Out with credit-card sized stock and in with mobile ticketing - is it too early?

py_megapixel

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It seems that the government wishes to replace the credit-card sized ticket stock which has been in use on the railways for some time. I still don't really understand what's wrong with this ticket stock, but whatever...

However, what they are really pushing is not a different type of paper ticket stock (such as the roll-printed stock as used by many onboard ticketing systems nowadays) but mobile ticketing. But are the mobile-ticketing solutions in use today mature enough to replace paper ticketing? I can see a few major disadvantages:
  • It's impossible to buy a ticket without being 100% sure that the person buying the ticket will be the one using it. For example if one person from a family needs to make a journey (for example to collect an item) then it's required that they decide who will be travelling before buying a ticket, whereas under the paper ticketing system they could just buy one ticket and give it to whoever was travelling.

  • Similarly, parents cannot buy tickets for their children as far as I'm aware. They both would need their own smartphone, online account with whichever TOC they are buying the tickets from, and credit/debit card. Some apps may permit purchasing an adult and child ticket at the same time, but this is not a suitable solution if the child will be travelling alone for any portion of the journey. In short, it is a severe flexibility limit for families with children, particularly older ones who are capable of travelling alone.

  • Not everyone is comfortable using the technology required. Some of my older relatives are not comfortable using a smartphone or even purchasing items with a debit card online, so it will be very difficult to persuade them to make the switch over to mobile ticketing. It's also worth noting that not everyone can afford to purchase a smartphone, and those who can may not want to carry it with them all the time.

  • Short of physically damaging the ticket (tearing it, spilling water on it or whatever else) there is little that can be done to make current ticket stock illegible. Basically if you tuck it away somewhere sensible then it will still be there when you come to the end of your journey. But phones can crash, decide to update themselves randomly, have their batteries run out, and a number of other things outside the user's control that could prevent them from showing their ticket to the conductor or barrier staff when needed.

  • At busy times, commuters like to use their mobile device while waiting in queues to exit the station. This leads to them not having their ticket properly ready for the barrier which makes every station exit take longer by a few seconds - possibly more than this if the barcode readers on the gates are playing up.

So why are they pushing for this, what's the point, and is the technology advanced enough yet?

EDIT - it has come to my attention that several of the flaws above are with M-tickets, which are supposed to be phased out in favour of E-tickets which are far more flexible.
 
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jon0844

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There was always a move towards smart ticketing, but the pandemic has accelerated this. In the future, things like carnet tickets are going onto smartcards and I've heard there's also going to be the ability to transfer tickets to a smartcard using your mobile (using NFC on the phone). [Not sure why we can't just allow the phone to store the ticket and touch the phone on the validator, like a CPC].

I think the key is that paper tickets aren't going to be ditched overnight (all the equipment is in place) but anyone who can switch will be encouraged to. Just like encouraging people not to use public transport, but not shutting it down entirely.
 
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Bletchleyite

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M-tickets are rubbish and need to go away.

E-tickets are issued as a PDF document and can be printed out or forwarded to anybody's phone, children included, and just display in whatever PDF viewer the phone has (which pretty much all of them do or can). These fix most of the issues you outline.
 

221129

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Similarly, parents cannot buy tickets for their children as far as I'm aware. They both would need their own smartphone, online account with whichever TOC they are buying the tickets from, and credit/debit card. Some apps may permit purchasing an adult and child ticket at the same time, but this is not a suitable solution if the child will be travelling alone for any portion of the journey. In short, it is a severe flexibility limit for families with children, particularly older ones who are capable of travelling alone.
Just print it out?
 

py_megapixel

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Just print it out?
As @Bletchleyite says there are both M-tickets and E-tickets with little clear distinction provided between them. M-tickets cannot be printed; E-tickets can. What most people buy through apps are M-tickets.

But... what is the point in printing an E-ticket anyway? That's just a more complicated version of the system we have now, requiring everyone who needs to use tickets not on their phone to have a printer at home which rarely gets used, rather than having printers at stations?
 

