A common inter-operable smart card system for multiple urban transport systems, like the Namma Metro and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, may finally see the light of day in April.
Currently, the smart card ensures commuters do not have to wait in the queues to buy tickets while using the metro. With the new system, commuters can travel seamlessly using one single card for the bus, metro and other transport modes in the future, without the hassle of carrying exact change.
IAS officer Ajay Seth, the Managing Director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), said this card will be the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) as launched by the Prime Minister in March 2019.
Earlier, Seth had told TNM that a pilot program for a prepaid card, which would work only for metro and the BMTC (closed-loop), was set to start in October 2019. But that plan was dropped in favour of the NCMC.
From April, the metro authorities will introduce automatic fare collection (AFC) gates that will comply with the NCMC card.
“We are installing these new AFC gates in the new metro stations in the Kanakapura Road line (Green Line Reach 4 extension Yelachenahalli-Anjanapura line). Operations are due to start from August in this line. The BMTC is also moving to build capacity on their side. Gradually all existing metro stations will have the new AFC gates which would work with the single-use tokens, existing smart cards and NCMC cards,” he told TNM on Thursday.
Incidentally, these new AFC gates will also be the first indigenously made AFC gates in the country. The prototype for the gates is designed by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) along with Centre For Development Of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
The same gates will also be installed when the metro starts Phase-II operations.
BMTC officials said they are also preparing to acquire handheld devices for conductors that can work with these NCMC cards. Officials said the time frame can only be assessed on the budgetary allocation by the state government.
NCMC are bank-issued multiple-use Debit/Credit/Prepaid cards. These cards can work both online and offline, contactless and contact-mode transactions and are not limited to transport purposes.
In response to the question in Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the National Common Mobility Card is an open-loop card, which can be used for all local travel needs in the country. This is aimed at low-value payments for various segments which included Transit, Smart cities, Toll, Parking and other low-value merchant payments, in addition to the normal day to day retail payments. The vision behind the introduction of this card is to have interoperability, based on open standards.
As part of the same reply, she said there is the provision of storing money on the card, which can be used for contactless payments across various uses such as toll transit, parking etc. The wallet where the money is stored is referred to as a global/card wallet. Also, any refund pertaining to the transactions conducted using a global/card wallet will be credited in the replica of the wallet maintained at bank’s end, which further can be added to Global/Card Wallet by the customer.