Problems threaten to short-circuit electronic travel card

Customers hate it and legislators are losing faith, but the company behind the Rejsekort insists all is well

As the sun sets on the time-honoured – and apparently much beloved – paper ticketing systems for getting around the country on buses and trains, Rejsekort, the electronic system slated to replace them all, continues to be fraught with problems. Cost overruns, and technical issues have plagued Rejsekort since it was rolled out for widespread use, four years late, on July 1 last year.

In the latest of a series of seemingly endless malfunctions, customers reported that the electronic card was so sensitive that it was checking them in and out if journeys if they simply accidently walked too close to a card reader. A test revealed that the card could set off a terminal, even if was tucked in a purse or wallet.

One woman carrying a monthly pass that she had already paid for reported to metroXpress newspaper that she was carrying a bag containing her boyfriend’s Rejsekort and had no idea that he had been charged for the journey until he was dunned by Rejsekort for the trip.

Riders unaware that they check in lose money for journeys they didn’t take and those accidently checked out run the risk of a 750 kroner fine for travelling without a ticket.

Rejsekort has agreed to reimburse the woman’s boyfriend for the trip and advised all its customers to “make sure to keep a distance from the terminals”. A spokesperson for the company, however, later stated that while it was technically possible that a card could be read accidentally, it was highly improbable.

With sales of the klippekort, the well-functioning and familiar multi-ride ticket, due to stop at the end of June, people are getting nervous that Rejsekort is simply not ready for prime time.

Lawmakers from both Enhedslisten and Dansk Folkeparti have called for klippekort sales to continue, and now Konservative MPs are insisting on a guarantee from the transport minister, Henrik Dam Kristensen (Socialdemokraterne), that Rejsekort works before klippekort sales are stopped. The Transport Ministry has been accused of burying a report that revealed deep problems with the Rejsekort program.

“Our message is crystal clear, either the minister guarantees that the Rejsekort works perfectly or sales of the klippekort must be extended,” Konservative spokesperson Mike Legarth told DR News. “We cannot risk sticking residents and visitors with something that doesn’t work.”

Enhedslisten transport spokesperson Henning Hyllested said people were starting to hoard klippekort tickets. Although sales of the multi-ride tickets end in less than two weeks, any that are purchased before the deadline remain valid until next July.

“I fear that travellers will turn their backs on public transport if faced with a card that they are not comfortable with,” Hyllested told DR News. Several businesses in the tourist industry are also reported to have been buying up klippekort tickets to give to their guests. They said that the new system will be much more expensive for visitors.

The transport committee meets on Thursday, and the parties against phasing out the current system are hoping to gain a majority by then.

Hyllested said a computer malfunction that has made it impossible for customers to check their balances for over a month was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He said he had been "spammed" by constituents complaining about the system.

“It is the only way that people can tell if they are paying the proper amount,” he said.

Rejsekort said it will have the computer problems fixed by 24 June, but customers remain sceptical that the new system will ever work as well as the old one.

“It is an absolutely unreliable system that is not nearly as good as punching a ticket,” customer Anne-Charlotte Rathje told TV2 News. “I have forgotten to check out, but the system has also failed to check me out and it is stupid that the terminals to check in and check out look so similar.”

Other customers complained that the company is slow to update its records making it impossible to find out the balance on their travel cards.

Rejsekort brushed aside the criticism and said people will come to appreciate the system once they become accustomed to using it.

“It is kind of like when the Dankort debit card was first introduced,” Rejsekort spokesperson Thomas Boe Bramsen told TV2 News. “There was a big backlash, and now people cannot get along without it.”

Bramsen said a customer survey taken by the company in December found that 77 percent of people using Rejsekort would recommend it to their friends.