Snapper Is Ticked Off


Wellington-based ticketing and payment system company, Snapper, is not hiding the fact tonight that  it’s peeved off with today’s go-ahead contract signing between the NZTA, ARTA, ARC and Thales -  a company Snapper has labelled a French ammution company.

In the last few weeks, Snapper has increased its lobbying for its own card, announced it’s opening an Auckland office, persuaded the Herald to write an editorial and opinion piece praising it over other options and started rushing around Auckland to try to sign up operators other than its own NZBus operation.

Miki Szikszai, Snapper’s CEO, told a news conference in Auckland last week: “Aucklanders are overdue the benefits of Snapper, something that Wellingtons have been enjoying for over a year.”

And so they can, as Snapper, working with its partners of Korean Smart Card Corporation, ANZ Nation and EFTPOS NZ, will introduce its card to NZ Bus’s Auckland fleet from the middle of next year.

The problem is they are now playing second fiddle to Thales, a world leader in integrated ticketing. And one of Snapper’s claimed advantages - being able to use the card at non-public transport locations like  Subways - is matched by Thales, which will also allow small-value payments. The Oyster card- held up now as an example of what Thales can bring to Auckland, and eventually rolled out nationwide, is used at places like McDonalds in Hong Kong.

Anything Snapper does will have to be compatible with the Thales system.


And Snapper chairman Paul Ridley-Smith continues to cry poor:

“Why ARTA wants to persevere with building a duplicate system, now revealed as costing Auckland ratepayers and central Government $47 million plus undisclosed annual operating costs (previously budgeted at $65 million over 10 years) plus undisclosed equipment costs to the operators, when it is also looking for ways of cutting public expenditure on public transport, is a question only they can answer. We had previously offered to provide everything they want more quickly, far more cheaply and with far less risk, using the proven and available Snapper system.”

And CEO Miki lists his complaints as :

1. It is going to cost the ratepayer and taxpayer a fair amount of cash – $47m and we expect $4m per annum over ten years – close to $90 m all up.

Yes true, but this is not the $135m that was being spread around as the cost if we went with Thales  and so scare everyone into accepting just Snapper. In the big picture in Auckland’s public transport costs, $47m’s not much. Compare that to the cost of electric trains, which is this month’s other significant transport decision.

2. A significant amount of the release is dedicated to Octopus although it will effectively be a Thales system talking to an Octopus back-end. From a customer perspective, this is *not* the Octopus card.

True, it’s not the Octopus card but that card shows us what we can expect and Thales , even if it’s a French ammunition company, has, in its other work., done an amazing job of producing great cards around the world already, knows it stuff, and is especially skilful at bringing a whole lot of independent operators together with a backend that provides seamless ticketing.

3. There is no comment from NZTA who are the primary funders.

NZTA made a statement last week saying you can do your thing so long as you comply with the national standards. What more is there to say? They have already rejected your appeal against the tender process and were at this afternoon’s signing.

4. It is somewhat vague as to what Auckland transport customers will get and when.

Really? Could have fooled me. There have been years of debate and consultation and we all know what we’re getting. As the ARC chairman said:

“Auckland will receive a proven, mature, multi-modal and multi-operator system leveraging some of the best fare collection systems already in operation in the world including Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Dubai. This international, multi-country expertise will be bought into the New Zealand market adding value to our transport offering and aiding us significantly on the way towards a world-class transport system for Auckland.”

Understandably, they’re upset but not wise PR from Snapper. Best to shut up, go ahead with your extension of Snapper and let the customer decide. In the end, NZBus users in Auckland may prefer your card alone.

GO: Infratil's Wellington buses

GO: Infratil's Wellington buses

Meanwhile, not a great day for Snapper’s company.  Infratil and in particular NZBus was this afternoon named one of the nine finalists for the 2009 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational  corporation (one 25% or more foreign-owned but operating here).

The criteria is for th emost negative impact in each or all of the following categories: economic dominance, people, environment and political interference.

The judges said: “Infratil is there again, as it was in 2008, because of union bashing (specifically for locking out Auckland bus drivers by its NZ Bus subsidiary. Last year it was for NZ Bus locking out its Wellington workers. Do you detect a pattern emerging here?).”

