Tag Archives: itso

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

*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.

ITSO failings on the NR network, continued

Update (26 October 2011): Had a call from SWT and Southern have agreed to accept the tickets. The problem goes down to TOCs starting service within already existing smartcard service areas where there aren’t single operator only flows being used on the tickets loaded onto the smartcards.

Whenever you buy a ticket on ITSO – the revenue gets divided up appropriately via ORCATS in the exact same manner as you would if you were on a paper ticket. Therefore, it came to the slightly paradoxical situation last night that Southern were (technically) receiving an ORCATS share for any ticket between Southampton Central and Southampton Airport (and Eastleigh, but that’s irrelevant to me) and not requiring to provide the service.

The primary argument that was placed at the door with Southern was that there was no legal proviso in the NRCoC to allow (this is a network-wide policy!!!!) TOCs to not accept pilot smartcard schemes by other TOCs unless there was a specific route restriction on the ticket loaded onto the card.

In any case, good news in this instance – but it seems like it needs urgently resolving (with regards to general network-wide policy) for if, and really when, this happens elsewhere.

Yesterday, I targeted a theoretical question at Southern on Twitter. The question was thus:

@SouthernRailUK do you accept SWT ITSO [smart]cards? If not, why not?

The answer to this was, apparently, no. Since then, a little ‘battle’, I suppose, has ensued between myself and Southern. It appears that they fail to realise that their requirements under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage.

As a little background, I have a ticket between Bournemouth and Southampton Airport Parkway on a Stagecoach issued ITSO card. This ticket is, obviously, valid on South West Trains. Due to the rules of rail ticketing (in that it is an Any Permitted ticket), it is also valid on CrossCountry. It should also be valid on Southern between Southampton Central and Southampton Airport as they operate a few services between these two stations. Southern state:

@swlines No, not yet, our trial Brighton to Seaford has just started but linking with SWT is something we are looking at from 2013

@swlines For those TOCs who have a smartcard scheme, they all vary slightly as per individual franchise agreements. (ed: this is irrelevant, my ticket is valid if it were on paper)

The exact details relevant to my ticket at present are that it is a Bournemouth to Southampton Airport Parkway 7DS (7 Day Season) on route Any Permitted. This, if it were on paper, implies that it is valid on any permitted route on any operator. Indeed, it is exactly the same on an electronic ticket – in this case, an ITSO card.

Here’s condition 9 from the NRCoC (any emphasis is mine):

In some cases a Train Company, a travel agent or other authorised person may issue you with a ticket where the details of the trains you are entitled to use, together with any rights to goods or services supplied by another person, are stored only in electronic form. Such a ticket is referred to in these Conditions as an Electronic Ticket. Any reference in these Conditions to the term “ticket” includes an Electronic Ticket unless specifically stated otherwise.

An Electronic Ticket may be stored on a:

(i)  Smartcard (including an Oyster or ITSO card);

(ii)  payment card or identity card;

(iii)  mobile telephone;

(iv)  personal organiser; or

(v)  other mobile electronic device.

If a Smartcard is issued by a Train Company, it remains the property of that Train Company and you may be charged a deposit. If a Smartcard is no longer required and is returned to the office of issue in good condition any deposit paid will be refunded. A Smartcard that does not contain an Electronic Ticket is not a valid authority to travel.

Some Smartcards may be used to buy stored credit which you can use later to buy Electronic Tickets. In these Conditions, credit stored in this way is termed Electronic Funds. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have enough Electronic Funds on your Smartcard to pay for the Electronic Ticket required for the journey you intend to make.

Wherever reference is made in these Conditions to information about restrictions, stations, routes and period of validity being shown on tickets, this information will not be shown on Smartcards and may not be displayed on the cards or devices in (ii) to (v) of this Condition, for any Electronic Tickets they contain. However, any restrictions or other terms of use (including these Conditions where applicable) will still apply. You can get details of restrictions and terms of use from the seller of the Electronic Ticket or Electronic Funds.

Does anyone spot any reason in this condition as to why my ITSO card loaded with my season ticket isn’t valid? No, thought not.

Just to add fuel to the fire, Southern’s excuse for not accepting them is seemingly purely because they don’t operate their pilot scheme along the line of route. CrossCountry don’t have a pilot scheme that I know of, yet they accept my ticket fine.

ITSO stands for Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation. Not very integrated by the looks of it on the rail network.

Over to you, Southern…