Paperless rail tickets across UK by 2019 - Chris Grayling

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by thenorthern, 2 Oct 2017.

  1. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    No way should this be considered until the train companies get their act together, stop being incompetent, and stop mistreating customers who had the misfortune to try out this technology.

    Examples:
    GTR gateline staff falsely claiming Cambridge to London Season not valid via Hitchin:
    GWR Guard falsely claiming Seaford to Reigate isn't valid on GWR
    Multiple issues with The Key on GTR:
    And there are many more issues, such as changing an Advance being problematical, and some TOCs requiring a nominated form of ID, and then claiming the ticket is invalid if the customer has that ID stolen.

    Oh yeah and group tickets... you have to nominate a "lead passenger" and if that person is ill on the day, everyone may be screwed!

    Some people who are employed to inspect tickets cannot be trusted not to mistreat customers with "smart" or "mobile" ticketing.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2018
  2. maniacmartin

    maniacmartin Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    I'm with WelshBluebird on this.
    Sorry SteveP29, but the railways track record on this has proven that comparisons with how other industries use technology for ticketting is largely useless.
     
  3. Ediswan

    Ediswan Member

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    Fully replacing a paper based system is not easy.

    BBC News in 2009 "Cheques to be phased out in 2018": http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8414341.stm
    Plan abandoned in 2011: "All work to prepare for closing the cheque clearing system in 2018 has stopped."
    Most recent statement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/frequently-asked-questions-on-the-closure-of-the-cheque-system
     
  4. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    Just to add a quick point. I am not some technophobic dinosaur. I have presumably part of the demographic that the whole smart ticketing thing is aimed at. I am 27, use my smartphone for probably too much, have a Computer Science degree and am a software developer. Perhaps it is the last two points that actually fuel my skepticism (on top of the railway's past failures). Maybe I am too close as I know exactly what can go wrong and how often it does go wrong (seriously, anyone who isn't aware would be amazed how often things go wrong and how much of a fudge some of the solutions are - it isn't always the case, but a surprising number of systems people use everyday are essentially held together by string).

    And yet there are still problems with that too.

    We have a similar setup at Cardiff, it has been seemingly working fine for the last 8 or so seasons (since we moved to the new stadium). However this year there have been a large number of problems with it. Thousands of season tickets simply would not work at the start of the season, causing massive queues that resulted in many people missing the kick offs of the first few games. For the first couple of games they had no idea what was going on so they just sent people to the ticket office which obviously was not helpful when there are so many affected. Then they started having stewards at the gates who could manually overwrite the system and let people through. But now its got to the point where those affected have just been sent paper tickets! It hasn't been officially stated, but I suspect some kind of software or hardware upgrade is at fault, but it is weird as there is no obvious link between affected cases (some were old tickets which had been renewed for this season, some were new tickets, some worked for the first game then didn't after etc).

    So a bit off topic, but just proving the problems smart ticketing can cause (so much so that the current fix in this case is to go back to paper tickets).

    Now imagine the issues above, but where the standard reaction to your ticket not working is either prosecution, a fine, a penalty fare or having to buy a new ticket.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2018
  5. island

    island Established Member

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    In most cases there is a specific app which is used for managing m-tickets.
     
  6. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    That was the case for the first year but after that they gave up loading cup tickets onto my NUFC season so i have no idea what went wrong there.
     
  7. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    A key point, in my view. I have, on an number of occasions, been accused of travelling illegally when a valid paper rail ticket has been rejected by a barrier. With a paper ticket you can show the people falsely accusing you what is printed on the ticket and politely explain to them why they are talking b******.
    If a smartcard fails to work a barrier you can bet your life that the response from these false accusers will remain "the barrier has rejected it, so it is not valid" but you would have nothing to show to confirm the ticket held as they gleefully start to issue a penalty fare/fake or claim you needed to buy a new ticket.

    On the smartphone front, there have been reports on here of app 'upgrades' screwing up people's previously bought tickets and the holder then having nothing to show, with PFs/new tickets then being demanded.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2018
  8. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    Or something like those car alarms from the 90s/early 00s that cycled through a series of different alarm sounds...
     
  9. takno

    takno Established Member

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    I'd be a lot happier if they just used the barcodes and checked a central database like most other e-ticket people do. It's the need to have their own with weird variable displays and other "security" features that make me wary - it's too likely to not work on your phone/stop working randomonly on an updgrade/lose all its data. I only have half a dozen apps installed on my phone and I'm not really in the business of adding more.
     