Bletchleyite

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Oh right I hadn't noticed that. Are they not still locked within the app though (i.e. you can't transfer them to anything else)?
Not if they are done properly. One way to ensure they are, if you're buying on the day walk-ups, is to buy them on the Trainline app (the actual Trainline branded one, not the TOC variants). This doesn't charge fees for on the day purchases (or didn't last time I used it - I haven't used a train for 3 months!) but does do e-tickets correctly, which many TOC apps don't. Another way is to use Trainsplit's app which just has them emailed as PDFs (I think).

But... what is the point in printing an E-ticket anyway? That's just a more complicated version of the system we have now, requiring everyone who needs to use tickets not on their phone to have a printer at home which rarely gets used, rather than having printers at stations?
There are indeed relatively few reasons to print them. Basically, there's only any point if you don't own a smartphone or are concerned about battery life (e.g. if you're doing a camping trip with no opportunity to charge - but who now doesn't have a battery pack?).

Children were mentioned - how many children who are of the age to travel unsupervised (which I know isn't absolute, but I mean trusted to do so by parents) don't have some form of smartphone? Literally any will do - they all have PDF viewers included.
 

221129

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Oh right I hadn't noticed that. Are they not still locked within the app though (i.e. you can't transfer them to anything else)?
No they are just a PDF. A lot of people present them in either printed form (bonus points if they're folded up in a cute way) or from Apple Wallet etc
 

py_megapixel

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Not if they are done properly. One way to ensure they are, if you're buying on the day walk-ups, is to buy them on the Trainline app. This doesn't charge fees for on the day purchases (or didn't last time I used it - I haven't used a train for 3 months!) but does do e-tickets correctly, which many TOC apps don't.
Does that also apply to TOCs who subcontract Trainline, or just Trainline's own app?
 

py_megapixel

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Looking at it, there is quite a useful M-ticket vs E-ticket comparison page on the Trainline website actually. Interestingly they actually outright admit that E-tickets are superior!
Mobile Tickets and etickets are two of our ticket delivery options. They’re slightly different, but they both mean you can open your ticket on your phone. etickets are a bit more usable as you don't need our app to use them on your phone, and unlike with Mobile tickets you have the option to print a paper copy.
 

Bletchleyite

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Does that also apply to TOCs who subcontract Trainline, or just Trainline's own app?
No. Trainline's own app is quite different now from the version they provide to some TOCs - it needs to be the branded one. I've not seen a single TOC app that does them properly, it's almost like the TOCs don't want to.

(If anyone does know a TOC app that does e-tickets properly please do post it here - I'd happily switch! By properly I mean it allows them to display nicely in the app and you receive a PDF on the confirmation email - GWR for example does the former but not the latter, and doesn't handle m-tickets at all! The only app I have come across so far that does is the branded Trainline one, which obviously has the downside of fees if you don't book on the day)
 

py_megapixel

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I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe M Tickets are slowly being phased out in favour for the proper E Tickets.
That's good to hear.

No. Trainline's own app is quite different now from the version they provide to some TOCs - it needs to be the branded one. I've not seen a single TOC app that does them properly, it's almost like the TOCs don't want to.
Maybe they're scared of the revenue protection implications of people easily being able to make copies of tickets. Though they all have a unique ID encoded in the barcode that is scanned meaning that they can only be used once so I don't really know what the problem is!
 

Bletchleyite

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Maybe they're scared of the revenue protection implications of people easily being able to make copies of tickets. Though they all have a unique ID encoded in the barcode that is scanned meaning that they can only be used once so I don't really know what the problem is!
If they ensure they provide their guards and RPIs with the equipment to scan the barcodes and correspond with the central server that records those scans so staff can see if a ticket has been double-used (not hard, it can be a mobile phone app on the phones staff have anyway!), there are no more risks than paper tickets. However, there are some TOCs for whom doing anything properly seems rather too much effort, I'm sure we can all think of one or two.
 

Indigo2

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By properly I mean it allows them to display nicely in the app and you receive a PDF on the confirmation email - GWR for example does the former but not the latter, and doesn't handle m-tickets at all! The only app I have come across so far that does is the branded Trainline one, which obviously has the downside of fees if you don't book on the day
The TrainSplit app (at least the iPhone one; I haven't tried the Android one recently) also allows you to show your eTickets within the app (but you also get them e-mailed to you). Indeed it doesn't give you any choice - eTicket seemed to be the only option for the last journey I checked.
 

