|Launched||12 December 2011|
|Technology||Contactless smart card|
|Manager||National Transport Authority|
|Stored-value||Pay as you go|
The Leap Card is a form of integrated ticketing introduced in Dublin on 12 December 2011. It is a prepaid card which can be used on Dublin Bus, DART, Iarnród Éireann, Swords Express and Luas; minimum top up for the card is currently €5. The Leap Card is the result of many years work by the Railway Procurement Agency to get an integrated ticketing-scheme for the public transport in Dublin city. Initially it only offered a pre-paid electronic wallet system to buy single trip journeys on Luas, DART / Commuter and Dublin Bus but since May 2014, it also offers week, month and year subscriptions on it. In April 2015 there were over 1 million Leap card users according to the National Transport Authority.
Public transport in the larger Dublin area is offered by several companies. Apart from several private companies (mainly offering large distance InterCity bus connections) and the country-wide Bus Éireann transport is offered by:
Even though the state is the owner or an important stake-holder for each of these services, they all have their own ticketing scheme. Until the introduction of the Leap card one could have three non-compatible standard tickets or smart-cards for travel within the limits of Greater Dublin: a Luas card to pay for individual journeys, a Dublin Bus smart-card for day, week or year tickets and an Iarnród Éireann card for DART or Commuter tickets. The Leap Card is also accepted on the privately owned Swords Express service, which links Swords to Dublin City Centre which is operated by Eirebus, and on the Ashbourne Connect route 193 service.
Railway Procurement Agency
The Railway Procurement Agency, responsible for the development of light railway and metro infrastructure, started developing an integrated smart card system. First plans were made at the end of the last century and initially it was planned to introduce an integrated card when the Luas system would start to operate in 2004 or 2005. The development of the new system had many delays and set-backs and the costs for the new system were far higher than budgeted.
Even though the state has a lot of influence in the different transport companies (the Luas trams and infrastructure are state owned but competitive tendering takes place for management and day-to-day operations, currently by Transdev, while Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann are state owned and state managed), it took the RPA until 2012 to actually introduce the new smart card system for the general public.
The Leap Card
As the Leap Card is usable on the bus, tram and local railway lines, it can be used for both single journeys within one of the systems and subscription/multi-day offerings, which are also possible with the Leap card: each company has their own system for that (using both smart-cards as well as 'paper' tickets). Any one journey using two or more of above systems will get an automatic €1 discount since February 2015.
Even though tickets bought with the Leap card are cheaper than single journeys bought with cash money, using the Leap card for frequent travelers may be more expensive than using the different weekly or monthly cards. Since May 2014, the functionality of the card has been extended, such as the ability to "upload" a week, month or year-card to a Leap card. As part of this ongoing process Leap 'Capping' is now available for each service and a cap of €10 a day across all services (€40 a week and a 'Travel 90 discount' is also now available where a passenger who uses a second service within 90 minutes will get an automatic €1 discount. There are also plans to extend all combinated and season tickets to LEAP, some of these, such as the 5 Day Dublin Bus Rambler, are already in place.
For frequent travelers using only one service one can use the day, weekly, monthly or year-cards (or capping) for the required route or system. For those who need to use two or more different services, the mufti-operator cap may be help them save money. There are several 'Combi' paper ticket subscriptions: BUS-LUAS, BUS-DART & DART-LUAS. The former two are available at Luas vending machines, and the Dublin Bus ticket outlets (Newsagents and Dublin Bus head office). However, oddly, and with no explanation apparent on any of the service websites, the DART-LUAS, and DART-LUAS-BUS tickets, are neither available in the DART or LUAS vending machines, nor are they available online, they can only be bought at DART ticket offices offering daily rambler, weekly and monthly variations.
In an effort by the NTA to simply Dublin's extremely complex ticketing system all these paper variants were phased out and have been replaced with simpler to understand Luas equivalents since May 2014. For example anyone who would have found a DART-LUAS-BUS paper ticket useful can now take advantage of the multi-operator Leap cap and actually save significantly on the price of those older tickets, by simply placing €40 credit on their card in a week, which will give them unlimited weekly travel on all Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Luas services (except Nitelink, InterCity rail and Airlink. These phase-outs were widely advertised by all services throughout their network and paper tickets bought before the end of production date will still be valid until the expiry dates on the purchased ticket.
Together with many employers nationwide the different operators offer 'tax saver subscriptions'. Although everyone can buy these special month or year cards, when an employer has joined the special tax-saver scheme the cards are offered "before tax": one can buy the cards directly via their employer and pay it from their gross-salary (thus before deduction of income tax and levies). Some companies allow this on a monthly basis while other companies only offer this once a year.
Companies offering this once per year make it possible for their employees to buy this card in the month that they pay-out the bonuses or other yearly incentives. As any bonuses or other 'additional' pay are subjected to the highest tax-rate for that employee he/she can make the best savings when buying the card in that month. If one's normal salary is just under the standard cut-off rate for the high tax bracket (nearly) all additional pay for bonuses etc. will be in the high tax-rate; and if one then purchases the 'tax saver' ticket from their extra pay around 50% of the price is then paid by the state. This can save the employee up to 52% on the ticket-price. There are tax-saver cards for Dublin Bus, LUAS, Dart/Commuter and combinations of them.