  10. JetStream

    JetStream Member

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    A few TOCs have this actually, I know VTWC and ATW do.
     
  11. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    For what it is worth, I would fully support a drive towards e/m/s-ticketing as a primary method, provided that a single national standard be agreed for all so that any ticket printed at home, smartcard or mobile app could be read by any NR / TOC reader be it at stations or on-board. Plus all ticketing engines should be required to offer all options on demand, and allow filtering based on cost, travel time, changes etc. And any site charges should be advertised clearly before offering the results, or at least at that point and not at a later payment screen. This really shouldn't be too difficult, as stated other operators in other countries manage it well enough, although there really is no way that it could happen by the end of next year. I would put a target of around 3-5 years for full implementation, including extensive trials to iron out issues that arise. That's not to say paper tickets should be done away with completely, there are some people as noted that may not have access to electronic means of procurement so a back-up system would be needed at least in the interim. So I would look to keep ticket offices & TVMs well beyond the implementation period.

    However to promote smarter ticketing I would propose a small percentage tariff on paper tickets, say in the region of around 5%. And before the complaints start about being unfair, let's be frank here. Those people currently unable / unaware of buying online, often with big discounts offered are already treated different to people who know how and when to buy online, or even know how to look for split ticketing. The idea of a charge would be to encourage those people who can to move to smarter ticketing, and then number of people who can't dwindles year on year. I know there a lot of elderly people with no access or no confidence in online buying or using smart tech, but equally there are a growing number of people over 60 who can (we have two very experienced devs on my team over 60). And as the years pass the generations entering pensionable age will have been brought up with computers, or at least almost constant exposure to smart technology. So that "what about the elderly" will get less relevant as time goes on.

    As for the people who still seem to struggle even with simple acts such as passing through barriers let alone buying online, from personal experience it seems that often can't is actually won't. Just yesterday at Leeds there there were over a dozen people crowded around just two barriers (close to the VTEC booth) flapping around trying to get the attention of the gateline staff whilst a further three gates stood unused. So I just walked past, tapped my MCard in at one of the unused gates and passed through successfully. Suddenly most of the "can'ts" found the ability to use the barrier themselves, as opposed to waiting for the one member of gateline staff to tap them through. It is something I have observed not just at barriers, but in my job. Some people don't like to take responsibility for themselves, they want to be led by the hand, or better still have someone else do even the simplest tasks. Only when they see other people benefiting from taking responsibility are they prompted into doing it themselves.
     
  12. Cdd89

    Cdd89 Member

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    I actaully have the opposite concern from those who think they'll be denied travel (in relation to mTickets). I think the more prevalant mTickets become, the more they will be used as a vehicle for rampant fraud by serial fare evaders and unauthorised ticket vendors.

    Most guards (irrespective of technical knowledge) are not going to get a more useful error than "invalid signature" or a non-read entirely, when presented with an invalid barcode, and I suspect the vast majority of guards will simply fall back on the human-readable version of the ticket rather than challenging/accusing (after all, that's what it's there for). And 90% of guards will not be verifying the colours, either, not that that is exactly difficult to get around for a determined fraudster. The fact is, mTickets do away with one of the key factors in preventing fraud, which is consistency; experienced guards know what to look out for and can identify a fraudulent paper ticket based on the smallest of details, despite it being a relatively insecure ticket medium. By contrast, there is so much variation in mobile phone OSs, display/presentation, and apps that have licensed/ported the design across from Masabi (where it originated - do they even make TOC apps anymore?) that any benefit of consistency goes out of the window.

    I bet guards absolutely hate these tickets, I know when I've had an mTicket where the underlying entitlement is actually a flexible ticket to multiple stations, and arrive at a station without mobile ticketing facilities, there is almost a sigh of defeat from the guard who has basically no idea what he's being shown. Sometimes guards think they are being presented with advance tickets, due to the way the suggested service departure time is prominently displayed and the ticket entitlement is on the other page - that isn't a good experience for anyone, and probably further puts off many guards from actually validating these tickets.