_toommm_

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If anyone was looking to move to e-tickets, I would now highly recommend the TransPennine app. They now issue proper e-tickets that can be shown in the app and they’re emailed to you as a PDF, and you get Nectar points back on all tickets.
 

Hadders

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E-tickets will be the way forward for most journeys. Smartcards for season tickets and contactless in urban areas being the main exceptions.

E-tickets can be displayed on any medium. For example they can be printed onto paper or displayed on a phone screen, Apple wallet etc. There is nothing stopping them being printed onto orange credit sized tickets for traditionalists ;)

E-tickets rely on the barcode being read at barriers rather than the magnetic stripe. The one area where e-tickets are a problem is through tickets via London as TfL do not (and don't want to) accept e-tickets. This is because of the cost of installing barcode readers on their gatelines and because scanning e-tickets at barrier lines is slower than reading magnetic tickets. This is not an issue elsewhere but it is an issue in London due to the very high throughput of passengers at some Underground stations.
 

Bletchleyite

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The TrainSplit app (at least the iPhone one; I haven't tried the Android one recently) also allows you to show your eTickets within the app (but you also get them e-mailed to you). Indeed it doesn't give you any choice - eTicket seemed to be the only option for the last journey I checked.
Cheers. I think that may be a recent change, I'll give it a go when I eventually get near a train again!
 

causton

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(not hard, it can be a mobile phone app on the phones staff have anyway!)
No doubt you are well experienced in getting new technology to frontline staff, with the intricacies of working out which software to choose, whether that aligns with the software/hardware providers you already use (avoiding yet ANOTHER company to purchase a support contract with), making sure the app works as intended, presenting a workable proposal that staff and the unions agree with, pilots and trials, training the staff on how to use the new app (if you use the TTK one wrong, for example, you could block someone's ticket completely) and all the other issues that could crop up... it's not like just downloading something from the Play Store!
 

Harpers Tate

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Call me old-fashioned if you want.
I have a current(ish) model Android Smartphone, which I do make good use of. I have apps for my car, transport, communications and the like as well as web browsing. I'd consider myself reasonably tech-savvy.

Unless and until I am forced into it - I will not, ever, choose any ticketing method that is reliant on my phone. Indeed, just before lockdown, I bought an Advance fare online. The TOC who provided the service offered physical ticket by mail at extra cost or online (presumably M-ticket) at no extra cost. Another TOC offered me the same fare/ticket as a PDF which I printed at home and took with me at no extra cost. That is where I bought it; THAT is as far as I will willingly go.

Why? It's a simple combination of
- a (slim, you might say) chance of the mobile device not working at the time of inspection, or a simple user error rendering the ticket invalid and so on
PLUS
- the manner in which TOC employees are reported to handle situations when they do arise, including escalation to firms like TIL who apparently have but one course of action and exercise zero discretion.

They have to fix the latter to my satisfaction before I will willingly embrace any schema that is reliant on my pocket technology.
 

Bletchleyite

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No doubt you are well experienced in getting new technology to frontline staff, with the intricacies of working out which software to choose, whether that aligns with the software/hardware providers you already use (avoiding yet ANOTHER company to purchase a support contract with), making sure the app works as intended, presenting a workable proposal that staff and the unions agree with, pilots and trials, training the staff on how to use the new app (if you use the TTK one wrong, for example, you could block someone's ticket completely) and all the other issues that could crop up... it's not like just downloading something from the Play Store!
Yes, I work in IT, and I do indeed do that kind of stuff (though primarily for IT Service Management purposes rather than checking tickets). So yes, I do understand the effects of it in the private sector, primarily.

You know my view on the Unions rejecting new technology, and I won't repost it here.

That a member of staff could accidentally invalidate a ticket entirely without following a process that was very obviously for that purpose is nothing short of appalling UI design, I'll add. You should never be able to accidentally press the nuclear button, as it were, on any IT system. It should always be obvious that that sort of action is being taken.
 

