Myki operator blasts state over costly mistakes in new ticket contract

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Myki operator NTT Data claims Victorian bureaucrats unfairly hindered its failed bid to run the public transport ticket system for another 15 years and gave preferential treatment to a more expensive American replacement.

In a letter of complaint to the state government, NTT questioned the probity of the two-year tender process and claimed it could deliver the same technology upgrades promised in a $1.7 billion contract with a new operator for nearly half the price.

NTT Data has written a letter of complaint to the government about the tender process.Credit: Scott McNaughton

The Andrews government last month announced Conduent Transportation would take over myki from December 1 and implement upgrades that will allow passengers to soon pay for their travel by bank card or iPhone, rather than requiring a physical myki smartcard or Android smartphone.

In a letter to Department of Transport and Planning secretary Paul Younis, which The Age has obtained, NTT Data executive Chris Merdon says “mistakes have clearly been made” which will “cost Victorians for many years to come”.

“During the procurement process there were decisions made by the [procurement team] which adversely impacted our ability to participate… and to demonstrate that we offered the best value for money outcome,” the June 9 letter says.

The claims echo concerns raised earlier this month by the other unsuccessful final bidder – Cubic Transportation Systems – which prompted the state opposition to call for the Conduent contract to be suspended.

Commuters at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.Credit: Paul Rovere

NTT teamed up with the Singaporean government’s Land Transport Authority for its bid, proposing the agency’s well-regarded ticket technology could be retrofitted to Victoria’s existing ticket readers.

Merdon said that would have delivered the same improvements in the Conduent contract for only $978 million, but the government did not give “due consideration” to that “proven, large scale, and operational account-based ticketing system” operating in Singapore since 2018.

NTT was never asked to revise that bid to use new equipment, and even if it had, that would have only increased its bid by $120 million – still 60 per cent below the winning bid, the letter says.

Merdon also says “at least one other bidder” was able to revise its bid after final submissions had closed.

“We were not given that opportunity, and it clearly impacts the probity and transparency of the process, particularly given the significant price and capability differences between bids,” he says.

Merdon also claims NTT was hamstrung by the procurement team’s “unjustifiable and unexplained” interference with the way subcontractors could engage with each primary bidder midway through the process, and also told NTT Data that it should increase its bid price and extend its implementation timetable with “no reasonable explanation for making these requests”

“Pricing was justified, explained and evidenced. To be asked to alter our offer in this way does not evidence a robust tender process,” Merdon says.

Merdon also claims that during a post-tender feedback session, the government procurement team indicated “a complete lack of understanding” of ticketing technology and the submitted bids.

Based in Japan, NTT Data has run myki since 2010 after it took over the company responsible for its disastrous inital rollout. The Department of Transport and Planing has been contacted for comment.

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