    All the above applies to the human readable versions of mTickets. I completely agree with those above who say the only valuable system is one which has a reference number that is looked up, and cancelled when checked, on a live central database. Obviously it hasn't been designed this way, due to the need for tickets to work offline (both for the customer activating the ticket, and the guard validating the ticket). Any offline-based system is going to be subject to fraudulent ticket duplication. I read an interesting article about how the mTicket QR codes sync up after the fact once scanning devices are reconnected to the network, with the idea that fraudulent ticket use is traced back, cards are blacklisted, etc. I wonder how many prosecutions have actaully happened as a result of these checks, bearing in mind they can be purchased anonymously and the offender is likely to be long gone? And, indeed, the offender may not be the one travelling, but criminals who set up a bogus website selling one identical ticket to multiple people at a discount.

    Currently mTickets are a bit of a niche play, and not worth the effort of fraudsters - that would soon change in the event of a wide rollout. It would also not be easy for a nationwide system to respond to changes in the threat landscape, bearing in mind how long it's taken to even get this system rolled out to any degree of acceptance.

    All of the above is to say that I think mTickets are a bit silly as it stands. Unless/until a 100% online system is established, some other form of smart media (controlled by the ticket issuer) is going to be more effective if we don't wish to destroy confidence in ticketing systems.
     
  13. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    Whilst fraud would be a concern, and something that would need looking at as part of the solution, in itself it is not necessarily a reason to not go for smarter solutions. If that philosophy were replicated elsewhere, we wouldn't all be walking around with bank and credit cards, or indeed even cash as these can be and are all used fraudulently.

    As for guards hating them, I'd be interested in the opinions of guards themselves. But on some TOCs there are already a variety of different ticket types and devices waved at them during checks, I would hope TOCs keep them up to date on what they might be presented with although with the use of QR / NFC tech a simple scan would reveal exactly what was on the ticket. In the case where either a code fails due to bad printing the details would usually be on print-out anyway, as they are with airline tickets. And if a NFC scan fails I guess the guard would have to use their discretion. But as a regular user of a smartcard for travelling and work, they rarely fail and if they do it is always the reader not the card that fails, in which case the guard could not complete their check and would have to assume the passenger does indeed have a valid ticket.
     
  14. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    VTEC have caught several fake tickets due to the Barcode not matching the printed ticket.
     
  15. Cdd89

    Cdd89 Member

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    Interesting (both that they have been caught, which surprises me based on my own experience of the checks that usually happen on mTickets... and that counterfeit mTickets are indeed around in the first place).
     
  16. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    Would they have been e-Tickets as opposed to m-Tickets? If there was a printed ticket this implies the former as m-Tickets don't require a printed copy (happy to be corrected BTW)?
     
  17. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    I think this is the best way forward. A barcode (or QR code, or whatever) that is scanned by guards and barriers that can be presented on a number of formats, be that in a smartphone app, a printed PDF, a ticket sold by a guard etc. Still doesn't solve the issue of the QR code scanners at barriers being slow, or the cross London issue, but certainly better than the situation today.
     
  18. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    The software / hardware companies probably need to speak to Ticketer, FirstBus are rolling these out and they read QR codes pretty quickly from what I've seen!!
     
  19. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    There’ll need to be a constant connection from the guards hand held device to the database which will be problematic in many areas.

    At a concert venue your ticket is only scanned once, but on a train many scans of the same ticket might need to take place if you have to change trains. That’s before we start talking about break of journey...
     
  20. gordonthemoron

    gordonthemoron Established Member

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    what about cross london journeys?
     
  21. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    Yep I've noticed that too! Much faster than the barriers at Cardiff Central anyway. Not sure if it is the hardware, software or just the positioning that makes them better though! And even if they were the same speed, the ones FirstBus are using are much easier to use as a passenger because you can actually see where the QR code is in relation to the scanner (while with the ones at Cardiff Central, you put the code facing downwards which means you can no longer see exactly where it is, so it is harder to line up).
     
  22. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    Self print for these not m-Tickets
     
  23. Sprinter153

    Sprinter153 Member

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    I don't like checking mobile tickets.

    As someone has mentioned there is a plethora of different devices, operating systems, and applications which means there is no consistent format for the tickets. The details are across multiple screens in many cases so you have to ask the customer to flick between them if necessary. This also means that the customer doesn't necessarily see the restrictions and in my experience they are more likely to be invalid than valid.

