Soon you may be able to travel across the country carrying just a swipe card that can be used for all modes of transport. If plans by the Union Urban Development Ministry are successful, the common transport card, or 'Common Mobility Card'/ 'India Mobility Card', will be a reality by next year.
"These cards will function essentially as e-purses. What this means is that the money will be on the card - these can be swiped and the value would be automatically deducted," a senior Ministry official said. This would hence obviate the need to buy tickets.
These cards would cover all forms of transport, including buses, trains, metros, ferries, taxis and even autorickshaws. The only sector that the ministry has not included in its India Mobility Card project is air travel.
While the cards will be introduced in chosen cities across various states to begin with, officials say that the goal is to have a single ticketing system tying the country. Work on the concept began a year ago.
Apart from cards, the ministry is planning to give people the option of electronic chips, which they can buy and install in their mobile phones. "The money will then be deducted directly from the mobile phone, and anyone can recharge the amount as simply as they would do for cellular services," said the official.
Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur, Bhopal, Indore and Mumbai have already been chosen for the launch. "We are in the process of talking to the state governments to figure out how this can be done," the official said.
A similar ticketing system is already in place in many cities across the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Seattle, San Francisco, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Rome.
Earlier this year, the Ministry engaged UTITSL, a fully owned PSU of the Ministry of Finance, to work on the concept of the Common Mobility Cards as well as the Automatic Fare Collection system, which is to be linked to the card system. UTITSL is a government agency and a non-banking financial institution under the Reserve Bank of India.
The concept note prepared by UTITSL noted that one of the major bottlenecks in making the use of public transport popular was the lack of seamless connectivity, particularly ticket integration. Single ticketing, it is hoped, would help change that.
The ministry plans to extend the use of the card further to payment of tax on national highways, and even finally for utility payments, car parking, and shopping. "In Hong Kong, for instance, you can use the card for buying doughnuts," the official said.
Obviously, the first step towards implementing the project would be installation of card reading validators on vehicles, railway platforms, bus depots etc.The difference between a bank card system like Mastercard and Visa and the proposed Common Mobility Card, say officials, is that in this case, the cards would carry value on their chip and provide payment authorization directly, rather than through a central office.
The Ministry will soon hold a nationwide competition on the design of the cards, their logo and their final name.