with iPhone and Myki?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

7 replies on “Myki: the next generation”

Really Really really home there is a way to log onto a website and change your bank card fare, for example make it the youth fare instead of adult full fare. this is being rolled about in Brisbane, but most other places just don’t seam to be interested

“Some people may have special concessions/discounts”
I’m not sure what you mean by “special”. Are you referring to school kids, uni students, disability pensioners, carers, seniors, war veterans/widows, asylum seekers and Health Care card holders who all get 50% discount or greater on PT fares?
If so, I hope the authorities don’t treat this group as a “special” case – they represent a very large proportion of PT users and are a fundamental part of the travelling public. All new ticketing systems should recognise this group and be constructed accordingly – not treat them as an add-on or after thought.

Interesting read thanks Daniel. Here is Queensland the roll out of the next stage of the so called ‘ Smart Ticketing ‘ is proceeding, albeit a bit delayed due to the global issues. Works well with bank cards, phones etc. It is Cubic based, and will be accounts based after the roll out of the equipment is complete. It is Queensland wide which will be handy for intra-state travel. Like planned for myki, you can use the base go card or smart payment options as preferred. Concessions will be available once the move to accounts based backend is implemented. No concessions on smart payment options as yet.

One ticketing idea that may be worth pinching from Sydney trams are card readers on the platforms.
They could be placed at the entrance of CBD, Docklands, Parkville, and Anzac superstop platforms. It’d speed up boarding at those busy superstops as you’d tap on before your tram turns up.
And slow tap on boarding delays were the reason behind the free tram zone that’s lead to chronic CBD tram overcrowding.

@Roger, special was my shorthand for the myriad of free/concession/other discounted ticket types, some of which you have mentioned.

Hopefully what will happen is there will be an option to link the eligibility of those discounts to a bank card. That seems to be part of the plans for Brisbane.

If the contract with Conduent means that smart card/phones/credit cards will all cover the current paper-ticket-only zones, I wonder if they will still retain reservations for long-haul journeys?

Would a happy-medium be to scrap the need for reservations on all train services but retain the reservation requirement for all coach services (except for train replacement coaches)?

I’m tipping they will retain reservations for coaches, especially since standing-room-only is not allowed (and there is no way known it will ever be allowed after those brave kids’ injuries following the recent Melton school coach accident).

thanks for your clarification. Although I’m not too reassured by your words “Hopefully” and “plans” (regarding Brisbane). Sounds like a significant chunk (50%?) of travellers may be overlooked – again.

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