    To validate them I have to leave the STAR Mobile ticket issuing application (locking myself out in the process), enter my location's NLC, open the barcode reader app and then confirm service details (which may or may not be remembered on each use). I then need to scan the ticket, and read the information on it - in the same layout as a paper ticket which would take a fraction of the time to examine - to check validity before accepting or rejecting it (and choosing a reason why if I am rejecting it). I then need to reopen STAR and unsuspend my shift or it will time out.

    On the other hand smartcards are fine. Scan, check and move on.
     
  24. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    Yeah, I was just thinking about the positioning of the scanner. On the Ticketer the scanner faces down, and the passenger simply places the ticket face up to be read. Beep and done!! Whereas the barriers require the passenger to place the QR ticket over the glass in front of the scanner, and as you say you cannot see exactly where the scanner needs it to be. Plus it occurs to me that in certain stations, and especially with print-at-home tickets sunlight could be playing a factor shining through the ticket and causing it not to read it properly.

    I think we can safely say that perhaps a redesign, and a costly one at that is needed for the barrier readers?

    Thanks for that, its interesting to get first hand opinion on the process. Clearly some kind of standard, one screen only option is needed on all the mobile apps & also some redesign of the app on your STAR to allow scanning within the ticket issuing app. This is why whilst I feel that this technology ought to be pursued, it needs full and robust field testing and using feedback to make necessary adjustments. Ideally the app if built to read the the code without logging in and out of others would display the relevant details on your device, negating the need for your to see what's on the passenger's device?
     
  25. crosscity

    crosscity Member

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    I have a Senior Railcard so am no youngster. I am technically literate having spent a 35-year career as a computer programmer (a 'coder' in modern parlance). I have no trouble with the idea of using my smartphone or any other digital method to travel on the railway. However paper or card tickets have advantages such as:
    - evidence of right to travel at the time it is needed. Ie no fumbling with a phone at a gate or arguing about what is on my smartcard if I'm breaking my journey
    - mobiles/tablets etc are clumsier and heavier than tickets so are more difficult to use at gatelines especially when you have luggage
    - I tend to look after tickets when travelling with my partner/children/vulnerable friends. I hand out the tickets just before the barriers, get myself and everyone through them, then collect the tickets up immediately. This can work with smart cards too, but I haven't worked out how it might work with mobiles. Can I have two or more tickets for the same journey on one device? Could I get us through a barrier without some human intervention?

    I think these are good reasons for keeping paper tickets for the foreseeable future. For me it's horses for courses. I want the choice.
     
  26. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    You need a DORIS , the stand alone scanner is very small and buzzes to indicate whether a ticket is valid or not. just keep checking tickets/scanning no need to look at the screen. The phone also reads ITSO.
     
  27. CaptainHaddock

    CaptainHaddock Established Member

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    I couldn't agree more. As others have pointed out, if your phone battery's run down or you can't access the internet then effectively you have no ticket! A paper ticket has neither of these disadvantages plus you can't print it multiple times or email a copy to a friend as you potentially could with a mobile e-ticket. Whenever the question of mobile e-tickets raises its head, you should ask yourself exactly who is going to benefit from phasing out paper tickets? It's certainly not the passenger!

    TOCs want paper tickets phased out so they can reduce costs to an absolute minimum. Once paper tickets are gone, not only can they close booking offices but they won't need to maintain expensive ticket printing machines at stations which often get vandalised and require constant restocking. In time call centres and their staff will probably go too.

    Whilst I do own a smartphone, I find this daft obesssion with doing absolutely everything on a phone just because it's the latest technology baffling. Smartphones are handy for killing time and finding up to date information about train running, weather forecasts and maps for example, but when it comes to tickets (for trains or otherwise), they're trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist!
     
  28. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    You'd be surprised . It's not always the TOCs pushing the agenda
     
  29. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I’ll push it myself. I want to be able to buy a ticket on the way to the station, not have to queue when I get there. I want proper mobile ticketing. There is a synergy there between my want for that and the TOC wanting to cut costs. What is the problem?
     
  30. Gareth Marston

    Gareth Marston Established Member

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    Unfortunately the agenda is being driven for other reasons than passenger benefit namely ICT lobbyists in it for their own £ ends, an anti union Labour agenda from the Torys, the hope that confused passengers select more expensive fares than need be on the internet to boost revenue.
     

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