Railcards - why no phone app?

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jthjth

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Having read the other thread about photographs of railcards being unacceptable, I'm wondering why it's not possible to have a smart phone app with a copy of your rail card on it. The photo and expiry date can be digitally watermarked to prevent alteration, and you ought to be able to upload your e-railcard when you purchase the conventional one. To be clear. I'm not advocating replacing the existing physical cards, just supplementing them. Most smart phone users tend to have them with them all the time, and it would reduce the incidence of forgotten or lost cards.
 
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najaB

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I'm wondering why it's not possible to have a smart phone app with a copy of your rail card on it.
I'm sure it is possible. Write to ATOC to find out if they have any plans in that direction. It would have to be either/or though - you couldn't have both.
 

cool110

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The big problem with this is that not all railcards have photos (e.g. senior). So there's nothing to stop someone handing the physical card to a friend and using the app for themselves.
 

gray1404

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Yeah but by the same token there is nothing stopping someone lending their physical railcard to someone else (photo or no photo).
 

Paul Kelly

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This was posted on the forum a while ago:
http://www.raildeliverygroup.com/media-centre/press-releases/2015/661-2015-09-28.html
Rail Delivery Group said:
New Railcard app to save passengers time as well as money

Written on 28 September 2015.

Railcards are set to be revolutionised under plans for a new digital app enabling passengers to store their cards on a smartphone and tablet.

More than 40 years after the first Railcard was introduced, the complete range of national Railcards will be available digitally as well as on paper or plastic in a move designed to make applying for and using the popular rail travel discount card simpler, quicker and more convenient.

The app will also mean that fewer customers are left frustrated at having left their Railcard at home, as they are more likely to remember their phone.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has launched a search for a supplier to come up with the technology with the aim of introducing the Railcard app in April next year.

A digital Railcard will look just like a paper or plastic version but will be quicker to apply for, with no need to queue at a station ticket office or to wait for a card in the post.

Once downloaded, the app won’t need an internet connection, and will be available offline to show to staff on the train or at the station.

It will sit on a smartphone or other smart device but the user will be able to retrieve it again even if their device is lost, stolen or replaced.

Andrew Robertson, ATOC’s Head of Marketing, said:

“More than half of all users buy their Railcards online and we expect that over time a similar proportion will switch to the app to save time and make their journeys more convenient.

“The rail industry is using more and more cutting-edge technology to benefit passengers and to make buying and using new types of electronic train tickets and Railcards simpler. For example, the industry is rolling out flexible mobile tickets that can be used across different train operators.”

There are more than 3.7million national Railcards in use today, with the 16-25 Railcard and the Senior Railcard the most popular. The new digital app will mark the biggest step forward in the discount cards since the first Student Railcard was introduced in 1974.
 

najaB

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Yeah but by the same token there is nothing stopping someone lending their physical railcard to someone else (photo or no photo).
But there's only one physical card so only one (set of) discounted ticket(s) can be used at any point in time. With a card and an app there could be two. Hence it would have be either a physical card or an app.
 

jthjth

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I'm sure it is possible. Write to ATOC to find out if they have any plans in that direction. It would have to be either/or though - you couldn't have both.

Why either/or? I'm puzzled. So long as it is photo card rail card I can't see the objection. As to non photo card rail cards, they could be left out of the scheme, or you would have to provide a photo to get an e-card (and of course you would get a photo physical card).

I have just emailed the address given on the railcard website to ask. I'm not hopeful of a useful reply.

An e-card would certainly have helped my son, who realised he had forgotten his railcard when he got to the station. (He did get the ticket supplemented at the ticket office, and the train company did refund when pictures of the tickets and railcard were sent in, but it's faff that all would benefit from avoiding.)
 

najaB

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Why either/or? I'm puzzled.
If you have both a card and an app then it becomes easy to 'share' them - one person has the card, the other has the app. As has been posted in another thread, guards aren't always able/inclined to look at photos that closely.
 

Llanigraham

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Why either/or? I'm puzzled. So long as it is photo card rail card I can't see the objection. As to non photo card rail cards, they could be left out of the scheme, or you would have to provide a photo to get an e-card (and of course you would get a photo physical card).

I have just emailed the address given on the railcard website to ask. I'm not hopeful of a useful reply.

An e-card would certainly have helped my son, who realised he had forgotten his railcard when he got to the station. (He did get the ticket supplemented at the ticket office, and the train company did refund when pictures of the tickets and railcard were sent in, but it's faff that all would benefit from avoiding.)

Why should the "Older Person" or the Disabled Card holder be excluded?
What happens when someone's phone goes flat?
 

jthjth

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Why should the "Older Person" or the Disabled Card holder be excluded?
What happens when someone's phone goes flat?

No reason to exclude provided they were willing to provide a photograph. Or they could have the either/ or option and no photo. Flat battery is always an issue, same goes for people that only have an e-ticket for a plane trip. I guess a flat battery is as much of a peril as forgetting your card. I was suggesting having the possibility of possessing both a physical card and an e-card, so you increased your chances of having at least one of them with you.