Using the Leap card
To use the integrated ticketing scheme one will need to buy a Leap card via any of the ticket-outlets. A new card will cost €10 and that card will have an initial credit of €5. Value from an existing smart-card cannot be transferred onto a Leap card, but it was possible to get a free Leap card for holders of the 'old' Luas or Rail smart-cards until 30 September 2014 Customers can only use the card when they have sufficient funds on the card to pay for their fare; after the first trips the card must be reloaded. This can be done via the ticket outlets that sell the card or via the LUAS ticketing machines
It is also possible to reload a card using the Leap card website, but it must then be registered online. When a Leap card is registered, the cardholder can check their travel/purchase history online, but the card is no longer anonymous.
Cost of fares
According to the operator fares bought with the Leap card are cheaper than single journeys paid with cash. For Dublin Bus this is indeed true as they have increased their cash paid tickets by 20-27% since the card was introduced. For example, from 1 December 2014 a 4-7 stage fare using Dublin Bus costs €2.55 paying by cash, with the Leap card the price is €2.05. For LUAS a single zone journey with Leap costs €1.44 while the same cash price is €1.80.
On the LUAS lines one uses the Leap card the same way as they would use the Luas smart-card: before a customer boards any tram, they 'tag-on' their card using the blue pole-terminals at any Luas stop; at the destination they 'tag-off'. It is possible to make (short) stops by just not tagging-off and -on again, but passengers only have a limited time to complete a journey. When one completes their journey within the time limit they can also tag-on on one line and then tag-off at their destination on the other line (e.g. Green line).
A customer must have enough credit on their Leap card to pay for the maximum distance when tagging on: when they tag-on this maximum amount is deducted from their card and only when tagging-off the actual journey price is calculated and the "overpay" is returned to their card. If one forgets to tag-off they will pay the maximum fare. To allow for this one has a hidden credit on the card: this 'hidden credit' allows one to tag-on whenever they have any visible credit on their card. For example, when a terminal shows that one has 25 cents on the card they can still use it for a Luas journey. The next time the card is reloaded, it starts with a negative balance.
For all journeys under 14 stages one presents the card to the card-reader at the bus-driver and asks for the ticket they want: either by telling him the price of the required ticket, the number of stages or the destination. The bus driver will then "write" the required ticket to the card and deduct the fare from the card's balance. If one travels more than 13 stages the card can simply be presented to the (top) terminal at the right side of the entrance: the maximum fare of €2.60 will then be deducted from the card and the ticket will be written to the memory of the card.
DART and Commuter
As with the Luas, the railway services use a tag-on/tag-off scheme. As most railway stations in the greater Dublin area now have electronic faregates customers are forced to tag on when entering the platform: the faregate will open when the card is presented to a reader on the gate. At the destination the card is presented to the exit faregate to leave the platform.
Although one can currently only use the Leap card for single journeys on the mentioned operators other operators will join the scheme in the future. Bus Éireann and private operators are in the process of joining the scheme and Leap cards can already be used in some of their services as of April 2015.
The capabilities of the card are currently being extended to reach almost all groups. Extensions of the card now operational are:
- Transfer rebates: when a journey includes several modes of transport (where one has to pay individually for each) a "transfer rebate" is credited to the card. This scheme was introduced on 1st November 2014.
- Monthly and yearly passes. All the former Dublin Bus tickets have migrated to the Leap card as well as the LUAS year-passes as well as monthly Tax-Saver subscriptons. This process was completed in May 2014.
- Special fares for students and schoolchildren. This scheme was completed on 1st August 2014 with the new Personalised Child Leap card for children 16 to 18 years of age. This card expires on the child's 19th birthday. Children from the age of 4 to the age of 15 must use an Anonymous Child Leap card.
The Leap card uses a chip inside the card then can be read from and written to without direct contact: a so-called proximity card or RFID cards. The original Luas and Iarnród Éireann cards used the MIFARE classic card, which became notorious because of the ease with which they can be hacked into. Because of the security concerns of the Mifare classic the company that designed the card, NXP Semiconductors, have developed RFID cards that use a better encryption method. The RPA have not disclosed which card is being used for the Leap card but scanning the card with a generic RFID reader shows it as a MIFARE DESFire EV1 (in detail: cardtype=ISO/IEC 14443-4 Smart Card, Mifare DESFire EV1 (MF3ICD41)). The terminals used in Dublin Bus (both the bus-driver terminal as well as the right-hand card reader, are made by Mifare/NXP and the 'pole terminals' are also made by Mifare (as the original Luas smart card is a Mifare classic).
While the new Leap Card is thus a MiFare DESFire EV1, the standard (carton/paper) Dublin bus RFID tickets are using MiFare Ultralight (Type A (ISO/IEC 14443 Type A)) while the Rail Smart Card (Dublin short-hop zone) from Irishrail uses the Mifare Classic 1k.
The Leap card system has cost €55 million to date. However, since its launch in December 2011, it has had a turnover of €263 million as of April 2015.
- Bus Eireann website Launched in Galway, visited 4 October 2014
- Carr, Aoife (12 December 2011). "Integrated ticketing card launched". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Irish Independent on Integrated smart-card, 4 April 2006, visited 29 January 2012
- Leap website Future tickets and functionality, visited 29 January 2012
- LUAS website on Taxsaver cards, visited 30 January 2012
- Leapcard website Home page, visited 29 January 2012
- Top-Up my leapcard on leapcard.ie
- Leap card website Future operators, visited 29 January 2012
- Eoin Bailey website: Mifare classic on Luas smart card, visited 29 January 2012
- Boards.ie Are the Leap card and the IR Smartcard the same thing?, visited 30 January 2012
- Chaos Computer Club presentation Little Security despite obscurity, visited 30 January 2012
- Triple RFID card-scan, scanned and retrieved: 19 September 2012