Buying Tickets for Smartcard

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mattdickinson

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Compared to the fairly smooth rollout of Oyster in London in the early to mid-noughties, the big railway's efforts feel like a right shambles. We've had the great promise of the ITSO smartcard ticketing revolution for the best part of the last decade!

(Yes, it took until 2010 for Oyster PAYG to come to National Rail in London, but that was also down to the intransigence of the big railway too.)
TfL proposed to extend Oyster to most of the southeast of England in 2011, but their bid was rejected.

From the SEFT Lessons Learned document:

In December 2011, TfL submitted a bid to DfT proposing that the funds be invested in the extension of Oyster in the South East and the upgrade of infrastructure for ITSO and EMV. TfL would act as delivery partner. The proposed geographic scope was limited (extending only as far as Colchester in the east, Bicester and Oxford in the west and Ely and Huntingdon in the north)
 
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DelW

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In fairness, the initial Oyster rollout was a much simpler affair. The fares structure is significantly less complex, and there was no requirement for interoperability.

The ITSO rollout has to play to the ridiculously complex world of National Rail fares, and worse than that has to ultimately be compatible across operators. The combinations and permutations of fares are immeasurably higher, and on top of that it has to interoperable across back end systems and even transport modes. It's not an impossible task, but it does take a very, very long time to get right.

Even bus operators are all trying totally different things with ITSO cards. The thought of how difficult it would be to get different parts of the train industry to interoperate with each other doesn't bear thinking about! I very much doubt it'd be any easier in a nationalised world either, before anyone plays that card...
Is that really the case though? Oyster is indeed restricted to a much more limited range of fares, but that's surely because it has to cope with Pay As You Go and calculating fares and balances on the fly. With NR railcards, AFAIK there's no intention to use PAYG (I assume that apart from other issues, it would need a massive credit balance), so the fares complexity is all dealt with by the website or TVM issuing the 'ticket'.

If so, all the smartcard has to do is receive the 'ticket' details and operate the barriers, in the same way as a mag stripe does on a paper ticket. Or have I misunderstood how it is meant to work?
 

Wallsendmag

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Underneath it’s all ITSO, they may have different back ends I guess.

That’s why I asked when you were referring to - an awful lot has changed in the last five years or so that’s made the cards much more reliable and practical.
In fairness, the initial Oyster rollout was a much simpler affair. The fares structure is significantly less complex, and there was no requirement for interoperability.

The ITSO rollout has to play to the ridiculously complex world of National Rail fares, and worse than that has to ultimately be compatible across operators. The combinations and permutations of fares are immeasurably higher, and on top of that it has to interoperable across back end systems and even transport modes. It's not an impossible task, but it does take a very, very long time to get right.

Even bus operators are all trying totally different things with ITSO cards. The thought of how difficult it would be to get different parts of the train industry to interoperate with each other doesn't bear thinking about! I very much doubt it'd be any easier in a nationalised world either, before anyone plays that card...
RDG are supplying the back of house for most operators.
 

Joe Paxton

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Is that really the case though? Oyster is indeed restricted to a much more limited range of fares, but that's surely because it has to cope with Pay As You Go and calculating fares and balances on the fly. With NR railcards, AFAIK there's no intention to use PAYG (I assume that apart from other issues, it would need a massive credit balance), so the fares complexity is all dealt with by the website or TVM issuing the 'ticket'.
That's not quite true - in fact GTR have a Pay-as-you-go system called KeyGo which has now extended to cover most (but not all) of their network - i.e. Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express. Worth noting however that journeys can only begin at station's with a yellow dot on this map. Journeys can also be made using KeyGo on buses in eight or nine distinct zones, on the services on Metrobus or Brighton & Hove Buses. (The map and the website text are unclear on whether the Brighton zone covers Lewes, or Lewes is a distinct zone east of the Brighton zone.)

On the railway side, it can only be used on GTR services (and on a couple of stretches of GWR services in the 'Southern' area) - there's no ability to travel to London and then use the KeyGo on TfL services (e.g. the Tube or London buses) or even on any other NR services.

You need to register a payment card and actively opt-in to KeyGo in order to use it, though it is also possible to add credit to the KeyGo account via Payzone retailers (doesn't appear to be possible to top-up online). Fares are calculated the night afterwards and then billed either to the payment card or debited from the KeyGo account's credit balance.

