The Department of Transport announced plans to launch the automated fare collections system for Abu Dhabi buses in December. The authority has yet to roll out the system.
Vinojin Aruldas, 26, checks out the new ticket vending machine at the bus terminal in Abu Dhabi. DELORES JOHNSON / The National
Vinojin Aruldas, 26, checks out the new ticket vending machine at the bus terminal in Abu Dhabi. DELORES JOHNSON / The National

ABU DHABI // Bus travel in Abu Dhabi will soon become easier through a new automated fare collection system.

The new system is called Hafilat, meaning buses in Arabic.

Currently, there are three ticket vending machines inside the bus terminal adjacent to Al Wahda Mall.

The machines will sell and top up the cards with payment by cash or credit card. The message on the machines read: “Soon. Get ready for the launch of the most advanced Abu Dhabi bus card system.”

Last December, the Department of Transport (DoT) announced that the system would be launched this year, although it did not provide a timeline. This month, the authority said it was still testing the system.

The objectives for testing and the internal simulation of the system’s operations are “to reach the highest degree of precision in operations management, distribution and sales to achieve the desired goals of this project” and “to switch from the traditional payment methods to smart payment methods”, it said.

The DoT said it planned to install up to 70 ticket vending machines at all bus stations in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and the Western Region, near AC bus shelters, and in shopping malls.

Five machines called “swift reloaders”, which allow commuters to simply charge their Hafilat cards, have so far been installed inside the Al Wahda bus terminal. The DoT will install up to 300 of the machines in all bus stations in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and the Western Region, customer service centres, AC bus shelters, airports and hospitals. These machines only accept bank notes and do not provide change unlike the ticket vending machines.

Once launched, cardholders can also visit ticket offices at bus stations in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, the Western region and in some customer service centres to purchase and personalise their cards with names and photos, renew them, pay fines for breaking public transport rules or report a lost card.

Currently, passengers can pay by cash or buy Ojra bus passes for Dh80 a month.

The bus fare within the city costs Dh2. Fares to the suburbs start at Dh2, plus 5 fils each kilometre, with Dh5 the average fare. The intercity fare costs from Dh10 plus 10 fils a kilometre, with Dh25 the average fare.

Shiraz Babar, 40, an engineer from Pakistan, said he hoped Abu Dhabi would soon roll out the new system. “An e-system is the way to go,” he said. “It’s convenient, saves time and allows passengers to top up their card with cash or their credit card.”

He was pleased to see the ticket vending machines inside the main terminal recently while waiting for the X88 bus to take him to Ruwais, about 240km west of Abu Dhabi in the Western Region.

“A similar machine was installed at the Ruwais bus station about two months ago,” he said.

At the moment, passengers pay their fare directly to the driver who issues a ticket using a portable machine. The journey to Ruwais, which takes 3 1/2 hours, costs Dh35.

“The manual system is really a waste of the passengers’ and the bus driver’s time,” he said. “The driver doesn’t always have enough change, which is a big problem.”

Vinojin Aruldas, 26, a nurse in Dubai, agreed.

He and his parents, who were visiting from Chennai, chanced upon a ticket vending machine while waiting for the number 54 bus on Muroor Road near the bus terminal. For the past two years, he had been using a Nol card, designed to recharge balances regularly, on the Metro and Roads and Transport Authority buses in Dubai.

“It’s good that Abu Dhabi will have its own bus-card system,” Mr Aruldas said. “People will no longer need to carry some loose change to pay for their bus fare.”

Driver Shahul Hameed, 30, hoped Abu Dhabi’s plan would encourage more people to use public transport and help ease congestion on the emirate’s roads.

“The automated fare collection will also improve road safety,” he said. “The driver can now concentrate on his driving and the road ahead.”

Published: August 23, 2014 04:00 AM


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