Commuters left to chase refunds after myki fail

Commuters overcharged by myki during a peak-hour system outage across Victoria’s public transport network will not be automatically refunded.

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said it was “poor form” that individuals would be left to chase their own reimbursement, which would take between five and 10 days to process.

A Myki reader on a Melbourne tram displays an error message on Thursday afternoon.Credit:Marta Pascual Juanola

Transport authorities are investigating the network-wide outage that disabled myki card readers on buses, trams and at train stations between about 4.30pm and 6.30pm on Thursday, which coincided with a burst of rain.

Thursdays have typically become one of the busiest weekdays following COVID-19 restrictions that changed public transport user patterns. Weekly usage has recovered to 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The transport system operator has apologised for the outage and thanked commuters for being patient on Thursday.

Many enjoyed free travel as a result of the outage, and PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen speculated the system failure could cost Public Transport Victoria (PTV) hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Glitches have plagued myki since its inception.Credit:Scott McNaughton

But commuters who had already tapped on and were unable to tap off were charged an automated normal fare of $4.60.

In rare cases, particularly for people on V/Line services, passengers were overcharged by up to about $30 if the system assumed they had travelled further into the regions than they did.

PTV on Friday started responding to upset commuters to inform them they could apply for a reimbursement online if they thought they were overcharged.

“Refunds should take around 5-10 business days,” PTV said on Twitter.

Bowen said PTV should be automatically and proactively refund commuters rather than forcing people to apply themselves.

“That’s poor form. It was a system problem, no fault of the passengers,” Bowen said. “It shouldn’t be up to the individual passengers to check their balance and contact PTV for refunds.”

He said the communication was also poor. Some people PTV directed to apply for a refund probably were not entitled to one, he said, and were wasting their time because they had been charged the correct fare anyway.

Commuter Sean, who asked for his surname to be withheld, travelled on V/Line to Sunbury and believes he was charged about $30 for what should have been a $4.60 journey.

He said it was disappointing individuals had to request a refund, and PTV should have the necessary information to determine who tapped on before the outage and failed to touch off.

“There was a lot of confusion as we were all standing in the rain trying to touch off,” Sean said.

“I understand these things happen, but it is disappointing PTV isn’t taking accountability and stepping up to proactively issue the refunds. It should not be up to us individually.”

The myki card system is due to expire in November and is likely to be overhauled after it lagged behind the ticketing technologies used by other cities.

Premier Daniel Andrews last month threw his support behind a replacement that allows customers to use their bank cards or smartphones to tap on and off, once the $100 million annual contract with myki is replaced.

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll and the Department of Transport were contacted on Friday.

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