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The role of smart ticketing in rail fare reform

Industry experts at Accelerate: Rail 2019 last week discussed Rail Delivery Group’s fares consultation and how the rail industry needs to change to bring about a more transparent, simpler fare system that meet passengers’ expectations. The proposals have been called ‘radical’ and propose a ‘once-in-a-generation’ reform programme. At ITSO, we recognise that technology is going to play a crucial role in these plans.

The Rail Delivery Group’s fares consultation found that 90% of the 20,000 people who took part want smart or electronic ticketing to be available in their area, with the potential for price capping. With more and more commuters working flexible hours this kind of reform is now overdue.  Why should passengers pay for a 5-day travel card to use in peak hours, when, due to the increase in flexible working, they may now only be travelling for three or four days per week, often at off-peak hours? The rail industry needs to enable passengers to tailor their tickets to suit their individual needs and avoid excess money wasted on travel.

Technology can help offer passengers flexible fare options that are easier to understand and guarantee the best value for their journey. The Rail Delivery Group describes this in its ‘Easier Fares for All’ proposal, which would make fares more transparent and see the rail industry offering passengers a ‘best fare guarantee’.

At ITSO we are working to make flexible fares more accessible outside of London through our smart ticketing technology, ITSO on Mobile. Through ITSO Transit Hub's sophisticated ticket fulfilment service, ITSO on Mobile can support complex fare options, such as season tickets, and take into account travel times and railcards, to offer passengers the best value for their travel.

We launched ITSO on Mobile on West Midlands Metro at the end of 2018, through the Swift on Mobile app, and the feedback so far has been positive. Mobile ticketing puts transport back in the passenger’s control: they no longer need to queue, find change or carry a paper ticket. Passengers on West Midlands Metro say they now want to be able to use our mobile ticketing technology on trains.  

We are working towards bringing mobile ticketing to the UK rail network and stand ready to support the Rail Delivery Group in its mission to simplify fares and make travel more affordable.  Adopting mobile ticketing across rail, as well as on the bus and tram networks, will ultimately lead us to a fully integrated transport system, making seamless travel available to all.