New Hafilat card system to replace cash on Abu Dhabi buses

The transport department said the use of coins on buses will gradually be phased out.

Department of Transport staff teach commuters how to use the new Hafilat smart cards at the main bus station in Abu Dhabi on Monday. From Friday, all passengers will have to use a Hafilat card on city buses. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // Hundreds of passengers flocked to Abu Dhabi's main bus station on Monday to get their hands on Hafilat smart cards before Friday's launch of the automated fare-collection system.

Staff from the Department of Transport explained the features of the Hafilat cards (Arabic for buses) and smart machines. Commuters can either buy temporary, permanent or personalised cards, with their photo, name and mobile number.

Cards for students, those with special needs and senior citizens are also available. They can be recharged at two kinds of automated payment machines.

On Monday, passengers were taught how to use the top-up machines – a ticket vending machine, at which they can buy and top up cards with bank cards or cash, and a swift reloader machine, which only accepts bank notes, with no change offered.

“With the Hafilat card, you can store a monetary value electronically in the T-purse, and a weekly or monthly pass,” one staff member said. “You can top it up with Dh20, Dh50 or any amount.”

Weekly passes are Dh30 and valid for unlimited travel for seven days. Permanent and personalised cards can be recharged to a value of Dh150. A fixed weekly value of Dh30, or Dh80 a month, can be added. These tariffs cover travel only within the city of Abu Dhabi. Permanent cards – worth Dh10 – were handed out at the bus station yesterday.

The transport department said the use of coins on buses will gradually be phased out.

Virgie Mendoza, 43, a Filipina nanny, welcomed the smart card. “It’s very convenient because we don’t need to worry about having exact change for our bus fare,” she said.

“But translators should be on hand to explain the system in Hindi, Malayalam and Urdu, since some didn’t quite understand a few things.”

The passengers who queued for the Hafilat cards were mainly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Ticket offices in all major bus stations will sell the cards. The transport department has also installed 48 ticket vending machines, 155 reloaders and 11 machines selling top up cards, in Abu Dhabi bus stations, shelters, customer care centres, shopping malls and hospitals.

Nagina Ziyashamsi, 50, a housewife from India, said: “I use an Ojra bus pass and now need to learn how to recharge the new card.”

The bus fare within the city is Dh2. Fares to the suburbs start at Dh2, plus 5 fils for each kilometre. The intercity fare is Dh10 plus 10 fils per km.

The passenger must scan the card as they get on and off the bus. The fare, calculated automatically based on the journey distance, is deducted from its value. The system only allows passengers with cards to board, eliminating free rides.

“This system is very convenient and will encourage more people to use the bus to get around the city,” said Boban James, 42, an accountant from India who has lived in the capital for 17 years. “Some just get on the bus without paying.”

The awareness campaign about the Hafilat card system will continue until Tuesday at the main bus station, from 10am to 3pm, and 5pm to 10pm.

The other sessions will be held at Khalidiyah Mall from Thursday to Saturday, Dalma Mall from May 21 to 23, Bawabat Al Sharq Mall and Deerfields Mall from May 28 to 30, and Mushrif Mall from June 4 to 6.