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21st Century Rail Ticketing

May 09, 2011
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

Technology is changing of how we travel today. But how does technology apply to rail ticketing possibilities? Paper ticketing is progressively being shifted out to make way for new means that suit the 21st century environmentally conscious, time restricted and technology enthusiastic traveller. This has taken various different formats across the world all of which share a similar commonality; the digitisation of ticketing information.

Train ticketing has been a constant choice for over 150 years worldwide in Rail. However a number of factors have contributed to the demand of a new format of train ticketing, namely; the rise of Smartphone devices, Deregulation, HSR and the changing needs of passengers.


High-speeed rail & deregulation

Firstly, the rise of HSR and the impact of deregulation has changed the nature of journeys for passengers, rather than the local commute, people are using Rail to travel between major world cities. When passengers undergo longer journeys, it is far more beneficial to have the ticketing information in a portable digital record. Trains are now covering longer distances and thus more stops, meaning that passengers are increasingly becoming more segmented in their journey distances within a single train. Thus, digitalization can help with the management of passengers on the train.

A rail ticket on an mobile app

Smartphone devices have facilitated the ability for passengers to travel seamlessly from one destination to another. The rise of the ‘’app’’ has contributed to this, and there are a number currently on the market, such as the Masabi application, which allows users to shop, book rail, following this they receive a ticket as an image containing a barcode on their phone, which can be displayed to conductors. There are clear plans from a number of different sources that suggest many Rail companies may see this as an opportunity to completely phase out traditional ticketing, and move onto this more modern format. Apple is currently in the development phase of an itravel application, whereby it hopes bookings from all travel formats can be made with the single application (e.g. book rail, hotel, bus and flights). This gives way for lots of opportunities for combined product offerings across travel in the future.

Alongside the benefits delivered to the traveler, there are some clear advantages for the Railway companies. A recent study suggests that ‘technology savvy’ consumers much prefer train travel over long distance travel such as air. Rail offers the freedom of transition, reduced waiting times, alongside a great deal more space to use any portable technology. One of Rails main ‘selling points’ is that it’s an alternative form of long distance travel, ticketless ticketing contributes to the seamless nature of the journey.

From a business point of view, ticketless ticketing can increase overall profits. For railway companies operating costs are reduced, there is a reduced need to have ticketing kiosks within the station and more passengers can be processed a lot quicker.

In a long term perspective, after the journey, companies can run analytics with ease as data collection is improved by ticketless ticketing digital records creation. By scanning tickets, railway companies can find the number of passengers currently on a train. This can give impressive technology potential, e.g. Railways can implement sales offers to maximize train capacity.

There are many advantages for both passenger and company for ticketless ticketing, and the market conditions suggest that all over the world this will be phased into action over the next few years.


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