The Melbourne Public Transport ‘Scratch’ Ticket Fiasco
Posted by redracer on September 2, 2007
Whilst cleaning out some old boxes of rubbish that had been stored since my last move, I found an old ticket from the early 1990’s, so i thought i would write about it – a relic of a ticketing system that when introduced was such a shambles, that it contributed to the fall of the Cain government of the day 😆
Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria, and Australia’s second largest city, is one of the few cities in the world that still maintains an extensive public transport system that includes trams. Many cities have eliminated trams or reduced the size of the network, but some lines in Melbourne have actually been extended over the years, such that it is currently the third largest suburban tram network in the world.
In 1981, a unified ticketing system was introduced that cover all modes of transport on both public & private systems, using a 3 zone ‘Travelcard’. In 1983 this was expanded to use a complicated ‘Neighbourhood’ system, whereby you paid depending on which zone you started in and wanted to travel to, and your ticket was ‘time’ based. On the 27th August 1989, the public transport system of the day (Metropolitan Transport Authority – the ‘MET’) simplified things again and introduced a fare system comprising of 3 ‘zones’ – zone 1 was around the inner city area, zone 2 comprised most of the surrounding suburban areas to the north and west, and zone 3 extended to outer suburban areas on the eastern side of the city. Depending how far you wanted to travel, you bought a ticket for the appropriate zone, and you could get on or off any train, bus or tram as many times as you liked within the nominated zones. There were 2 types of tickets – an ‘all day’, and a ‘3 hour’ one, which was good for travel for three hours after the time it was purchased.
In 1989 the government decided to try and halt the ever-increasing cost of running a public transport systems, and decided to eliminate conductors on the tram network. This would be achieved by introducing tickets that the public would have to buy BEFORE they got on the train, tram etc. By the end of December 1989, over 800 retail outlets such as newsagents, convenience stores, chemists, mixed businesses and the specific MET shops were added to a network that sold the new public transport ‘scratch’ tickets. In January 2000, trams blocked city streets for 5 weeks in disputes relating to the introduction of driver-only operation and the scratch ticketing system. It did take until 1998 before all conductors finally hung up their caps.
What happened was that you bought a ticket and then were supposed to scratch out a series of panels that showed the date (and time) that it was valid from and to (except for a full day ticket). This ticket was to be shown on demand to any staff member for validation. Except for the clowns in the public transport’s brain trust that devised the idea, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you didn’t need to show the ticket to anyone, then you didn’t need to scratch it straight away, and could keep the same ticket with you until you needed to use it. Looking at the samples below, you can see that it was necessary to scratch the month, day and time, so even if you pre-scratched the month and time (as seen below), you could still potentially use the same ticket for up to a full month !!! If you could see that someone was coming to check tickets, you could quickly scratch the appropriate panel, and still have a ‘valid’ ticket in your possession. This misguided idea that relied on the concept that the fare-paying public was honest, quickly fell flat on its face, and income to the system immediately started to nose dive. In late 2001, a massive publicity campaign was introduced to try and combat the rising problem of far evasion, said to be worth $50m a year !!!
The government finally admitted defeat, and the scratch tickets were finally withdrawn from sale on the 2nd January 2002, and it is said that there were still warehouses full of cartons of unsold tickets left over 🙄
The government subsequently lost the next state election !!!
Here is the front and back of one of these tickets ….