Implementation of a Public Transport Smartcard Nationwide in the Netherlands

Implementation of a Public Transport Smartcard Nationwide in the Netherlands


F Cheung, DVS Centre for Transport and Navigation, NL


Public Transport Smartcard has been introduced with success and research studies on passengers satisfaction are used to support nationwide implementation


The Netherlands is making steady progress in its policy goal to implement a public transport smartcard nationwide on all forms of public transport, including the railways. The initial technical problems have been ironed out and organizational difficulties resolved. This has been achieved by adopting a coordinated strategy of gradual introduction in phases and periodic monitoring of public acceptance. Research studies and questionnaire surveys have been undertaken. System-wise implementation has been made possible after extensive trials with diverse groups of users, including the elderly and the handicapped. The objectives of the trials are to ascertain the robustness of the technology in a demanding operating environment and to have feedbacks from the users regarding their perceptions and real-life experiences.

The national policy goal is to enable the travellers to use the smartcard to travel on any form of public transport in the whole country. Smartcards are compatible in all regions; however, operators can have their own design and livery. The project is a joint commercial enterprise by the operators and supported by the Transport Ministry. The operational objective is to take advantage of advanced AFC-technology to replace the paper ticket in use in urban and regional public transport since 1980.

The first commercial introduction was on the metro and 2 bus routes in Rotterdam in December 2005. Since then, the smartcard has been gradually extended to the bus and tram networks. Under a dual regime, the smartcard (distance-related) operates in parallel with the traditional strip ticket (zonal-based). An agreement has been reached such that net financial burden to the passengers in balance would not be adversely affected in the early years. Short-distance travellers will gain while long-distance passengers have to pay more. This is considered to be a fair and more equitable way of financing the operations.

On 11 February 2010, Rotterdam will become the first urban agglomeration to enforce exclusive use of the smartcard for travel on the buses, trams and metro. The smartcard has also been implemented with success in Amsterdam. From 27 August 2009 onwards, Amsterdam uses the smartcard as the only form of ticketing and fare payment system for its metro passengers. A request to extend the arrangement on the buses and trams is under consideration. Research has been undertaken to gauge the reactions and level of satisfaction by different user groups. The paper will describe the results and findings in the Rotterdam and Amsterdam regions.

The initial success has spurred other Dutch cities and regional buses to install the equipment and accept the smartcard for fare payment purposes. A landmark development is on the railways. Smartcard technology has been in use on selected railway routes to gain practical experiences. On 1 October 2009, Netherlands Railways (NS) formally introduced the smartcard to a wider public. NS management has chosen to introduce the smartcard in phases firstly as an electronic purse to pay for single trips. As from 1 December 2009, passengers holding Voordeelurenabonnement that gives 40% discount on rail travel outside the peak hours can use their personalized pass as a smartcard. This means that 90% of NS customers with the smartcard would be able to travel and pay electronically. In 2010, passenger will be able to purchase (by downloading) a recognizable rail travel product such as seasonal pass or special travel offers. Until passengers are fully acquainted with the new system and use the smartcard with confidence, conventional paper tickets will remain available.

Another landmark is the transformation of the Public Transport Pass for Students. The pass is a commercial undertaking, issued to all students receiving a study grant from the Education Ministry. This is a significant step towards a nationwide public transport smartcard system. As from 1 February 2010, all 640,000 holders of the Studenten ov-chipkaart will have a personalized electronic smartcard and they must use it for their public transport journeys.

Transport planners and stakeholders have taken a pragmatic approach, ?learning by doing?. When the smartcard is universally accepted, the strip ticket will no longer be in use. The task for the Transport Minister is to determine the timing when the strip ticketing system will phase out. User groups and consumer associations are being consulted and Dutch Parliament will be informed before a final decision is taken. The paper will present an up-to-the-minute progress report on the state of play and describe the latest research findings regarding passengers? response.


Association for European Transport