The future of smart ticketing in the UK. By Russell McCullagh

2018 has been a year of reflection, rethinking and revolution for public transport in the UK; and it has never been more important for industry stakeholders to come together to build a better performing railway network for passengers. We have already laid a sturdy foundation for the future of smart ticketing in the UK, but more must be done for this future to be truly frictionless. This will only be achieved if suppliers, operators, industry bodies and our government work together, and keep passenger needs at the heart of decision making.

Mobile: the critical ingredient for a frictionless future
At Rambus, we see mobile as the critical ingredient for a frictionless transport future, driving wider smart ticketing adoption across transport systems. Of course, the most obvious benefit is removing the requirement for a physical ticket to travel across the rail network. Passengers missing their train as they queue to purchase or collect a paper ticket can become a distant memory. As can registering for a travel smart card and waiting for it to arrive in the post. Choosing to go mobile saves time, cost and is a greener alternative. Today, with the implementation of evolving technologies including Host Card Emulation (HCE), it is possible for passengers to download an app, purchase a virtual ticket, and tap through ticket gates using a mobile phone.

The UK bus industry has widely deployed smart ticketing but the rail industry has been slow to follow. A common back office system has been put in place to enable train operating companies (TOCs) in England to more easily expand smart ticketing for their customers. A number of TOCs have already joined the Rail Delivery Group back office system for smart ticketing, and more are being onboarded in the coming months. By implementing smart ticketing, operators will be able to harness valuable passenger travel data to improve services. This includes tailoring transport services and offering new ticket products based on how customers actually travel. Mobile also offers the ability to create other value-add opportunities to enhance customer journey experiences. This could include leveraging real time information, onward journey information or discounts for coffee at the station.

Earlier this year, Rambus launched a secure mobile ticketing solution in a pilot with Abellio ScotRail, which enables passengers to skip queues at ticket machines, and tap through gates by purchasing and downloading tickets directly to their smartphone. The key difference for this solution is that it works with existing rail infrastructure so there is no need to bolt on extra devices to station gates at an additional cost. A key point for the rollout was to ensure rail staff were the first to use the new solution. By capturing their feedback, we ensured when customers signed up that staff were already trained to deal with any customer enquiries.

To help with the operator’s targets to increase the use of ‘smart’ amongst customers, the first tickets available to commuters in the trial were popular single and return tickets, as they make up 60 per cent of ScotRail’s ticket sales.

Smart ticketing: more than just a digital ticket
We want to stress that it is important to recognise that smart ticketing means more than merely a digital ticket. It is about ensuring a frictionless journey for passengers from end-to-end. Recently there has been focus around Mobility as a Service (MaaS), but we see a practical transport experience as more focused on Ticketing 19as a Service (TaaS). TaaS could enable passengers to travel across multi-modal transport systems seamlessly using their mobile device, with the correct fare being calculated in the back office. It fits well with an account-based ticketing approach, but what is key is that open standards are used so that a single, consolidated app on a smart phone could be used for travel across the UK, and with time internationally. The UK has a national open standard called ITSO which serves to ensure suppliers to the public transport industry ensure common interoperability between systems. This form of standardisation is key in ensuring a fair competitive landscape between suppliers, and keeps the target of easier frictionless ticketing a realistic future. It is also important to ensure that customer travel data has appropriate security, and this must be implemented across transport systems by suppliers and operators as part of the implementation of smart card and mobile-based ticketing.

Keeping passenger needs at the heart of decision making
As an industry, we have made huge progress over the past 12 months to improve transport services in the UK, and this is because of the strong collaboration of operators, industry bodies and government. If we continue to engage and review, re-evaluate and innovate, whilst always ensuring that the needs of passengers are kept at the heart of decision making, we can genuinely improve the travel experience for passengers. Smart ticketing is paving the path to a smarter transport future. As industry stakeholders, it is our responsibility to ensure that this journey is kept as frictionless as possible.

Russell McCullagh is Vice President and General Manager, Ticketing at Rambus. Rambus is dedicated to providing a secure foundation for a connected world. Its innovative solutions span areas including tamper resistance, network security, mobile payment, smart ticketing and trusted transaction services. Rambus foundational technologies protect nearly nine billion licensed products annually, providing secure access to data and creating an economy of digital trust between its customers and their customer base.