Thursday, 20 August 2009

New technology could signal the end of the line for paper tickets

Paper travel tickets could become a thing of the past under proposals announced by the Government today.

New technology, enabling mobile phones to double up as "swipe and go" cards and bank cards to be used to pay directly for journeys could revolutionise how travellers purchase and use tickets according to the new consultation.

The Government estimates that the benefits of universal 'integrated smart' ticketing could be as much as £2 billion per year through improved journey times and faster, more convenient and reliable purchasing and use of tickets, with benefits for local government and operators too.

Central to the vision is the implementation of smart ticketing infrastructure using the Government backed ITSO specification to allow seamless travel between, and within, cities and regions; and different modes of transport.

Some of the more innovative proposals could see electronic tickets or pre-pay credit loaded straight onto a mobile phone enabling it to be used as a ticket; or “contactless” payment which will allow ordinary bank cards to pay instantaneously for travel simply by being passed over a terminal, dispensing with the need for a ticket at all.

Transport Minister Sadiq Khan said;

"Experience has shown that smart ticketing can be a key part of offering a 21st century public transport system. And of course the easier it is to use public transport, the more people will do so, which is why I want to see a universal coverage of smart ticketing on all modes of public transport in England as quickly as possible.

"We know that passengers want quicker journeys and better reliability, and smart ticketing will help us do that. We could see the end to waiting in line at ticket machines, while buses could spend half the amount of time sitting at the bus stop waiting for people to board and looking for the right change. In some cases, direct payments may even do away with the need for a ticket at all.

"The technology and the interest is already out there and I want to see it used to not only help passengers but also reduce congestion, pollution, improve the local environment, and help local authorities plan more effective local transport systems."

The Government hopes that the Smart and Integrated Ticketing Strategy will build on the success already seen in London where 'Oyster’ smart cards are now used for 78 per cent of bus and tube journeys.

Jonathan Bray, Director of the Passenger Transport Executive Group Support Unit said:

"We fully share the Government's ambition to see smart ticketing introduced across Britain's largest urban areas as soon as possible. Oystercard has become intrinsic to London life - passengers have a right to expect a similar deal in the next tier of major urban areas.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Government on the reform of bus subsidies that's currently underway to help make this happen."

The key benefits of smart ticketing include:

  • Allowing passengers to load tickets or credit in advance of travel, speeding up boarding times and reducing queuing;
  • Fraud and security. Smart tickets are far harder to replicate and can be electronically 'killed' the moment they are reported lost or stolen with any remaining balance refunded.
  • Sophisticated rules can be applied to 'cap' an individual's cost of travelling at a certain level so that they will always pay the best ticket price possible for the journeys they actually make.
  • Operators will be able to run their own loyalty schemes and offer ticket types to suit individual customers' needs.
  • Joining up services through using smartcards for other products such as library membership, leisure centre entry, benefit entitlement, parking, bike and car hire, and even lift share arrangements

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