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

35B

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I agree. This is actually one area where it would be sensible for all the TOCs to work together and develop a single app, which could then be customised with their branding and possibly also add-on modules (e.g. around catering, etc). There really is no logic in reinventing the wheel. Of course this does happen already to an extent - there are several apps which are used by multiple TOCs with their branding, but all of them which I've used have their drawbacks.
You mean like the mediocre NRE app - the lowest common denominator that upsets the fewest. I simply don't understand the mindset that sees centralising as the answer, and assumes that a central body must deliver a better product.

I've had an invite from LNER to test their new app (I've declined due to not travelling at present), and it's clear that they are trying to do something that works for their customers, using the app to build relationships with their customers.

I've no idea whether it will be good, bad or awful, but I'd be very wary of an approach that treats rail customers as though we're all the same. I'd be even more cautious of that being done by some background organisation, that has no direct connection with the customers who actually buy the industry's services. The experience of Railtrack/Network Rail shows how that disconnect works against customers as the focus shifts from supporting the front line business to a narrow focus.
 
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DavidB

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The only problem is that TOCs are very different, one size doesn't fit all. Southeastern and LNER are like chalk and cheese.
That's simply not true. At a basic level, they are all selling tickets and largely have the same types of tickts available.

What do you think would be essential in a Southeastern app which would be completely inappropriate to LNER, and vice versa?
 

DavidB

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You mean like the mediocre NRE app - the lowest common denominator that upsets the fewest. I simply don't understand the mindset that sees centralising as the answer, and assumes that a central body must deliver a better product.
No, I mean something that actually works, and gives consistency. There's no reason why it has to be the lowest common denominator - as far as apps go, the fundamental requirements are fairly straightforward to specify, and common to all train operators, so a joint approach should be workable.

I've been involved in a number of projects (not railway related, but the same issues apply) which have been done along these lines - the parties (who are all in a similar line of business) get together and draw up a specification, then put it out to tender. The collective buying power means that a better product is normally possible than going it alone, and the same applies to the standard of ongoing support and updating which can be afforded. It's actually also less likely to lead to a crap product as crucial features are far less likely to be missed with a number of parties involved in setting the specifications. And it can be modular, so bits which are only specific to some TOCs (a catering section, perhaps) are only included where needed.
 

Wallsendmag

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That's simply not true. At a basic level, they are all selling tickets and largely have the same types of tickts available.

What do you think would be essential in a Southeastern app which would be completely inappropriate to LNER, and vice versa?
Reservations and barcode tickets for LNER and ITSO for SE. If you really think they are the same you have a far too simplistic view of the industry.
 

DavidB

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Reservations and barcode tickets for LNER and ITSO for SE. If you really think they are the same you have a far too simplistic view of the industry.
Modules within the app to cope with either/both should be perfectly possible.

There does seem rather a tendency within the railways to justify illogical systems on the basis that a better one 'can't be done', when often this is just down to being inflexible in reality.
 

Haywain

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No, I mean something that actually works, and gives consistency. There's no reason why it has to be the lowest common denominator - as far as apps go, the fundamental requirements are fairly straightforward to specify, and common to all train operators, so a joint approach should be workable.
The reason a unified approach doesn't work is that there are 26 (or so) TOCs with different priorities, different spending power and different timescales and franchise lengths to work to. If a couple of TOCs decide they don't want to be involved (for example, Merseyrail and Scotrail) how do you get to your joint approach.
 

DavidB

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The reason a unified approach doesn't work is that there are 26 (or so) TOCs with different priorities, different spending power and different timescales and franchise lengths to work to. If a couple of TOCs decide they don't want to be involved (for example, Merseyrail and Scotrail) how do you get to your joint approach.
It needs DfT backing.
 

Jonny

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The reason a unified approach doesn't work is that there are 26 (or so) TOCs with different priorities, different spending power and different timescales and franchise lengths to work to. If a couple of TOCs decide they don't want to be involved (for example, Merseyrail and Scotrail) how do you get to your joint approach.
It needs DfT backing.
That is going to be rather awkward for Scotrail given that it is the domain of the Scottish Government rather than the UK DfT.
 

Haywain

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It needs DfT backing.
What form does this 'backing' take? Are the DfT going to pay for it, in which case they'll want control over the project? Or are they telling the TOCs that they control (so that's not Scotland, Wales or Merseyside) that they must pay for it? In the latter case some of the TOCs will argue that with, say, 9 months of a franchise to run they shouldn't be paying at all for something with a lead time of 12-15 months. These are the reasons that a unified approach has not properly worked since privatisation commenced.
 

DavidB

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That is going to be rather awkward for Scotrail given that it is the domain of the Scottish Government rather than the UK DfT.
Here we go again! It may be possible to come to an agreement with Scotland/Wales - but even if not, most of the TOCs are in England.

