Rail minister instructs train firms to get on board with smart ticketing by next year

Written by Sam Trendall on 16 October 2019 in News
News

Companies asked to send details of plans to make digital options the default by next year

Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Archive/PA Images

The rail minister has told train firms that the government wishes to maximise its £80m investment in smart ticketing and requested details of how companies intend to make them the default option for travellers by next year.

In October 2017, the government released an £80m funding package designed to ensure that, by the end of 2018, digital tickets or automated contactless payment options were offered for every journey on every franchise throughout the UK. 

In an open letter to all rail companies, Department for Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris said “now that smart ticketing is accepted at almost all stations across the network”, he wants train firms to encourage widespread adoption of the technology by travellers.

“Transport for London’s Oyster and contactless systems set the standard for customer proposition and they are widely used where they are available,” he said. “I want to see the industry achieve the same level of customer proposition and hence the same high levels of take-up.”


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The minister added: “I am keen that the £80m investment by government is maximised, and the taxpayer gets full value for money from the infrastructure and interoperability we can now see from the programme.”

Heaton-Harris said that he wanted the rail industry to collectively make “a more concerted effort to move to smart by default”. He requested that all companies write to him by 15 November and provide a plan for how they could offer smart tickets as their default option by January 2020. 

“I am also keen that train companies are taking every step to ensure that smart tickets are enabled for sale wherever the infrastructure exists, and to ensure the buying process for smart tickets is as simple and user-friendly as it can be,” he said. “I would like to understand the steps you are taking to ensure that this is the case, and how you will measure customer satisfaction with smart ticketing buying processes in a consistent way.”

Firms should provide details of any work to promote smart-ticketing uptake that they have already undertaken, and what additional measures are planned for the future.

“By sending this letter I am not asking you to withdraw paper tickets, but I do want to encourage people to use smart tickets, which will naturally lead to fewer paper tickets being sold,” Heaton-Harris said. “This means that passengers who cannot access bank cards or mobile phones may continue to use paper tickets.” 

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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