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Smarter ticketing

Source: Public Sector Executive July/Aug 2013

Smart ticketing on public transport has really moved up a gear this year, and the momentum looks set to continue, argues Lindsay Robertson, CEO of ITSO Ltd, the non-profit organisation that supports the implementation of the national ITSO standard for smart ticketing. 

Three announcements concerning major schemes have recently been made. Centro in the West Midlands, Metro in West Yorkshire and Transport for Greater Manchester have now branded their schemes (Swift, MCard and ‘get me there’ respectively) and are working closely with their local operators and suppliers to continue rolling them out. 

These three schemes are just some of the most recent developments throughout the UK where the national Crown copyright ITSO Specification is being extensively deployed for smart ticketing (see box opp page)

They sit nicely with the Department for Transport’s (DfT) stated wish, through the Door-to-Door strategy and Multi-Operator Ticketing Guidance released earlier this year, that smart ticketing be embraced as one of the key enablers in improving the public transport experience. 

Shaping the public transport system 

Smart technology and payments are becoming central to many people’s everyday lives and transport is expected to play its part. 

Latest figures show that more than six billion passenger journeys are made annually on public transport in Great Britain, generating £10bn revenue. Nearly £1bn of that is in concessionary travel on buses in England alone.

Big money and big opportunities in terms of shaping a public transport system that works well for all involved, within the constant constraint of limited budgets and other resources. 

For smart ticketing, an aim is that the smartcard or phone effectively becomes a secure and trusted wallet that can hold all the tickets you need to complete the journey of your choice, replacing the currently bulging leather wallet containing an array of paper, magstripe and smart tickets. 

Passengers do not need, or want, to know about the complexities and technology behind the beep or card wave that allows them through ticket gates or onto the bus. They just want it to happen, and make their fast-moving lives easier. 

They want to be able to plan journeys on their PCs, laptops or smartphones and download all of their tickets to either a smartcard or a smartphone, ensuring they get the best deal at the same time. 

They want to be able to change those travel plans and tickets quickly, easily, and online, when circumstances change – be it their own plans, or as a result of the weather or something else disrupting their chosen public transport services. 

They want that travel planning and ticket purchase to be genuinely personal to them, instead of wading through a load of irrelevant information. And they want to be sure their money and tickets are secure and that there are clear, and ideally, simple processes to follow if smartcards or smartphones are lost or stolen. 

A smart ticketing scheme offers a wide variety of options and prices, rather than just replacing paper tickets with smartcards. And the smartcard can be used for other things like accessing council library and leisure facilities, getting discounts from local traders, or accruing loyalty points. 

Behind the scenes 

But a lot goes on behind the scenes before that satisfying ‘beep’ at the ticket machine can happen, and that now is the major challenge for transport authorities and operators, as well as mobile phone network operators. Major strides forward have taken place in the last year both in the UK and Europe. 

In the UK, ITSO does its bit by testing and certifying equipment so that, when properly implemented, transport operators’ systems can ‘talk’ to each other when necessary, for multi-operator or multi-modal ticketing. ITSO’s security management system (ISMS) provides and manages the cryptographic keys necessary to set up and manage smart ticketing systems and keep data secure. 

Transport operators and local authorities need to agree specific business rules on how such schemes shall be run, how revenue will be allocated appropriately in the back office, and who will deal with the customer, particularly over lost or stolen smartcards. 

This is now happening, and a wide variety of ITSO-compliant smart ticketing schemes already exist, or are well into their planning and rollout stages in the UK (see box below)

Some are already multi-modal (one smartcard for different modes of transport like bus and train), or multi-operator (in Wales, the GoCymru card is destined to be accepted on the buses of some 200 different operators). 

In some cases ITSO schemes will run side by side with the ability to pay by credit/debit card or cash. 

Some systems are also already building the ability to closely align real time passenger information with ticketing options. 

‘Exponential growth’ 

Rail smart ticketing already exists but usage is expected to increase exponentially when London’s transport network becomes ITSO-compliant next year and the South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) scheme, involving all major train operators in that region, comes to fruition over the next couple of years. 

In terms of funding, Government, transport authorities and operators have already invested large amounts of time and money in ITSO schemes.

And Government continues to encourage operators and transport authorities to set up and improve their smart ticketing systems through funding such as BBAF (Better Bus Area Fund), BSOG (Bus Service Operators Grant) and LSTF (Local Sustainable Transport Fund). 

The DfT’s Door to Door Strategy also includes funding a pilot scheme in Norfolk aimed at helping smaller operators get on board with smart ticketing, as well as putting extra resource into encouraging large city schemes to move forward. 

And their Multi-Operator Ticketing Guidance follows on from the Competition Commission enquiry into bus operations and gives clear guidance on how to set such schemes up without getting into legal hot water.

Mobile phone ticketing and Europe 

Cross border transport ticketing and using NFC-enabled mobile phones to pay for transport tickets involve a more international scenario. 

Although the smart ticketing technology is essentially the same – and the ITSO Specification can already be applied to phones – common mobile phone standards and business rules are needed to ensure systems work together. 

A European demonstration in 2010 has already shown how interoperability between transport applications might work on a smartcard (the EU-IFM Project involving ITSO in the UK, VdV in Germany, and AFIMB and the Calypso Network Association in France). 

Those bodies have now taken this a step further by setting up the Smart Ticketing Alliance. The Alliance underpins the need for common specifications, certification and the sharing of best practice for smart ticketing. 

The STA, and ITSO independently, is also working with the GSMA (the worldwide mobile phone operators’ organisation) to ensure common standards and agreements for transport ticketing on smartphones. 

The opportunities are there, it is now up to those concerned to seize them and make smart ticketing work for them. 

Smart ticketing can lead to a win-win situation all round because:

• Passengers don’t have to worry about having the right change and can benefit from flexible ticketing deals in advance, as well as being able to get on any bus or mode of transport already armed with the means to pay for tickets. 

• It can help transport authorities to deliver their plan for modal shift to public transport, in turn reducing congestion and CO2 emissions, as well as concessionary fraud, by using anonymised journey information to help better plan services with scarce resources. 

• Transport operators can improve the efficiency of their processes, in some circumstances also reduce boarding times, thus, amongst other things, making it easier to stick to timetables, and reducing cash handling. 

ITSO in action 

•  Cambridge’s Busway

•  Centro’s Swift card in the West Midlands, including National Express West Midlands

•  The Cheshire Travelcard

•  First ScotRail Smartcard

•  Go-Ahead’s the key card, being rolled out throughout England on both bus and rail, including integrating with London’s travel network

•  Hampshire

•  Kent

•  Leicestershire

•  London Councils Freedom Pass

•  Merseytravel’s Walrus card

•  Metro/West Yorkshire PTE’s MCard

•  NESTI The North East Smart Ticketing Initiative

•  Nexus’s Pop card in Tyne and Wear

•  Norfolk

•  The NoWcard in the North West

•  Oxfordshire’s SmartZone

•  Reading Transport

•  Scotland’s Saltire card

•  South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT)

•  The StagecoachSmartcard can also be used with PLUSBUS in Kent

•  SWSAL (South West Smart Applications Ltd)

•  Transport for Greater Manchester’s get me there scheme

•  Transport for London (ITSO on Prestige)

•  TravelWest in the West of England

•  Wales’s GoCymru card


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