What is it with railway enthusiasts that they agree that most of the current offerings are crap, but are keen to find reasons why any alternative approach wouldn't work? Things never change if people start from the premise of "it won't work" after a cursory glance whenever an alternative is suggested. If the DfT (or possible the RDG) wanted to get behind something like this, it coul quite likely work.
 

DavidB

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What form does this 'backing' take? Are the DfT going to pay for it, in which case they'll want control over the project? Or are they telling the TOCs that they control (so that's not Scotland, Wales or Merseyside) that they must pay for it? In the latter case some of the TOCs will argue that with, say, 9 months of a franchise to run they shouldn't be paying at all for something with a lead time of 12-15 months. These are the reasons that a unified approach has not properly worked since privatisation commenced.
Obviously there are plenty of models for this - unless it actually happens it's impossible to say which would be preferred. It could be a DfT commission, it could be passed to RDG, it could be Dft/RDG led with TOC contributions depending on their turnover and franchise time remaining - and no doubt plenty of other models. Just because there hasn't been a unified approach until now doesn't mean it's impossible. In another sector, I've been involved in several unified projects for IT systems, where prior to that each of the parties involved had just gone their own way.

But anyway, I think that we can sum up the views on here as:
- The existing offerings are mostly crap and inconsistent
- Nothing is going to change because any alternative won't work

Does make discussing it seem rather pointless...
 

Mainline421

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Reservations and barcode tickets for LNER and ITSO for SE. If you really think they are the same you have a far too simplistic view of the industry.
They are still fundamentally the same, SE do sell advances and many LNER customers don't want or need a reservation, plus there are comparable journey times. All the apps like Sheepline already target both in exactly the same way and of course even TOC apps treat them the same. Obviously I'm not suggesting that everything about the two is identical, the first class service needn't be the same for example, but they are both one national rail network LNER is not an airline. I don't think a standardised app for all TOCs is a good idea but it's certainly not a case of 'chalk and cheese.'
 

Wallsendmag

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Here we go again! It may be possible to come to an agreement with Scotland/Wales - but even if not, most of the TOCs are in England.

What is it with railway enthusiasts that they agree that most of the current offerings are crap, but are keen to find reasons why any alternative approach wouldn't work? Things never change if people start from the premise of "it won't work" after a cursory glance whenever an alternative is suggested. If the DfT (or possible the RDG) wanted to get behind something like this, it coul quite likely work.
some of the posters on here are involved with the roll out of RDG/DfT programs and have first hand experience of the problems. Don’t think we’re looking for problems , we’re more used to looking for ways around the problems.
 

Wallsendmag

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They are still fundamentally the same, SE do sell advances and many LNER customers don't want or need a reservation, plus there are comparable journey times. All the apps like Sheepline already target both in exactly the same way and of course even TOC apps treat them the same. Obviously I'm not suggesting that everything about the two is identical, the first class service needn't be the same for example, but they are both one national rail network LNER is not an airline. I don't think a standardised app for all TOCs is a good idea but it's certainly not a case of 'chalk and cheese.'
It really is believe me
 

Haywain

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What is it with railway enthusiasts that
... think that they know what the answer is to perceived problems and dismiss any explanation from rail professionals of what the obstacles are to their favourite idea.
 

DavidB

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... think that they know what the answer is to perceived problems and dismiss any explanation from rail professionals of what the obstacles are to their favourite idea.
This is more an IT issue than a rail specific one.

So far as I can see there has been no explanation given as to what the technical issues are.
 

Haywain

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This is more an IT issue than a rail specific one.

So far as I can see there has been no explanation given as to what the technical issues are.
Has anyone suggested there are technical issues? There are undoubtedly problems around coordinating 20-plus companies to organise and pay for something, and to reach agreement on what it should be and what it should do. It would be necessary to get past all that to find out of there are technical problems but I doubt they would stop the show if it ever got started.
 

35B

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This is more an IT issue than a rail specific one.

So far as I can see there has been no explanation given as to what the technical issues are.
The issues aren’t technical, they are of co ordination. And given that ITSO was a DfT backed project, I think we have a clear example of why a centralised project model is not necessarily more likely to succeed or deliver a useful result.

That isn’t to say that a joint approach can’t work, but why it is no panacea.

Oh, and for reference, I work in the IT industry and have 20+ years of client facing experience, including dealing with decision makers on significantly larger pieces of work than would be involved in an app like these. Even within a large organisation, it can be like herding cats.
 

