Fragmentation and interoperability of ticketing standards on public transport

The public transport network in the UK is fragmented and, quite frankly, confusing – but it doesn’t mean that we have to have a perception of ticketing like that as well.

The ultimate aim of smartcards should be to replace the numerous paper tickets issued with a single plastic card, itself capable of holding many tickets. As it stands, we’re moving towards an environment where we will simply end up in a scenario with as many smartcards as paper tickets. There are already over 35 million cards in the UK that are, or could be, used for transportation and yet we simply can’t use just one single card for all journeys on public transport within the UK. This is formed of 22 million recently used Oyster cards and 15 million ITSO compatible cards. There are, however, 50 million active Oyster cards. The number of smartcards is anticipated to rise by another 15 million by 2015 meaning that there will be almost one for every adult in the living in the UK! [1]

We can sort this now, with some effort, and it will bring benefits to everyone – operators and passengers alike.

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On the buses…with smartcards

This post is largely based on my observations of the rollout of smartcard enabling technologies across my local bus brands.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few problems with the implementation of smartcard technology on buses. This blog post details the problems that I have found.

Why use a smartcard on a bus?

A smartcard is capable of rapidly speeding up boarding on buses meaning that buses are able to keep to the advertised timetable with greater ease. I see this in action on my university bus service, uni-link, where the majority of users hold smartcards (University ID or Southampton ‘mini card’) either with a period travel pass or a carnet style ticket. The machines are also capable of accepting ENCTS cards issued in Southampton only.

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Current ITSO implementations on the railways

Mainly for my records, but here’s a list of the current implementations of ITSO on the rail network. If you see any errors or know of any further extensions to the network – please let me know!

CrossCountry (mutual acceptance of other schemes)

  • Bournemouth to Basingstoke (acceptance of SWT scheme)

East Midlands Trains (Stagecoach SMART)

  • Sheffield to London St Pancras (not at some intermediate stations)
  • Nottingham to Mansfield Woodhouse (not at Newstead)

London Midland (the key)

  • Worcester stations (including Stourbridge Town branch) to Dorridge and Stratford-upon-Avon

Merseyrail (Walrus)

  • Walrus – across entire network I assume, coming soon

ScotRail (ScotRail SmartCard)

  • Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street

Southern (the key)

  • Brighton to Seaford

South West Trains (Stagecoach SMART)

  • Weymouth to Woking, including the Lymington branch
  • Isle of Wight
  • Staines to Wokingham/Windsor & Eton Riverside
  • Basingstoke to Honiton

A rail performance measure for the public? (version 1!)

For years, people have laughed about how the railway measures the performance of services. As a rule, the measures are PPM (Public Performance Measure) which measures services like this:

A service meets PPM must start where booked, call everywhere where booked, terminate where booked and get to its destination within 5 minutes of the GBTT (public) time.

It should be noted that some services may get to their destination within 10 minutes of GBTT and meet PPM (primarily ex-BR long distance services). I believe there is also a case with certain services that are measured additionally en-route (e.g. FCC at St Pancras International). There is another measure which runs in exactly the same manner, replacing 5 minutes with 1 minute.

I propose a new measure that increases the weighting on passenger perception of the operational railway day-to-day, we have Passenger Focus NPS for passenger opinions – but we don’t have a reasonable measure to index performance day-by-day. This new measure is called the “Passenger Perception Measure” (or PPM for short).

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*sigh* Smartcard post 1273861… (or at least it feels like it…)

Just a few quotes:

ITSO is a government-backed non-profit organisation which sets a common technical standard that:

  • means transport operators throughout Britain can link up so passengers only have to use one secure payment ‘smart’ card no matter what bus, train or route they are using
  • means that same card can be developed for multiple uses, including council services such as leisure centres or libraries

Let’s take a look at the Stagecoach SMART terms and conditions, available here:

  • A ‘StagecoachSmart travel card’ is a plastic travel card, each one with a unique 18 digit code. ‘Stagecoach electronic tickets’ are tickets that are loaded onto the StagecoachSmart Travel Card.
  • StagecoachSmart travel cards are issued by and remain the property of Stagecoach Group plc (or its successors) and must be returned on demand.
  • StagecoachSmart Travel Cards may be used to store electronic tickets provided by or purchased from any Stagecoach Group company or any of its agents. Electronic tickets are valid for use in the area advertised at the time of purchase.

Don’t know about you – but I read that as it can only usable with Stagecoach Group tickets.

Maybe one day we can all read off the same hymn book.