Rail Industry Focus


Making smart ticketing schemes work together

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2015

Jenni Borg, Department for Transport head of smart and integrated ticketing, discusses recent progress.

One of the highlights at Transport Ticketing Global 2015 was Jenni Borg, who has been head of smart and integrated ticketing at the Department for Transport for nearly five years. She spoke about the difficulties of working in a privatised rail industry and getting train operating companies to work together to improve things for the passenger.

 A great example of the potential difficulties, and also how to overcome them, was the South East Flexible Ticketing programme, the largest such scheme in the country.

 Borg told the packed conference room: “When we got the funding for the scheme, I thought that was the hard bit over – but that wasn’t true, as we discovered. Because it’s quite challenging working with 12 train operators who are competing with each other, not only on a day-to-day basis but are competing with each other as franchises are re-let.”

 Some of the biggest difficulties she faced involved convincing operators that their best ideas should be used for the scheme and therefore shared among their competitors. “It doesn’t always go down all that brilliantly,” Borg added with a smile.

 Another issue she pointed to was working with TfL. “Transport for London is critical because that is centre of the map and the destination for many of the passengers that we’re going to see. Whatever we’re going to do here has to be acceptable to TfL, and has to work with the TfL system.”

 She added that it sometimes “feels nothing short of amazing, the progress we’ve already made”, before citing some of the proudest achievements of the scheme; Southern launching almost a full range of products on ‘the key’, and c2c going live with its Smartcard (more on page 20), which is already proving popular.

 One of the challenges the DfT has not yet conquered is getting operators to work together to have a single back office, preferably with real data. “We’d like to see real data, we’d like a single back office for real data, but again not all operators are super keen on the idea. A single back office, at the moment, I would say, is not something that any of our stakeholders want – unless it is their back office. There are at least five or six who would love me to say that we are going to have their back office as the single back office for the nation.”

 Borg moved on to look at the north and the schemes going on there. A big success for the department was the recent launch of a smart option for one of Merseyside’s most popular ticket products.

 “The biggest success of the last few months has been the Saveaway product, the most popular product in Merseytravel. In September last year it’s fair to say there was considerable distance between major operators and the transport authority as to whether that product ever should go smart, how it should go smart, when it should go smart. That’s now been unlocked, it’s already gone live and almost half of the purchases in Wirral where it’s been launched are now on smart, and it’s ramping up every day,” she said.

 Next up for the DfT is the Smart in the North programme. “This is something I would describe as having dual heritage,” Borg told the conference. “South East Flexible Ticketing was really about how we can get train operators to work with a very mature smart ticketing scheme in London. The challenge for Smart in the North is that it needs to work with six schemes in six cities that are already in development.”

 These include Merseytravel’s Walrus, Transport for Greater Manchester’s ‘get me there’, South and West Yorkshire’s Yorcard, and the Nexus Popcard.

 She added that having learned lessons from previous schemes the collaborating city-regions and the DfT are focusing on trying to get the design, scope, and order of the scheme planned out before getting the budget.

 “Who knows, it might just work,” she joked.

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