There are currently no Railcard discounts available on KeyGo, which is a bit rubbish. Something else that's less than impressive is the requirement to "allow two minutes between your exit tap at a train station and entry tap on the bus to ensure that your Key Smartcard is read correctly on the card reader" - no rapid intermodal hop off the train and straight onto the bus for KeyGo users.

I haven't checked in on KeyGo for a while - when it started it was just on offer for part of the Southern network and if I recall correctly it didn't initially include London destinations. It does now look somewhat more impressive, and does show that forms of smartcard PAYG are possible on NR - though definitely not on a national basis (rather, on a TOC basis).
 

DelW

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That's not quite true - in fact GTR have a Pay-as-you-go system called KeyGo
Thanks, Joe, I wasn't aware of that - although I work near a GTR station, I live outside their area and rarely use their trains. I suppose the link to a payment card gets over the need to maintain a credit balance greater than the maximum one-way fare. If or when SWR introduce such a system it might tempt me to try their smartcard, though only for occasional peak time journeys unless it could apply Railcard discounts.

It still seems to be a long way from making paper tickets obsolete though!
 

mattdickinson

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It does appear to be possible using the Chiltern smartcard but I haven't received it yet so I can't test that.
I've now received my Chiltern smartcard. The app offers loading to the smartcard via NFC and seems to be the best way to check STNR availability. So far the flows offered are only intra-TOC, with only singles and returns offered and no Day Travelcards. Railcard discounts are available however

After experimenting availability seems to be:

C2C: all stations
Greater Anglia: all stations except journeys wholly within Greater London
GTR: none
LNR: none
Chiltern: all gated stations except journeys wholly within Greater London
GWR: none
SWR: all stations except Epsom to Dorking and journeys wholly within Greater London
Southeastern: all stations including HS2

Crosscountry: where Chiltern or SWR flows are available.

Other TOCs: none that I can see
 

andrewkeith5

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I've now received my Chiltern smartcard. The app offers loading to the smartcard via NFC and seems to be the best way to check STNR availability. So far the flows offered are only intra-TOC, with only singles and returns offered and no Day Travelcards. Railcard discounts are available however

After experimenting availability seems to be:

C2C: all stations
Greater Anglia: all stations except journeys wholly within Greater London
GTR: none
LNR: none
Chiltern: all gated stations except journeys wholly within Greater London
GWR: none
SWR: all stations except Epsom to Dorking and journeys wholly within Greater London
Southeastern: all stations including HS2

Crosscountry: where Chiltern or SWR flows are available.

Other TOCs: none that I can see
What an incredibly weird mix of availability!

Looking at it, I’m not sure it’s worth me getting a Chiltern smartcard...but I might anyway just for the collection!

Is there a list anywhere of which operators allow you to load tickets on any old ITSO card, not just their own?
 

mattdickinson

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What an incredibly weird mix of availability!

Looking at it, I’m not sure it’s worth me getting a Chiltern smartcard...but I might anyway just for the collection!

Is there a list anywhere of which operators allow you to load tickets on any old ITSO card, not just their own?
No apps or websites allow this. The only TVMs that allow this for day tickets that I have found were SWT.
 

mattdickinson

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Ah, ok. I thought one or two of the operators up north allowed any card too- perhaps not online though, that’s much trickier...
Nexus TVMs in Newcastle allow this, but the only rail availability is the interavailibilty to Sunderland. Greater Anglia TVMs do recognise Southeastern and c2c cards but only offer seasons.
 

mattdickinson

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I made a trip from Feltham to Staines yesterday using my Chiltern Smartcard. I loaded the ticket via NFC using the Chiltern app and the gates accepted it.

The SWR TVM at Staines only accepted SWR, c2c, Greater Anglia and Southeastern cards to load tickets including singles and returns.
 

smsm1

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Greater Anglia TVMs do recognise Southeastern and c2c cards but only offer seasons.
Greater Anglia have in the past few weeks quietly started offering single and return via their TVMs and their app. (I've only tried via a GA smart card). Their app is also able to add the tickets on to the smart card if you're on Android and have NFC. I'm suspecting there's a bug where if you tap the smart card on the phone after tapping in on a journey, then it gets confused and puts a duplicate ticket on to the smart card. The return journey then means that the ticket gates give an error code 11 without opening.
 
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