Motorola Inc. has been awarded a $24 million contract to develop an automated fare collection system for Amtrak trains.

The system, which has a smart card component, is to begin use in November on Amtrak's Acela Express, a new high-speed train in the Boston- New York-Washington corridor.

It is to be extended in October 2000 to all Amtrak trains, replacing a cumbersome process of manual ticket collection and on-board payment, the companies said. At that time, payment data will be transmitted to central processing sites by wireless networks while the trains are in motion.

Francois Dutray, vice president and general manager of Motorola's worldwide smart card solutions division in Schaumburg, Ill., said the system will ease conductors' handling of tickets and "help Amtrak enhance its customer service and continue to be a premier transport provider."

Conductors are to use Motorola's hand-held devices to process ticket sales using credit cards, checks, cash, or smart cards, and they will issue receipts from printers carried on their belts.

Amtrak estimated that the system will help generate more than $7 million of revenue by allowing canceled tickets or "no-shows" to be resold on the train.

The companies also have plans for two smart card pilot tests. The first, a three-month trial scheduled to begin in early fall, would track meals on three long-distance routes.

About 5,000 smart cards are to be issued to first-class passengers for complimentary meals. Amtrak would get precise records of how many meals are served and which foods are preferred, a Motorola spokesman said.

The second three-month test, scheduled to begin next spring, would use smart cards for electronic ticketing and seat reservations.

About 1,000 Motorola M-Smart chip cards are to be issued to frequent first-class travelers on the Acela Express. The cards will serve as electronic tickets and can be read by the hand-held devices.

George Warrington, president and chief executive officer of Washington- based Amtrak, said the agreement with Motorola will "bolster Amtrak's financial performance and transformation into a sound, customer-focused enterprise."

In other transportation industry news, Motorola announced Monday that it and its frequent partner, ERG Group of Australia, won a nine-year contract for the Metrebus smart card-based public transportation system in Rome.

ERG and Motorola plan to have their integrated system operating in Rome within a year and to expand it into the surrounding region within two years. Initially, 300,000 to 500,000 contactless and multi-application cards are to be issued, and the total is to grow to more than one million within 12 months.

Motorola and ERG have won a slew of smart card transportation contracts in the last six months, including one involving 26 transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay area.

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