I'm slightly concerned that a duplicate e-card and physical card (provided both have photos) is considered to be a significant fraud risk. If the physical cards are not that well examined on a routine basis I'm surprised there isn't a thriving industry knocking out fake rail cards.
 

najaB

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I'm slightly concerned that a duplicate e-card and physical card (provided both have photos) is considered to be a significant fraud risk.
By definition, there is twice the fraud risk as compared to a physical card only scheme.
 

jthjth

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By definition, there is twice the fraud risk as compared to a physical card only scheme.

Admittedly yes. But is it a sufficiently high enough risk to outweigh the benefits to the passenger? Being only an infrequent rail user, and not versed in the ways of fraud, I've no idea.
 

najaB

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Admittedly yes. But is it a sufficiently high enough risk to outweigh the benefits to the passenger?
I don't believe so, but it is one of the things that ATOC have to consider if/when they introduce a railcard app.
 

All Line Rover

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What happens if one's phone runs out of battery power? Will it ever be necessary to hand one's phone over to a rail employee? I for one would never agree to hand my phone over to a stranger.
 

najaB

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What happens if one's phone runs out of battery power? Will it ever be necessary to hand one's phone over to a rail employee? I for one would never agree to hand my phone over to a stranger.
These questions also apply to mTickets.
 

island

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Flat battery is always an issue, same goes for people that only have an e-ticket for a plane trip.

Not really; it's trivial to get your boarding pass reprinted at an airport (might have a cost on low-cost carriers of course).
 

jthjth

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What happens if one's phone runs out of battery power? Will it ever be necessary to hand one's phone over to a rail employee? I for one would never agree to hand my phone over to a stranger.

I'm not sure I understand the need to hand over the phone. Assuming you have no backup physical card, are you not simply in the same position as a traveller is today who has forgotten their card?
 

trainophile

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I've wondered why senior railcards (and disabled ones?) don't require a photo. Concessionary bus passes do, and it would be no great hardship to supply a passport photo with one's application.
 

gray1404

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A rail ticket and physical railcard remains the property of the railway, where as a phone never could be.
 

Haydn1971

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Whilst I like the idea of apps replacing tickets and travel cards, I remain convinced that the best way forward is a near field type smart card - one you can load via a mobile with near field capability, but is durable enough to be used daily on near field card readers for gates and for revenue protection - essentially the guard walks down the train blipping each passengers smart card, anything unusual gets flagged for the guard to attend to. I'm personally a tad suspicious of allowing my back card or smart phone be read by a third party device owned by the railways - it's a huge target for hacking and the losses could be catastrophic for the end users.
 

jon0844

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What happens when someone's phone goes flat?

Life ends! At least that's what it would feel like for me, which is why my battery anxiety problems are alleviated by carrying a portable battery pack. Just knowing I have one reduces my fear, and in reality I've not had a phone die on my when out for years.

In the future either everyone will have a battery charger with them, or phones will have better batteries. The new Galaxy S7 phones now have better batteries and many other phones, particularly from China, are starting to go higher and higher.

To cut a long story short, it shouldn't be a problem most of the time. My advice is don't buy a phone with a poor battery.
 

trainophile

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Most trains must have an electric socket for the cleaners to use, so if someone's phone was dead maybe they could be allowed to plug into it just long enough to get enough power to show their ticket. Only takes a few minutes to get a flicker. If in the guard's cabin a plug, micro USB and a lightning cable were stored, that would cover 90% of the occasions when this was needed.

But then why should train operators go out of their way to provide for people who cba to keep their phones charged? Maybe because it's easier than having an argument with someone who swears they have an electronic ticket and refuses to buy another one.
 

Haydn1971

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I'd go further, it's entirely possible for a power feed to be put in the near field check devices - ensure the app only works with devices with a mini/micro USB or lightning port - sorted, no charge, we can get around that ! But then, I'd stick with using a near field smart card instead.
 

Haywain

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Most trains must have an electric socket for the cleaners to use, so if someone's phone was dead maybe they could be allowed to plug into it just long enough to get enough power to show their ticket.
The sockets for cleaners are often on a different voltage to the mains at home, so plugging into them may not be good for the phone!
 

AM9

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Claiming that non-functional phone has an e-ticket or railcard on it should be treated the same as being without your paper/plastic authority to travel. You pay ther difference on the spot and under certain conditions, can claim ther excess fare back when you present proof of payment. If you want to use a phone for travel documents, it's your responsibility to ensure that it works when needed.
 

jthjth

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Response from railcard.co.uk to me asking them about the possibility of an e-railcard:
"I can confirm that the Railcards App is certainly something that we are looking into for the future. We do hope to be able to provide our customers with the best customer service possible and as such are en-devouring to fulfill their requests. "
 
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