‘Spider’ card system to be introduced on BMTA buses

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A new e-ticket card system for travellers in Bangkok will soon be introduced. The cards, called ‘Magmoom’ or ‘Spider’ cards have been approved by the cabinet and are expected to be in use on up to 2,600 buses currently under the control of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), by the early part of next year.

It is not only bus travel that the cards will be able to be used for. They will be able to be used on the MRT Blue, Purple and Green lines as well as the Airport link line by the middle of next year. Boat services in Bangkok’s various busy waterways will also be able to accept the cards in due course, but this will be after the bus and rail rollouts have been completed.

In addition to only offering travel convenience for card-holders, other uses for the cards are also expected to become a reality. They will be able to serve as an access point for welfare and as an electronic store of value, or e-wallet, at shops and stores that are registered with the Ministry of Commerce. A wider rollout of major chain stores might be expected as time progresses. For example 7-11 already has a type of simple debit card that users can top up and then can shop with subsequently, without needing cash. The spider card could, conceivable, be adopted at such places in time.

At the outset, the operation, rollout and maintenance of the Spider card system will rest with the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), with the revenue accounting being overseen by the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning. However, given that the system is likely to grow in popularity very rapidly, a new entity will be created to handle revenues.

According to Pichit Akrathit, the Deputy Transport Minister, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has already signed a contract to lease the new ticketing system. The contract to upgrade the first 2,600 buses was valued at around 1.6 billion baht.

In the first instance, the BMTA aims to rollout the system on around 800 buses by October the 1st this year.

During the phase-in of the Spider card system, the BMTA is hoping to reduce the number of bus conductors it employs by 2,000 people mainly based on early retirement plans. There is a call for each bus conductor that is relieved of duty to receive 1 million baht as part of their early retirement package.

The reason for the headcount reduction is simple – the Spider card system is automated and so there is no need for manual ticket inspectors and paper punch operators. The Spider card system even automatically calculates discounts that may be in force at various times, avoiding the need for any human intervention.