Abu Dhabi bus passengers complain of payment glitches

Malfunctioning machines frustrate some, but others say it is a great service as they no longer have to carry cash for their commutes.

A Hafilat ticket machine and swift reloader on Muroor Road. Many of them do not work, say users. he National / Delores Johnson
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Four months after the fare card system was launched in Abu Dhabi, some bus passengers have said that several of the payment machines are not working properly.

The Hafilat (buses, in Arabic) top-up machines are vending machines at which bus users can buy and top-up cards with cash, and a swift reloader machine, which only accepts bank notes, with no change offered.

One happy customer, Renuka Disanayak from Sri Lanka, a daily commuter who has lived in the capital for two years, said: “I’ve never had any problem refilling my Hafilat card. Generally, I refill it at the main bus station every month. I found this more convenient than carrying cash.

“Having to carry coins was a big headache but this card system put an end to all those hassles.”

However, Melanie van den Hoven, a university instructor from Canada, has come across malfunctioning machines on Muroor and Airport roads.

When her credit was close to zero one day, she struggled with the machine near Mushrif Mall. “My husband and I drove along Muroor to Airport Road from 21st Street to Carrefour and while we saw seven machines and felt hopeful that one would work, imagine our disappointment that seven in a row did not work,” Ms van den Hoven said. “After seven, we gave up.”

The machine closest to her workplace on the corner of Muroor and Salama bint Butti Street has been defaced so badly it is unusable, while the one across the road did not seem to work either.

Ms van den Hoven, who has a driving licence and whose husband owns a car, started using buses when it became difficult to get taxis from her home in Khalidiya.

Since moving to Al Reef, on the outskirts of the city, she travels on the express buses, numbers 300, 301, 302 or 304.

“I respect the initiative,” she said. “The bus card system was not well launched but with attention it can be fixed and improved.”

The Department of Transport (DoT), she said, should review the procurement contract of the machines and ensure technicians are scheduled to do weekly spot checks and repairs.

“I am not convinced of the quality of the materials and the design for this setting,” Ms van de Hoven said. “Why is there no cover for someone standing under them? A simple upper awning or hood would even help to block the sun.”

However, while Ms van den Hoven had experienced problems, other bus users were happy with the new system.

Filipina Margene Macadan said she had faced no issues with the top-up machines.

“Every month I spend Dh80 on the card and it’s very satisfying to just flash the card and enter the bus,” said Ms Macadan, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for four years.

Jesseril Sotto, 39, a Filipino cleaner who was waiting at the main bus terminal on Thursday for a bus to Khalifa City, said he has yet to top up his new card but he has seen passengers struggling with the machines.

“It’s frustrating if you’re not able to recharge quickly and miss the bus,” he said.

To avoid malfunctioning machines swallowing up cash and not dispensing his card, Aziz Al Harbi, 21, a university student from Yemen, would ask staff at the main bus terminal to top up his card.

“I prefer not to use any of these machines so I usually ask reception to reload my card,” said Mr Al Harbi, who bought a permanent-use card in July. “I don’t have to worry about losing my money.”

To report any problems with the smart card machines, contact the DoT customer care centre on 800 555555.

The DoT did not respond to requests for comment.


Additional reporting by Anwar Ahmad