Tickets via Mobile or TVM?—you decide

I often travel from Edinburgh to Leeds by train — pretty much every week in fact. I use the Trainline app (other apps are available) to search for train times. All sensible options I might care to consider (except perhaps for split ticketing) are displayed with their departure times and prices. I click on the one that I want, pay by card and download the barcode ticket to my mobile. All from one device all in seconds. It is very customer focussed because they know they will sell more that way and there is competition. I don’t even mind paying their booking fee and their credit card fee for the convenience.

I also travel regularly from UK airports by train to Consult Hyperion’s offices and use ticket vending machines (TVMs) to buy my train ticket when I arrive. I know I should just use the mobile ticket app even when buying tickets on departure, right?  Well, unfortunately that option is not always available so I revert to the TVM. On some routes I would need to ‘Print from a ticket machine using your payment card’ which is a horrible experience requiring not just the payment card but typing in a long code. With barcodes rolling out across the whole of the UK by the end of 2018, it will be possible for some to bypass the TVMs entirely.

It is not always possible to buy in advance since I don’t know when or whether the plane will arrive. On these occasions I buy a ‘ticket on departure’ from a TVM. These machines seem uniformly unpleasant to use compared to the mobile experience. The customer is required to select options such as which route they want to travel to their destination or what kind of ticket they require (peak, off-peak, etc) without being given the other information they need such as when the next train leaves and what time is peak time. It is a stressful situation even for seasoned travellers. Tourists have no hope.

But this is not news. The government published the Action plan for information on rail fares and ticketing in December 2016. Around the same time, RDG published a ten-point plan for the improvement of TVMs. More recently, a progress report was published in December 2017. Descriptions of how the actions relevant to TVMs in these reports will be achieved include:

  • Ticket vending machines will tell customers when they are configured to sell off-peak tickets so that the customer will know that by waiting (e.g. in 15 minutes) they can purchase a cheaper ticket or by going to the ticket office (!)
  • DfT and RDG will collaborate on a strategy to ensure a consistent high quality customer experience of ticket vending machines, including the role of the Ticket Vending Machines Design Guidelines; and consider whether these contain principles which should form the basis for obligations in future franchise agreements. (Due early 2018)

TVMs were originally introduced as queue busters at train stations for simple tickets only. However, the reality is that one third of passengers now use them and the options available are highly complex. So, in summary, it does not look as though the customer experience at TVMs is set to improve significantly any time soon due to all the constraints and even if it did, it would almost certainly be less good than the mobile app experience:

  • Ability to select and buy tickets from anywhere with internet connection with relevant information automatically supplied to aid decision making.
  • Delivery of tickets directly to the mobile device; no need to print anything out.
  • Better support for overseas visitors who will usually not want to have to understand the fares and routes details before travelling.
  • Freeing up space in crowded stations (you think we have problems, we are working in Mumbai where Churchgate station has same traffic as London Waterloo but 25% of the space)
  • Reduced costs from not having to operate so many ticket windows and TVMs.
  • Opening up the ticket retail market and promoting competition.
  • Easier to deploy enhancements due to simple app software updates.

Clearly, mobile is not the whole solution (having spoken to industry colleagues, it seems only about 10% of rail tickets in the UK are sold using mobile apps) but the legacy that is TVMs is a big part of the problem.

I was asked again this year to act as a judge for the TTG18 Transport Ticketing Awards. Imagine my excitement when I spotted not one, but two submissions for TVMs (Ticket Vending Machines) that solve the customer experience problem.

Both solution proposed are to provide an audio (and optional video) link to remote ticket clerks where simple advice can be given or the clerk can also remotely control the TVM’s user interface. While this might provide better accessibility for those unable to use the TVMs (e.g. signing for the deaf, or offering other languages). I realise it does not suit everyone, but I think I’ll stick with my smart phone app.

The train I am on today writing this blog is delayed by over two hours due a broken-down train ahead of us. This means that I will get a full refund due to the Delay Repay regulations. Yay!

We look forward to seeing you in London at TTG18 on 23 and 24 January. If you would like to meet with Consult Hyperion while visiting the event, let us know so we can book a slot.