Hadders

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Call me old-fashioned if you want.
I have a current(ish) model Android Smartphone, which I do make good use of. I have apps for my car, transport, communications and the like as well as web browsing. I'd consider myself reasonably tech-savvy.

Unless and until I am forced into it - I will not, ever, choose any ticketing method that is reliant on my phone. Indeed, just before lockdown, I bought an Advance fare online. The TOC who provided the service offered physical ticket by mail at extra cost or online (presumably M-ticket) at no extra cost. Another TOC offered me the same fare/ticket as a PDF which I printed at home and took with me at no extra cost. That is where I bought it; THAT is as far as I will willingly go.

Why? It's a simple combination of
- a (slim, you might say) chance of the mobile device not working at the time of inspection, or a simple user error rendering the ticket invalid and so on
PLUS
- the manner in which TOC employees are reported to handle situations when they do arise, including escalation to firms like TIL who apparently have but one course of action and exercise zero discretion.

They have to fix the latter to my satisfaction before I will willingly embrace any schema that is reliant on my pocket technology.
So you willing use an e-ticket then?

Absolutely nothing wrong in printing an e-ticket onto paper. As I said upthread an e-ticket could even be printed onto orange credit card ticket stock!

How you choose to display an e-ticket is up to you. It's not different to an airline boarding pass. As a bit of a traditionalist I always used to print mine but more recently I've started to just show them on my phone as I find it far easier.
 

Haywain

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This is not an issue elsewhere but it is an issue in London
Actually, it's a problem in Merseyside and Scotland as well as London. The former (Merseyrail) seem unable to get involved in anything other than local tickets and the latter much prefer smartcards.
 

Bletchleyite

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Actually, it's a problem in Merseyside and Scotland as well as London. The former (Merseyrail) seem unable to get involved in anything other than local tickets and the latter much prefer smartcards.
Merseyrail need an ultimatum - accept e-tickets for all flows or leave whatever RSP is called now entirely. Same with Southeastern.
 

trainophile

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Why should we pay for printer cartridges, which are not cheap, just to show we have a valid ticket? How about this scenario - I often take trips away for a few days with a friend who lives elsewhere in the country. Although we can buy our own tickets to our point of meeting up, if we are then taking a day trip together to another place and wish to be allocated adjacent seats it means that one or other of us has to buy the tickets. Do e-tickets allow for the purchase of multiples of tickets for the same journey to be stored on one smartphone? At present (when we were able to travel) I would buy the 'day trip' paper tickets for both of us, complete with seat reservations where applicable. Or does each individual have to be able to show an e-ticket on separate phones? What about families? What about F&F railcards, where you might not have decided who is travelling at the time of purchase?
 

Clip

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I can see why they want to - even with using your card at a ticket window, the booking clerk has to print off and hand you your ticket and receipt which isnt ideal.
 

Harpers Tate

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So you willing use an e-ticket then?

Absolutely nothing wrong in printing an e-ticket onto paper. As I said upthread an e-ticket could even be printed onto orange credit card ticket stock!

How you choose to display an e-ticket is up to you. It's not different to an airline boarding pass. As a bit of a traditionalist I always used to print mine but more recently I've started to just show them on my phone as I find it far easier.
Yes - as long as I can print it. Which is what I will do, for as long as that option remains. And if/when I can no longer do so, I may cease using trains completely, solely because of that risk of punitive action.

It does differ from an airline boarding pass in that in the event of some failure (etc) you can't get on the aircraft and thereby incur any "non-payment" punitive action; you may even be able to get the boarding pass reprinted at check-in. And once onboard, no further ticket examinations take place. In other words, there is no risk associated with use of electronics. Whereas you can board a train and unwittingly be able to show your ticket, and that may incur punitive action. That is the issue I have.
 

Clip

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Why should we pay for printer cartridges, which are not cheap, just to show we have a valid ticket?

Are the printer cartridges in booking offices any cheaper seeing as they must run out of ink pretty quickly as they would print far more in a week than you would use in a year surely?
 

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