Belperpete

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The problem is that DfT has specified, as part of franchise conditions, that the TOCs must roll out electronic ticketing. This has saved DfT from having to pay for it, at least directly. However, they have left it to individual TOCs as to how they implement it, and don't seem to have specified much in the way of interoperability requirements. Some TOCs seem to be using it as a way of tying customers to their services, in much the same way as they do with advance tickets. Many people are soon going to be carrying around a handful of electronic cards (Oyster, GTR, SWT, etc) and phone apps - and still having to buy card tickets for many journeys in order to get best value. This is a ludicrous situation.

It doesn't need DfT to run or pay for the system. But there does need to be a clear requirement that any form of ticketing introduced by a TOC should be capable of dealing with tickets for all UK rail services, not just that TOC's services, in a similar way to the requirement that all TOCs should sell tickets for all UK rail journeys. Any form of ticketing should be capable of dealing with all UK rail journeys. If I want a season ticket from say Croydon to Reading, I should be able to get it on one card or one app.

The proposed change in the franchising model to a concession-based system hopefully offers the opportunity to sort this out. An Oyster card is valid on any London bus, no matter which concessionary is operating it. The same should apply on the national rail network.
 

AM9

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I agree. This is actually one area where it would be sensible for all the TOCs to work together and develop a single app, which could then be customised with their branding and possibly also add-on modules (e.g. around catering, etc). There really is no logic in reinventing the wheel. Of course this does happen already to an extent - there are several apps which are used by multiple TOCs with their branding, but all of them which I've used have their drawbacks.
I agree with that so that staff should all have the same ability to recognise the important information on tickets. That co-operation should extend to the format of a ticket, a standard for TVMs, a standard for universal gatelines that can read smartphone screens, print at home tickets and TVM/Booking Office issued tickets. There is no need for the holder of any ticket medium to be disadvantaged.
 

Bletchleyite

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I agree with that so that staff should all have the same ability to recognise the important information on tickets. That co-operation should extend to the format of a ticket, a standard for TVMs, a standard for universal gatelines that can read smartphone screens, print at home tickets and TVM/Booking Office issued tickets. There is no need for the holder of any ticket medium to be disadvantaged.
I think in the context of the likely move to concessions (which does overlap with that thread, but is probably more specific to here) it would make sense to let a contract for the provision and management of a single national ticketing system (including things like ticket office machines and staff machines) and app to be run under the nationalrail.co.uk branding, with a fully featured API to allow privately run sites like Trainline, Trainsplit/Raileasy etc to continue to operate their commercial sites if they so wish, a bit like the way you can buy a flight from Opodo/Expedia/whatever or direct from the airline as you prefer.

Each TOC having their own seems pointless duplication and a waste of money.
 

mattdickinson

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I think in the context of the likely move to concessions (which does overlap with that thread, but is probably more specific to here) it would make sense to let a contract for the provision and management of a single national ticketing system (including things like ticket office machines and staff machines) and app to be run under the nationalrail.co.uk branding, with a fully featured API to allow privately run sites like Trainline, Trainsplit/Raileasy etc to continue to operate their commercial sites if they so wish, a bit like the way you can buy a flight from Opodo/Expedia/whatever or direct from the airline as you prefer.

Each TOC having their own seems pointless duplication and a waste of money.
For the south east, all that it really needed is to extend TfL's Contactless Payment system to cover the rest of the former NSE area.
 

JonathanH

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For the south east, all that it really needed is to extend TfL's Contactless Payment system to cover the rest of the former NSE area.
£75-£80 and up to six hours(?) for Weymouth to Kings Lynn single might be pushing it a bit to its extremes. At what point would Contactless time out?

Realistically it isn't going to be valid over that sort of distance - I think the area in the PAYG consultation is probably as far as it should go, perhaps with another region for Hampshire / Solent and an overlay of e-ticket capability outside those zones (although you could then get the complication that it wasn't valid from Basingstoke to Winchester or similar)

Perhaps it needs to be that Contactless is only valid for 'local' journeys with overlapping areas. I'm sure that is closer to what people actually want
- convenience of Contactless for short journeys - no break of journey - all single fares
- e-tickets for longer distance journeys - mainly booking ahead but not necessarily fixed tickets.
 
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mattdickinson

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£75-£80 and up to six hours(?) for Weymouth to Kings Lynn single might be pushing it a bit to its extremes. At what point would Contactless time out?
Most long journeys would involve passing through gatelines in London. As the fares on CPCs are calculated in the back office at the end of the day, maximum journey times can be set to any period consistent with commercial and fraud prevention dictates. The £45 limit doesn't actually apply to the transit mode for Contactless. The charge to be made for unresolved journeys would be the hardest part to decide upon.
 