The judges were former Waikato University Vice-Chancellor; Bryan Gould, Paul Corliss, of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union; Writer Christine Dann, Joce Jesson, a Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland and Wayne Hope, Associate Professor, Communications Studies, AUT. Other finalists are ANZ, BNZ, Westpac, Rio Tinto, Transpacific, Rymans and Newmont Mining. The winner is announced next March.




  1. I’m not a fan of Infratil, NZBus, or Snapper, but you have to admit that if you owned a large portion of the bus system in Auckland, that was losing money, you’d be mad that your card payment system didn’t win Auckland’s bid process.

    If you know how draconian the contract is for Infratil (and the other companies who’ve made a go at working with it) you might not feel quite so strongly that Infratil has no right to complain.

    The problem with Auckland transport in general is its love affair with spending money on flashy equipment instead of infrastructure, the boring stuff.

    Why spend $500 Million on new trains and not budget for people to run and maintain those same trains??

    This card situation is just a symptom of this larger problem - Auckland does not have its eyes on a larger goal of actually removing cars from the roads, it just wants to look good for the 2011 RWC.

    What happens after that? A tunnel?! Yikes.

  2. James says:

    ohh the poor transnational company that signed up to a tough contract completely of their own choice.

  3. Jeremy Harris says:

    That $6.5 million dollar subsidy is going to be the best spent subsidy in NZ PT history… Why it is the subsidy for the cost of topping up your card, in the Snapper system this costs 25c straight into Snappers pocket…

  4. Jon

    Interesting to read your comments on my observations yesterday.

    There is no doubt that there will be competition in the market for a ticketing system. It is very clearly on the agenda for NZTA, as they discussed last week.

    “We are committed to providing opportunities for multiple private sector providers to be fully engaged in the various technologies that facilitate a functioning integrated ticketing system. Our focus will be on maintaining standards, options, choice and competitive tensions to ensure value for money and improvements in the effectiveness of public transport services. ”

    Once everyone is compliant with the standards, then this should come to pass relatively easily. The key is when the standards will be set and the independent process to achieve this. Plenty of water to go under that bridge.

    A couple of other points

    1. Costs - the $135m was the approved budgets from both NZTA and ARTA last year. Personally I think the total cost will still approach this number. on top of the ~$87m that was disclosed yesterday. On top of that there will be $11m programme cost for civil works for rail and operators will still have to pay for their own equipment. That’s ~$100m with the bus operator costs probably around $15m. For context we offered this for under $70m.

    2. What will be delivered by when - I haven’t seen in public what services will be available when to the travelling public with this development. You could read the announcement yesterday as being the central system will be available for operators to connect to by RWC2011 or that there will be services that the travelling public can use by then. I think that’s unclear at this point.

    3. I’m pleased that you’ve got high expectations in regards to the Octopus component - Octopus in Hong Kong is a very slick system. We looked at it carefully before we selected the T-Money technology path. I would take a look at what is in the Netherlands before expecting too much.

    The Mifare standard is not well received for payment based systems other than Public Transport due to security concerns.

    @Jeremy You may have forgotten our previous conversations at Kiwiblog. The 25 cents goes primarily to the Retailer. Even in the AIFS someone will have to pay retailers if they are used for card top ups. They simply will not do that for free. It will either be the cardholder or the ratepayer.

    Personally I am excited about Aucklanders getting excited about Integrated Ticketing. We will have Snapper in place from mid 2010 at no cost to the ratepayer or taxpayer. Aucklanders will be spoiled for choice.

  5. Simon says:

    Sorry Nathaniel, but I have no sympathy for NZ Bus or Infratil. Why? Because about 5 years ago the ARC gave all the transport operators in Auckland the opportunity to come up with a solution themselves as I`m sure Mike Szikszai is well aware. That they were unable to even come close to doing so and therefore forced the ARC and latterly ARTA to become involved in sorting out the integrated ticketing mess and foist a system of their choice on all the PT operators in Auckland.

    If NZ Bus and the other operators had had their act together 5 years ago we could have already had an integrated ticketing system in place and possibly one much more to NZ Bus/Infratil`s liking.


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