Smart ticketing

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2013

ITSO chief executive officer Lindsay Robertson discusses rail industry progress on implementing new smarter ticketing methods.

There’s been lots of talk about rail franchising lately, but one of the less well-publicised aspects is that of smart ticketing on rail.

For although rail franchising is under review, the smart ticketing requirements are unlikely to change. The Department for Transport (DfT) sees smart ticketing as one way of helping simplify things for the rail passenger – arguing that a more flexible ticketing structure could play its part in offering more attractive rail fares and easing overcrowding at peak times.

The benefit to the operator is that the journey and passenger data collected can also be used to better plan, tailor and market services. And loyalty schemes can be considered as an offshoot.

Smart ticketing was specified in the Rail Command Paper in March last year and has been part of the major rail ticketing and fare review which the Government has been undertaking.

ITSO is very much at the heart of all of this. Although many passengers are probably not aware of it, ITSO is already, or soon will be, a key part of something they use every day when they tap their smartcards on the bus, train, tram or ferry.

Southern Railways is already offering some ITSO-compliant smart ticketing through its smartcard the Key, and sister Go-Ahead company London Midland has a Key pilot underway for season ticket holders.

Southern is also offering Plusbus add-ons in the Brighton and Crawley areas, making life simpler for regular passengers who can just top up one smartcard online for their bus and train journeys.

Stagecoach franchises East Midlands Trains and South West Trains also offer ITSOcompliant smart ticketing on some of their trains through their StagecoachSmart card. This operator also offers a combined train and bus option on smartcards in Basingstoke.

On a much wider scale, the £45m SEFT (South East Flexible Ticketing) project launched last year involves all train operators in the South East, and Transport for London (TfL).

ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies) and the DfT are working with them to develop a common technical platform which will be ITSO-compliant. They also need to agree business rules and develop appropriate front and back office IT infrastructure to enable smart ticketing.

The objectives are to make train travel in the South East easier, quicker and more costeffective for customers, but the systems, once implemented, must also work for operators and take account of franchise changes when they occur.

Meanwhile, TfL continues to move forward with plans to accept ITSO-compliant smart tickets.

As 63% of all rail journeys in the UK start, end, or go through London this is a vital piece of the jigsaw in moving towards the Government’s stated aim of helping deliver the infrastructure ‘to enable most public transport journeys to be undertaken using smart ticketing by December 2014’.

North of the border, ScotRail – which runs 95% of train services in Scotland – has already issued some 12,000 smartcards to staff and customers, providing a robust testing ground for a wider customer roll-out this year. An initial pilot on the Edinburgh – Falkirk High – Glasgow Queen Street route has been successful.

An investment pot of around £2m has seen the installation and/or upgrade of equipment at 70 stations across the central belt, which will see key season ticket routes – Stirling, Ayrshire, Aberdeen and parts of Strathclyde – switch to smart.

ScotRail recorded 81.1 million passenger journeys in the year to March 2012.

In Wales, the vision for the national GoCymru smartcard, currently being trialled, is that it will eventually be used on all transport modes, including trains (currently run by Arriva).

These complementary visions for widespread deployments of smartcards which work on different modes of transport, and as payment to multiple operators, are building on what is already a well-established and extensive ITSO-compliant smartcard community on bus, where all five major bus operators have already installed ticketing machines capable of reading national concessionary smartcards for the elderly and disabled.

As well as offering their own, branded products, these operators are involved in existing, or planned, regional transport authority schemes such as:

• the Cheshire Travelcard
• the NoW card in Cumbria
• the Pop card in Tyne and Wear
• the Swift card in the West Midlands
• the Walrus card in Merseyside and
• Yorcard in Yorkshire

South West Smart Applications Limited (SWSAL) is developing a smart ticketing system involving 15 local authorities and 17 transport operators covering the whole of the South West of England.

The aim of all of these schemes is that one smartcard is, or will be, valid for travel on all forms of transport, with any operator.

On top of those already cited:

• Go-Ahead and Stagecoach (working with Oxfordshire County Council) launched an integrated, interoperable service in Oxford in October 2011 where cards and products from either operator can be used on both companies’ buses.

• In Cambridge, Busway smartcards are valid on either Stagecoach or Go-Whippet buses.

• In Scotland, Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) is introducing a smart ticketing scheme as part of a £287m upgrade to Glasgow’s subway network. SPT has established a joint venture company (Nevis Technologies) with Ecebs to develop a cashless, multi-modal, multioperator transport smart media ticketing and payment system and a revenue allocation system. The company will provide this service for Glasgow’s Subway this year, in time for the city as it hosts the Commonwealth Games in July 2014.

The Subway currently carries 13 million passengers a year. It is anticipated that the smart ticketing system will be rolled out across other modes of transport, creating seamless travel on bus, rail, Subway and ferry services.

Very conservative fi gures currently available on ITSO-compliant smartcard usage in Britain show that:

• Some 15 million ITSO-compliant smartcards have been issued, with 8.5 million currently in live circulation in England, Scotland and Wales being used for both concessionary and commercial journeys.

• Around half a billion ITSO smartcard transactions were expected to be made in 2012 (including more than 275,000 a day in the North East alone).

• Most of these transactions have been for concessionary travel, but the increasing focus on commercial ticketing means we are moving towards an estimated 1.5 billion ITSO-compliant smart transport transactions every year by 2014.

• In 2010 there were just over 15,000 ITSO-compliant ticketing machines (POSTs) processing these transactions. Current estimates suggest that this has more than doubled to 35,000.

But the smartcard is just the start of it. Technological advances mean mobile phone ticketing and online purchases must also be available to satisfy the needs of the travelling public.

The ITSO Specification has developed over the past few years to accommodate these.

ITSO is represented on the NFC (Near Field Communications) Steering Board which brings together the fi nancial services sector, mobile phone operators, retailers and transport organisations to agree common processes for using mobile phones.

And let’s not forget the wider European picture. ITSO has always been, and remains, very closely involved in EU developments around interoperable use of smart ticketing in Europe, as well as establishing standards and protocols which are Europe-wide for both smart and mobile ticketing.

All of this represents major challenges for those working in the smart ticketing field because systems must also be flexible enough to accommodate different methods of payment.

It might be easy to get carried away with all the bells and whistles that new technology offers. However, while payment methods such as debit/credit cards (EMV) and mobile phone ticketing are part of the solution, the smart ticketing world must take into account the fact that there is still a large percentage of the population which does not have a smartphone or regular access to a bank account, but which regularly uses public transport.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Bhanu   22/01/2018 at 08:37

The market for ticket machine is expected to hold the largest share of the overall market by 2022.For more Info @

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