Contact: Sam.wakefield@chyp.com

Crossing continents for knowledge sharing

Chyp believes that collaboration and knowledge sharing across markets can help the advancement of the industry and this is particularly true in transport ticketing. For example, we have found that our work for TfL with a large population and high journey count is not all directly applicable to smaller countries who cannot make such significant investments in infrastructure to serve small populations.

Mumbai-visit-TfN-in-Leeds

Recently, we have been working for MMRDA in Mumbai, India. While the environment is very different in some respect, compared to the UK, they have large passenger numbers and administer a system that makes extensive use of private transport operators, two factors similar to Transport for the North (TfN).

Sharing knowledge not only helps speed to market of deployments but creates a trusted environment and one with credibility. MMRDA asked Chyp to facilitate meetings for them in the UK with transport operators and suppliers in order that they could learn from those who have done it before or are planning to deliver a similar project. The result was a tour of the UK starting in London and taking in Transport for the North. The picture above shows the meeting which was held in Leeds and included presentations from:

Transport for the North

  • Alastair Richards (Director Integrated and Smart Travel (IST))
  • Jo Tansley Thomas (Programme Manager (IST))
  • John Elliott (ABT Back Office Requirements Team Lead (Consult Hyperion))

MMRDA

  • Ashish Chandra (PWC India)

Partnerships are hard to form. We hope that MMRDA will benefit from the organisations they met and their sharing in experience planning and deploying ABT in complex environments in the UK, remembering that differences can be as important to learn as similarities.

Paying for Transit

I recently presented at the Transport Card Forum 2017 in Birmingham. The subject I was asked to speak about was “How will we pay for transit in the future”. Knowing how slowly things move in the transport industry, the easy answer would have been, exactly as we pay now.

However, I thought it would be more helpful to assume that the answer is not cash, and to survey the categories of payments available and emerging today and put them into the context of paying for transit.

The direction of travel of the transit ticketing industry is to use Account Based Ticketing (ABT) and so I further assumed that ABT lies at the heart of any solution. Next, the travelling customer has a choice of media used to identify them to their payment mechanism.  This is ring 1.

ring1

These customer media can be categorised as either open- or closed-loop. Open loop means that they can be used to make payments generally, whereas closed loop means they can only be used within the transit ticketing scheme.

closed-open-loop-payment

Next comes the ‘authority to travel’ and ‘time of payment’ rings. Either the customer pays for authority in advance (e.g. season ticket) or they pay for it at the time of travel (e.g. pay on a bus or train) or they pay later. ‘Authority to travel’ might take the form of a ticket, but increasingly there will be no tickets issued. These are rings 2 and 3.

Time-of-payment

Finally, the outer rings (4 and 5) were added to show what kind of account might be used and how these relate to existing models such as those from the UKCA for the use of contactless bank cards in transit.

Models

The UKCA models on the left-hand side have been discussed in previous blogs. Models 1 and 2 are what are being used in the UK building on what was achieved in London on TfL between 2008 and 2014. UK buses are now implementing Model 1 (and some are implementing parts of Model 2). Transport for the North (TfN) is implementing Model 2 for the whole of the North of England. Model 3 seems to have been abandoned as too hard to run in parallel with the other models. Perhaps other technologies will continue to dominate, such as bar code and ITSO smartcard ticketing for Pre-purchased authority to travel on national rail. Perhaps there is no need for a third way?

But what about those unable to use, or who do not wish to use, their own contactless bank cards? The right-hand side shows the equivalent models needed for them. As the figure below shows, there are two options for them, Either:

  • They fund a pre-paid transit account (a bit like loading value to an Oyster card, but value is loaded to the account instead for ABT. Or …
  • They allow payment to be taken directly from their payment account outside of the transit scheme. Payment is claimed from an open-loop account such as a payment card, bank account, online wallet (PayPal, Google Wallet, etc.).

The challenge for the latter option is that the transit scheme will struggle to manage the risk since the cannot tell whether the payment account has funds in it to pay for travel. Therefore, the preference at this stage is likely to be for for pre-paid transit accounts. And, therefore, this is what is likely to be chosen by TfN and other places as their solution for those not using bank cards with ABT schemes.

Focus-on-closed-loop

Thanks are due to my colleague, Alex Lithgow Smith, for developing my original idea of the rings showing aspects of payment in transit.


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