Sydney's Public Transport Ticketing System
Release: TBC (Project Restarted)
Prior System: Automated Fare Collection System
Issuing Authority: Public Transport Ticketing Corporation
Technology: MIFARE DESfire
Official Website
Tcard (formally Integrated ticketing system) is the name of the contactless smartcard ticketing system that is planned to be introduced on public transport in Sydney, New South Wales.

The card would replace the existing Automated Fare Collection System on CityRail, Sydney Buses, Western Sydney Buses, Sydney Ferries and Newcastle Buses & Ferries services. It will also bring private-sector bus, rail and ferry operators into the city's integrated ticketing system.

Tcard was required to process all existing 500 variants of tickets issued in the current ticketing system. This was compared to Melbourne which only had 54 variants and Hong Kong which only had 10 fare products.

On 9 November 2007, the New South Wales government issued a notice of intention to terminate the contract to the developer, ERG Group.

On 23 January 2008 the New South Wales government cancelled the Tcard contract with Integrated Transit Solutions Limited (ITSL).

On 18 March 2008 the School Student Transport Scheme Tcard system was switched off in response to the terminated contract.


Sydney has used a number of automated ticketing systems since the opening of the Eastern Suburbs Railway in 1979. At present, government-run buses, trains and ferries use the Automated Fare Collection System, rolled out between 1988 and 1993.

A replacement system, based on smart card technology, was first announced by the New South Wales Government in 1996. The Government put the project up for tender attracting competing bids from US-based Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc., which created the CityRail magnetic strip system and Perth-based ERG Group. The contract was initially awarded to ERG Group but Cubic launched legal action against ERG and the NSW Department of Transport, obtaining an injunction against the contract. Finally on 26 July 2002, the Supreme Court of New South Wales ruled in favour of ERG and the Department of Transport. As a result, the contract to install and operate Integrated ticketing project, or Tcard, as the plan became known, was finalised and awarded to ERG Group at the end of 2002. ERG previously developed the Octopus Card smart card ticketing system in Hong Kong and delivered magnetic stripe based ticketing systems in both Sydney and Melbourne in the 1990s.

In 2005, a limited trial of the technology involving school children using the School Student Transport Scheme was undertaken, and expanded to cover all private-sector bus services in 2006.

In a bid to smooth the introduction of Tcard, the government established the Public Transport Ticketing Corporation to oversee the project. The corporation commenced operations in July 2006. Originally slated for a 2007 introduction, the Tcard rollout timetable project was pushed back. Ridiculing the revised timetable, opposition transport spokesman Barry O'Farrell told Parliament that "The only smart move by the Minister for Transport is putting off implementation of the full operation of the Tcard until after the 2007 state election campaign..

In mid 2006, the future of the project was in doubt as ERG Group was forced to borrow $14 million to prop up company finances. The government moved to renegotiate the contract, having already spent $54 million.

In April 2007, an official letter from the Public Transport Ticketing Corporation was sent to ERG complaining about numerous concern such as software problems dogging the project.

Beginning August 2006, commuter field trials were held on selected lines of Sydney Buses and the Punchbowl Bus Company. The trials hit a hitch when bus drivers threatened a boycott due to the machine crashing when printing tickets, distracting drivers, which in turn led to safety issues. Discontent among ground level workers involved with the trial renewed calls for the Tcard system to be scrapped.

On November 9, 2007, the New South Wales government issued a notice of intention to terminate the contract with ERG. On the 23rd of January 2008, the NSW government announced it had terminated the contract and would be seeking to recover $95 million from ERG.

On July 3, 2008 after 3 months of a terminated contract and a $200m lawsuit by ERG it was revealed that the Tcard system project had been revived by cabinet. This decision also required the state government to change the structure of its fare system to suit the Tcard.


Tcard is based on smart card technology and employs the 13.56MHz MIFARE RFID technology. A MIFARE DESfire chip embedded in the Tcard communicates with the card reader through RFID induction technology. These cards require only close proximity to an antenna to complete transaction. They are often used when transactions must be processed quickly or hands-free, such as on mass transit systems, where smart cards do not have to be removed from a wallet for use.

Like smart cards with contacts, contactless cards do not have a battery. Instead, they use a built-in inductor to capture some of the incident radio-frequency interrogation signal, rectify it, and use it to power the card's electronics.

Similar systems operate in many cities in Asia, Europe, and North America. Particularly successful examples including the Octopus card of Hong Kong (also developed by ERG) and the Oyster card of London. A smartcard system called myki is planned for Melbourne, the SmartRider system has been launched in Perth in 2007, and the TransLink Go card launched in Queensland in 2008. See List of smart cards for a list of smart cards, including integrated public transport ticketing systems.


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