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Fast timetable for QR codes on Adelaide public transport

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Adelaide public bus drivers have been told it’s not their job to monitor QR code compliance aboard their vehicles, as the Transport Department works on rolling out the system across more than 1000 buses, as well as all trains and trams, as part of the state’s emergency management directions.

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Police Commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens last Wednesday announced the state’s emergency management direction would be updated to mandate QR code check-ins on public transport, taxis and rideshares.

On Monday, he said the Transport Department had been given a timeframe of two weeks to determine how to roll out the system across the Adelaide Metro network, after flagging a week earlier that the Department would require “a bit more time” to be compliant with the new direction.

“SA Police and SA Health are working with the Department of Transport to establish a framework that makes it an effective rollout,” Stevens told reporters on Monday.

“I don’t have a timeframe on that, but we’ve just sort of indicatively given Transport about two weeks to come up with a workable solution, so that’s happening as we speak.”

An Adelaide Metro COVID-19 transport update issued last Thursday states that QR codes are being installed across the public transport network “in a range of locations, such as windows, walls and screens inside the vehicle”.

The update says travellers need to check in once they are on board but “if you do not have a mobile phone, you will not be able to check-in using the QR code”.

Transport Workers Union SA Branch secretary Ian Smith, whose union represents bus workers in South Australia, said his understanding was QR codes will be rolled out across the bus network “sometime this week”.

He said the union was not opposed to the change but has stressed to drivers that they are not required to monitor compliance.

“It’s not the driver’s responsibility to police it … it’s the police’s job,” Smith said.

“We’ve made that very clear to our members that their job is just to drive the buses.”

Smith said his understanding was that an individual QR code would have to be created for each individual bus in the system, as it was too hard to monitor the data by bus route.

There are 1046 buses across the Adelaide Metro network according to the Department of Transport.

“There’s difficulty in [developing] different QR codes for each bus because it’s too hard to identify [people] through the bus run,” he said.

Smith said the QR code data would reveal what bus the person was on at what time, which would then have to be matched with the bus’s GPS data to identify what route they were travelling.

“So, they’ll do one [QR code] for each and every bus … if you’re on that bus and someone has the virus, they’ll know what time it was,” he said.

“The majority of the buses have all got GPS on them with the new electronics, so they can track it back through the shifts then.

“If they know a time and a bus number, they’ll be able to work out pretty well what trip it was on and work out where it was.”

Smith said he wasn’t aware of any plans to introduce paper sign-in sheets on buses.

Businesses with QR codes are required to provide paper sign-in sheets for people who do not have access to a mobile phone.

“There may not even be manual sign-in sheets on the buses to be quite frank,” he said.

“It might only be people who QR code, and that’s the majority of people – there’s not many people that haven’t got a phone.”

Asked last week whether paper check-ins were possible on public transport, Police Commissioner Stevens said the Transport Department was “working through” how to provide them, and noted it was a requirement in the new direction.

“I think that’s what the Department of Transport are currently working through is how they enable this – it is in the direction,” he told reporters on Friday.

Rail, Tram & Bus Union SA state secretary Darren Phillips, whose union represents tram and train workers, said he has not yet been consulted on the QR code plan but the move is “long overdue”.

“I absolutely welcome QR coding for people scanning in,” Phillips said.

“It does capture a number of people in the population so that is a good thing, and I think people will feel more comfortable if they’re able to do that as well.”

Phillips also highlighted manual check-ins as a potential headache on the train and tram network.

“An issue is if you haven’t got a phone, how do you then check-in?” he said.

“Because you wouldn’t have pieces of paper lying around for people to write their names on, on a train or train for everyone else to see.”

There are 70 diesel rail cars, 22 three-car electric trains and 24 trams in the Adelaide Metro network, according to the Department of Transport.

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure and Transport said on Thursday it was working to roll out QR codes across its fleet “as quickly and efficiently as possible”.

“Preparations are ongoing to support the roll-out of QR codes for passenger transport services including public transport, taxi and rideshare operators,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department for Infrastructure and Transport is working with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, SA Health and operators to ensure the QR code roll-out can be implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Meanwhile, Uber is also in talks with the State Government on introducing QR codes across their rideshare operations in South Australia.

QR codes are currently active on Ubers in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.

A company spokesperson said Uber has already been supplying data from their app to public health authorities for contact tracing purposes.

“It’s important to note though that unlike anonymous forms of transport, every trip on the Uber platform is GPS tracked, is linked to a payment method and no trip is anonymous,” the spokesperson said.

“That means that throughout the pandemic we have been able to work closely and effectively with public health authorities to help with contact tracing.

“We can also temporarily remove an individual’s access to the Uber app, based on the advice of health authorities, if there is a risk of spreading infectious disease.

“We will continue to work with the South Australian government and health authorities.”

In the taxi industry, 13CABS SA general manager Chris Cudsi said 26 per cent of his company’s 350 taxis in South Australia – 91 vehicles in total – now have QR codes.

He said he expects the rollout to be completed “in the next few days” despite the State Government online portal not being live until Friday evening.

“This is quite routine for us now; we think it’s a sensible initiative,” Cudsi said.

He added that 13CABS have already implemented QR code systems for its fleet in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

South Australia’s taxi drivers will also not be required to monitor passenger compliance under the new system, according to Cudsi, however, they will be required to check in to their own vehicle.

“We’re very happy with the proviso, the very special proviso, that the onus of this is not on the driver to enforce,” he said.

“That’s been quite clear and we’re very happy that it’s not on the driver … passengers are expected to abide by it given it’s the law.”

-Additional reporting by Jemma Chapman

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