A former board member of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) has questioned a move to grant a China company the contract for a smart card system to be installed at train stations in Sri Lanka.
Sanjiva Weerawarana said that when he was on the ICTA board he helped write a report on the project which proposed a more modern solution to railway ticketing locally at a fraction of the cost.
“Tragic that we lost this opp to go all mobile and paper/card-less. Smart cards are dead old now,” Weerawarana tweeted.
He noted that smart phone penetration is now 60% so Sri Lanka can easily make a system that works over SMS and USSD so that any phone works.
“For people who don’t have phones we can have kiosks – which are simply mounted android phones (like how you pay for parking in Galle Face One). Low cost,” he said.
In February, the Ministry of Transport Management announced that a smart card for quick train travel and an e-ticketing system for seat reservations in trains will be introduced in the near future.
Cabinet approval has been granted to provide the contract for the installation of ticketing machines for the project to a Chinese firm.
The issuing of train tickets is to be carried out under five mechanisms and the e-ticketing machines are to be installed in main towns identified under the project.
Passengers will be able to purchase tickets as a reload card, a card with a monthly usage package, via QR codes, and an unlimited number of tickets at the time of the journey from the relevant train station.
The Government has secured a loan from the Asian Development Bank for the installation of the e-ticketing machines at 353 train stations.
When inquired in this regard, the General Manager of Railways Dilantha Fernando had told Colombo Gazette the Department of Railways intends to technologically improve the existing system, and the new e-ticketing machines are to be introduced as the first phase of the initiative.
The contract for the project was granted to Chinese firm after bidding via the national tender process, and the firm is tasked with installing all the machines by the end of 2023.
Dilantha Fernando added that the project will help minimize congestion reported within the train stations on a daily basis and will also provide much-needed convenience for train passengers. (Colombo Gazette)