JonathanH

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Most long journeys would involve passing through gatelines in London. As the fares on CPCs are calculated in the back office at the end of the day, maximum journey times can be set to any period consistent with commercial and fraud prevention dictates. The £45 limit doesn't actually apply to the transit mode for Contactless. The charge to be made for unresolved journeys would be the hardest part to decide upon.
Yes, but if you are extending Contactless to either Weymouth or Kings Lynn, why would it not be extended to Birmingham or Bristol? The NSE area isn't necessarily what should dictate the set up and there is no reason to deny local travellers around Bristol the flexibility of Contactless fare structures. A line has to be drawn somewhere.

Adopting the same fare structure for London to Bournemouth as London to Bristol or London to Birmingham has its merits. If the whole structure is being ripped-up, why shouldn't the fares be more closely aligned? Isn't this part of the current problem?

[Personally, I hate the fact that at some point it will no longer be possible to buy an off-peak day return from Ramsgate to Southampton along the south coast for a crazy cheap 'paper' fare (£15.10 with railcard) that allows loads of breaks of journey but Contactless and single-leg pricing is what most people appear to want.]
 
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35B

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I think in the context of the likely move to concessions (which does overlap with that thread, but is probably more specific to here) it would make sense to let a contract for the provision and management of a single national ticketing system (including things like ticket office machines and staff machines) and app to be run under the nationalrail.co.uk branding, with a fully featured API to allow privately run sites like Trainline, Trainsplit/Raileasy etc to continue to operate their commercial sites if they so wish, a bit like the way you can buy a flight from Opodo/Expedia/whatever or direct from the airline as you prefer.

Each TOC having their own seems pointless duplication and a waste of money.
I really don't understand this love of the Railtrack/Network Rail model, where critical parts of the service are passed away from the customer facing part of the business, and instead left as an orphan, providing services to those businesses and their customers, but not controlled or significantly influenced by them. I can't think of a better way to structure things so as to maximise the odds of really poor service.
 

Wallsendmag

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I think in the context of the likely move to concessions (which does overlap with that thread, but is probably more specific to here) it would make sense to let a contract for the provision and management of a single national ticketing system (including things like ticket office machines and staff machines) and app to be run under the nationalrail.co.uk branding, with a fully featured API to allow privately run sites like Trainline, Trainsplit/Raileasy etc to continue to operate their commercial sites if they so wish, a bit like the way you can buy a flight from Opodo/Expedia/whatever or direct from the airline as you prefer.

Each TOC having their own seems pointless duplication and a waste of money.
Can you arrange this to take over in about six years so I can have a nice redundancy payment before I retire
 

ForTheLoveOf

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I really don't understand this love of the Railtrack/Network Rail model, where critical parts of the service are passed away from the customer facing part of the business, and instead left as an orphan, providing services to those businesses and their customers, but not controlled or significantly influenced by them. I can't think of a better way to structure things so as to maximise the odds of really poor service.
On the one hand, duplication has been one of the causes of needless cost inflation in the privatised industry.

But, much as I dislike them, without Trainline the concept of buying train tickets online or on an app simply wouldn't have taken off nearly as quickly as it did. Without TrainSplit, split ticketing wouldn't have become as mainstream as it now it (yes, it's still a minority that do it, but Trainline are now doing it too).

So there has to a certain extent been innovation that a unified system may never have developed (or at least not as quickly). With this in mind, unification isn't necessarily the right answer to solving the problems with British train ticket selling (the actual fares themselves are an entirely separate matter!).
 

Belperpete

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On the one hand, duplication has been one of the causes of needless cost inflation in the privatised industry.

But, much as I dislike them, without Trainline the concept of buying train tickets online or on an app simply wouldn't have taken off nearly as quickly as it did. Without TrainSplit, split ticketing wouldn't have become as mainstream as it now it (yes, it's still a minority that do it, but Trainline are now doing it too).

So there has to a certain extent been innovation that a unified system may never have developed (or at least not as quickly). With this in mind, unification isn't necessarily the right answer to solving the problems with British train ticket selling (the actual fares themselves are an entirely separate matter!).
A good point. We need coordination, but that does not necessarily mean central control. All that is needed is a requirement that any ticketing system should be capable of dealing with all journeys, and not just limited to one TOC's services. All TOCs can accept and read an e-ticket issued by any TOC, and the same should apply to any other medium used to hold a ticket, such as app or swipe-card based ticket. That would not rule out specific ticket products that are only valid on a specific TOC or a specific area.
 

Re 4/4

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And yet there's another thread in the fares section where someone claims they're being incorrectly asked to show a receipt for their smartcard, because it's from a different issuer and the station staff can't read it.

Also, this thread has just convinced me not to touch mobile tickets with a six-foot pole: https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/train-investigations-limited-til-court-threats.198679/
That kind of thing has to become as rare as wrong-side failures of signals before I ever buy a mobile ticket. Just not worth the risk otherwise.
 

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