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Every future franchise bid must include smart ticketing – Perry

Every operator that bids to run a rail franchise will have to show plans to offer smart ticketing tailored to customers’ needs, rail minister Claire Perry MP has said.

During a speech today at the seventh Transport Ticketing and Passenger Information Conference, Perry made the case for delivering further ticketing innovations, arguing that we are “at the tipping point of improvement” as a result of public-private investment.

She ran through the ticketing achievements already made, including through the South East Flexible Ticketing programme, launched in 2011, which has most recently taken Southeastern on board after deals with c2c, South West Trains, Govia Thameslink Railway and Abellio Greater Anglia.

Perry also repeated the demands in the forthcoming Southwestern and West Midlands franchise competitions that operators must significantly increase the use of smart ticketing.

But “this expectation isn’t a one-off”, the rail minister said, outlining new government plans to ensure every future franchise operator puts ticketing innovations at the heart of their customer service proposals.

“Because, after all, the industry’s overriding commitment should be to the fare-paying customer,” she added. “And if smart ticketing is to become established on our railways, it will mean the death of the tangerine ticket; the familiar orange magstripe paper ticket that has served Britain’s rail customers for 30 years.

“A ticket that has done its job well, but now seems woefully inadequate for the future – especially for an industry focused on customer service.”

Yet she did not specify the type of smart ticketing the government expects, claiming the Department for Transport is “agnostic” – but argued that it should go beyond just digital tickets.

“If the customer wants to load their tickets onto the bank card they used to buy their tickets online, or onto their phone, a watch, or a bracelet, or, if like one Moscow Metro user they want to insert a chip under their skin, the choice ought to be theirs,” Perry said.

“And rail operators should be free to figure out how to deliver what their customers want and what works for their business.”

The only recommendation, she said, is that “careful thought” must be given to customers who have grown used to paper tickets by introducing new technology in a staged approach or enabling extra help from staff.

Also published today, three Transport Focus reports focus on different aspects of smart ticketing, including what passengers think of smartcards on c2c, using smartcards in the south east and the new types of tickets with smart ticketing schemes.

In the last report, the transport watchdog outlined that passengers surveyed in Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol largely voiced a preference towards convenience over cost saving as their key concern when it comes to public transport tickets.

Reasons why participants found the idea of smart ticketing attracting were mostly centred on avoiding long queues at ticket offices and vending machines, the need to purchase a ticket for every journey, and complicated ticketing options.

In London, however, passengers were more focused on potential cost savings rather than convenience as the key requirement for new smart ticketing schemes.    

Both regional groups viewed smartcards as an improvement to current ticket types but thought the concept of a carnet, where passengers receive discounts for buying tickets in bulk, was the most beneficial. There were still concerns, however, about the upfront cost of this scheme, the start and end points, and peak/off-peak flexibility.

Jenni Borg, head of smart and integrated ticketing at the DfT, was among the speakers at last year’s Transport Ticketing conference. She spoke then about some of the challenges with the South East Flexible Ticketing programme.


Tom L   27/01/2016 at 10:22

There is, of course, one absolutely essential component to smart ticketing: Full Interoperability. No matter which operator or route, and solution needs to work seamlessly across multiple operators and multi-ticketed journeys. For many rail users (the business or leisure traveller, not so much commuters) journeys are not all on the same route and operator. So any less will fail to give high takeup To make it really attractive, ensure it's fully multimodal, at the very least including metro operators (TfL and any other city), and ideally buses too. A tall order? In the current fragmented transport culture, certainly. Political will probably required, and that's an uncertain quantity at the best of times. The current 'lot'? Even less of it. I wouldn't be surprised if legislation might be required to force a change (and thereby override franchise terms).

Vulgar Fraction   27/01/2016 at 12:37

The byzantine and unfathomable range of tickets needs addressing for this to be workable in a way that is fair and equitable for the passenger. Casual users can't be expected to realise that boarding a Pendolino instead of a Desiro, to give just one example, to make a WCML journey, will cost them far more on a turn up and go. Operators, understandably, will want to protect the revenue predictions they bid at franchise stage, so will this cause an upward fares pressure. it would be a brave pundit that says 'No.'

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