Buy your Smartcard online – and a new one next month… Translink fails NI

Translink, Northern Ireland’s publicly owned transport company has been quite good at introducing new tickets which are in the form of ‘Smartcards’ for some years now. Unfortunately, unlike in London, it is not possible to top them up online. It is possible to go online and buy a ‘whole new card’.

Recently I asked Translink for an update on this issue, the response is posted below.

We have carefully considered how we might introduce on-line top-ups for our Smartlink products. This will require time and investment in order to significantly develop current ticketing technology. In the meantime, we have been actively implementing various different ways for customers to easily obtain and top-up their Smartlink and iLink cards:-

  • We currently have an on-line sales channel where a customer can request and pay for a Smartlink card which is then posted to the customer’s home address – there is currently no charge for the card or for postage so the customer is effectively paying the same price as they would normally for a Smartlink top-up
  • From June this year, Smartlink and iLink cards can be topped up at any one the 900 PayPoint Agents across Northern Ireland – more and more customers are using this facility every week and we are continuously advertising this facility to all of our customers
  • Smartlink and iLink cards can be issued and topped up at Translink ticket offices and also at the 80 Ticket Agents (in addition to PayPoint) which Translink have in the Metro operating area
  • All Ulsterbus Smartlink cards can be topped up with the Ulsterbus driver on-bus

Sadly all these methods, whilst good in some ways do not address some major problems with the current system. What happens to those who find that they need to top up, but do not live near one of the top up Paypoints? What about those who do not wish to have a new piece of plastic posted out time after time?

I remember being told by Ted Hesketh, formerly Chief Executive at Translink, in about the year 2000, about the spectacular new Smartcard facilities that were in the planning. He even said back then that they would be able to be topped up online.

Hopefully, someone in Translink will start using his or her brain and realise that many people do not like using cash, and prefer using banking online, and transactions online. It is time for Translink to invest in proper online ticketing.

Of course, this is the transport company that has a website that directs you to their Journeyplanner (old) as the new one is next to useless. So I wouldn’t hold your breath for anything sensible.




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