Smart cards to replace single-trip tickets on MTR

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 8:30am

The MTR's single-journey tickets with magnetic strips are being phased out from October, to be replaced by smart cards.

The system has been in use since the MTR opened in 1979.

The railway company said that as it was becoming more difficult to obtain parts for maintenance, it had decided to replace the single-journey tickets with ones similar to the Octopus card.

Chief of operations engineering David Leung Chuen-choi said the replacement would cost HK$200 million.

Single-journey ticket users will have to place their tickets on the Octopus sensors to enter the system and insert them into the gates to get out.

In the first phase of the replacement, quieter stations such as Olympic will start using the tickets. Meanwhile, new gates will be installed in other stations to accept the new cards.

Leung said the smart tickets were thicker than existing ones and could not be used in the old gates. The MTR would deploy more staff to help passengers until the upgrade on the 82 stations in the network was completed in the middle of next year.

The new tickets will also be used for other products, such as a "City Saver", which costs HK$400 for 40 rides on the urban network.

"The storage capacity of the smart tickets will be bigger and that allows us to have more flexibility in introducing new ticket products," Leung said.

He said the smart tickets, each of which could be used 200 times, were more reliable and four times more durable than the magnetic tickets.

The number of single-journey ticket users accounted for less than 5 per cent of the 5.1 million passengers the main network carried every day.

Single and return tickets for the Airport Express are already smart cards, but Leung said they were slightly different, noting that passengers arriving at the airport need only validate them at the other end of the journey.

Leung said the MTR had no immediate plans to upgrade the Light Rail network ticketing system, which uses paper tickets.

The first generation of magnetic tickets had only three values - HK$1, HK$1.50 and HK$2.

The second generation was introduced in 1981, with a discounted ticket for children and students, and stored-value tickets of HK$25.

The Octopus card came into use in 1997, but the MTR continued to issue commemorative and souvenir magnetic tickets, such as one to celebrate the handover in 1997 and some featuring cartoon characters.