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When progress isn’t.

I got my nice shiny new travel pass last week. It's one of those high tech credit card sized cards with a chip built in to it. Very flash. Trouble is it's not as convenient as the old paper model. With the old 'tree unfriendly' model I could waft on and off buses, trams and the metro in an almost painless fashion and I even stood a sporting chance of getting a seat, seeing as I did not have to fiddle about getting my ticket stamped. I could also get a new monthly pass from just about any old tobacconists or from many news kiosks. Easy peasy!

Enter tram door left, high tech digi-card. No more wafting on and off for me, oh no. Now I have to place the card next to a reader every time I get on a bus or a tram – no chance of getting a seat now – especially as I often need to hunt around to find the reader thingy. Black mark one.

Now, how about getting my digi-pass charged up. This trendy chip is a bit too flash for newsagents and ciggie stores, and so far, they don't seem to have had the appropriate machines installed.

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My story: OK, I'll check out one of the many new machines located in the underground stations, or so I thought. Got there, only had a 50 Euro note and the machine would only give me 9 Euros 95 cents change – this did not seem a great deal seeing as I only had to fork out 30 Euros. I noticed that the machine details that it can accept Euro notes of up to 200 Euro denominations and wandered how many people had pressed buttons, inserted notes and then got a wee bit miffed when the machine proudly spurted out 9 Euros 95 in change. I'd love to be there when (or should I say, the next time) this happens. Anyway, I hopped on a train and hopped off at Cadorna, which luckily has an ATM point (a sort of shop were you can get tickets and stuff) and one of those charming machines which dishes out numbers to avoid queue jumping. They should have told the old bloke who jumped in front of me – although he acted out of pure confusion, not malice, so I didn't get cross about it. Black mark two.

The act of recharging was actually quite painless, although you seem to need to keep the paper receipts you get to help you remember just from when to when your digi-card will be valid. Otherwise there seems to be no quick way of knowing. With the old paper travel passes you could see at a glance for how long your ticket was valid, 'coz it said 'March 2005' on it. Another black mark to technology.

The big brother bit. As I'm now required to have my digi-pass read every time I jump on or use public transport, the powers-that-be may track my progress around Milan. They can see where I go and at what time. Bye, bye privacy. Grey mark.

Great shame really, because at 30 Euros a month, the travel pass is exceptionally good value – which is why I shall persist. I only hope others will not be put off and, heaven forbid, resort to the dreaded automobile, thus upping the already stratospheric pollution levels here.

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