With more and more cities opting for introducing metro systems, the size of the automated fare collection (AFC) systems market is growing in tandem. Over the years, advancements in communication and mobile technologies have driven the evolution of the AFC architecture from card-centric to account-centric systems. With digitalisation having emerged as a focus area for ensuring faster transit, metro corporations in the country are steadily moving towards the adoption of open loop and near field communication (NFC) technology-based systems from the traditional closed loop and semi-closed loop models.
Indian Infrastructure looks at the technologies adopted for fare collection across major metro systems in the country.
With effect from September 2018, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) introduced quick response (QR) code-based ticketing facility for travel on the Airport Express Line. This facility enables commuters to purchase tickets through the Ridlr application without physically coming to the metro station. Upon paying the fare, the app displays the QR code for the journey, which can be tapped at the QR-enabled AFC entry gates at metro stations of the Airport Line. Based on the public response, the system may be deployed in the entire metro system in the future.
To increase the number of passengers entering/exiting stations per minute, the DMRC introduced an open gate system for the Magenta Line (Janakpuri West-Botanical Garden) and the Pink Line (Majlis Park-Shiv Vihar) constructed under Phase III of the Delhi Metro project. In line with the objective of ensuring last-mile connectivity to its commuters, the DMRC has now integrated the common mobility card in its feeder buses and 13 parking lots of the Delhi Metro network. This move will enable metro smart card users to use their smart cards for making payment for travelling in the feeder buses.
In order to facilitate cashless journeys, Reliance Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) launched India’s first mobile ticketing product “Skiiip Q” in partnership with Paytm. This facility allows passengers to book tickets for up to seven days in advance on their phones. In collaboration with the State Bank of India (SBI), MMOPL has also launched the OnGo mobile ticketing system to help commuters pass the AFC gates using their mobile phones.
Chennai Metro Rail Limited is planning to introduce a ticket payment system wherein NFC technology will be deployed. Under this system, whenever a passenger walks past the AFC gate, the reader will automatically scan the smartphone application and register the code of the station. As the commuter exits a station, the reader will again detect the phone via the app and deduct the fare based on the distance travelled. However, if the smartphones are not NFC enabled, commuters can purchase a chip which will be stuck to their phones. Earlier, in January 2017, SBI had also launched a combo card for commuters of the Chennai metro which acts as a debit card as well as a metro transit card.
In June 2017, the Kochi Metro Rail Corporation launched an open loop EMV-based smart card in partnership with Axis Bank called Kochi Metro Card I. It became the first metro corporation to introduce an open loop smart card based on Europay, MasterCard and Visa in a metro system. Plans to make this card usable on city buses are also in the offing.
Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited is also working on a plan to introduce QR-based tickets. While all the stations under Phase II will have advanced AFC gates which accept QR-code tickets as well as open loop cards, the existing AFC gates will also be upgraded to make them QR code enabled.
The Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) has also launched metro RFID-enabled smart cards called Go Smart to facilitate cashless travel. Recently, the LMRC also signed an MoU with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), whereby these Go Smart cards will be used for payment of BSNL post-paid mobile bills along with the purchase of prepaid products at the ticket office machine counters at all metro stations.
In November 2017, Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited launched the TSavaari application, which provides information about metro stations across Hyderabad, besides the time taken, distance and directions to reach nearby metro stations using Google Maps. In December 2017, Ola Money also tied up with TSavaari to allow commuters to recharge their metro smart cards directly from the Ola Money app.
Given the pace of digitalisation, further advancements in transit fare collection systems are expected, which have the potential to revolutionise public transportation and transform it into a far more efficient service that benefits all stakeholders – customers, operators, industry players, the government and urban communities. Going forward, the demand for AFCs is forecasted to emerge from Tier II cities with several upcoming and ongoing metro projects. This provides opportunities for Indian manufacturers and technology companies to tap the growing market, which is still dominated by global players.