LLOYD BURR: Hey Metlink, it's 2017!


Some friends and I walked the Paekakariki Escarpment Track at the weekend. It was epic.

It's a 10km walk from Paekakariki shops south to Pukerua Bay, following a track that scales steep cliffs, native bush, and crosses valleys with swing bridges. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, this isn't an opinion piece about the walk - it's about the train ride afterwards.

We parked the car at Paekakariki, did the walk, and jumped on the train at Pukerua Bay to take us back to Paekakariki.

We took a seat, and the train attendant soon came over so we could buy some tickets. I get out my wallet.

Me: "Do you take credit or just Eftpos?"

Attendant: "It's cash only".

Me: "Ahh okay. I've got no cash." I ask the others if any of them have cash. None of them do.

Attendant: *looks at me with contempt*

Me: "Look, we just jumped on and thought we could buy a ticket onboard with Paywave or Snapper or credit card. Can we buy a ticket at the next station?"

Attendant: "And how would you do that? There’s no ticket office there."

Me: "Oh. Okay, right. Can we buy them online on our phones?"

Attendant: "No, of course not."

Me: "Okay. Well, we have no way to pay. I assumed there would be heaps of ways to pay, not just cash."

Attendant: "Why would you assume that? If you went travelling around the world, you would do your research about train tickets. You wouldn't just assume would you?"

Me: "Yeah, well most places around the world have more than just cash. Anyways, where does this leave us?"

Attendant: "Well, you just get a free ride I guess" *he raises his voice and turns around for this next part*. "It's just embarrassing that you all get a free ride when everyone else here pays their taxes and buys their tickets. It's just embarrassing."

My friend: "Sorry but we just thought that because you're Metlink, we could pay with Snapper like you can on Metlink buses."

Attendant: "Of course not."

Me: "Okay, well I don't really know what to do."

Attendant: *raises his voice again* "It's just embarrassing. All of these people have paid their rates and tickets and you just do a disservice to them. As I say it's embarrassing."

Me: "Okay. Well, we're sorry."

Attendant: "In the future, you'd better watch out because they're going to implement an instant $150 fine for people like you. They'll catch you on CCTV, so be aware of that."

Me: "Okay."

Attendant: *rolling his eyes again* "It's just embarrassing, seriously."

Me: *nodding my head and looking awkward*

Attendant: *walks away shaking his head*

Don’t get me wrong, I did feel bad that we didn't pay. But it's not like we didn't want to. I was happy to pay, but in this cashless society, I just didn't have cash on me.

And I'm not a public transport snob. I don't own a car and I use the bus network when I need it. But I rarely take the train because there are no trains near my house.

Afterwards, my guilt turned to frustration. Surely the train network of the capital of New Zealand should have more payment options than just cash? Surely this must happen all the time?

Metlink needs to get up to speed with technology. It's the 21st century, people aren't walking around with wads of cash in their wallets and coin purses bursting at the seams.

Give people options to pay and they will. Paywave, Eftpos, Credit, Snapper, online. How hard is it? All those options are available in most taxis. Uber is cashless.

Metlink says it's looking at increasing its range of payment options, but not until "later next year". That's crazy, but better late than never.

Metlink, I'm sorry for hitching a free ride. I didn't mean to. I wanted to pay my share. But you need to take some blame for your antiquated ticketing system and get up to speed.

And hey, you might actually make more money and make the journey more pleasant.

Lloyd Burr is a Newshub and RadioLIVE political reporter.