The first workshop on e-ticketing, organised by the UIC in cooperation with CIT, turned out to be a successful event. About 75 experts from all over Europe, as well as delegates from China, Russia and Taiwan, discussed different strategies, approaches and technical solutions. The event was chaired by Chris Querée, Chairman of UIC Passenger Technical Group.
Marc Giesen, President of the UIC Passenger Commercial & Distribution Forum hosted the meet-ing, for which DB Bahn kindly offered their large meeting room at Frankfurt am Main. Marc opened the presentations session by providing an overview of current development in travel distribution business. He outlined the flexibility and ease of electronic ticketing from the view of the customer, compared to a traditional paper ticket. From the point of the railway undertaking, he put the focus on improved security elements and fraud prevention.
His presentation was followed by Frédérique Ville, Director for Innovation at voyages-sncf.com, which operates the central booking site for French railways SNCF. Ms Ville confirmed much of what was said before and added the challenges and chances of NFC (near field communication) solutions for the future. She admitted that the communication device industry and, above all, smart phone suppliers are currently the drivers for development, with railways taking advantage of these technologies. She also underlined that, until now, no pan-European NFC ticketing standard has been defined. Contributing to the definition of such a standard could be a gateway for the railways to regain a seat on the drivers’ bench.
Light on legal aspects behind e-ticketing was shed by Erik Evtimov, who represented CIT on the panel. Replacing paper documents by electronic data exchange is not a trivial exercise, since con-tractual relationships between all involved partners must remain clear and transparent to the cus-tomer. E-ticketing on international level has – like traditional paper ticketing – to be organised in line with international legal framework, such as COTIF/CIV, Rail PRR (EU Regulation 1371/2007) and TAP TSI (EU Regulation 451/2011). This implies secure data exchange procedures, traceability and particular protection against “hacking” and fraud.
Jacques Dirand from CER opened his presentation with a recent citation from EU Transport Com-missioner Kallas: “Why can’t I, as a European traveller, plan my travel from Helsinki to Lisbon, using different transport modes, book my travel and get the ticket in one go?” This underlined the thinking of the European Commission of what integrated ticketing is about. It showed what kind of challenge this will mean for future cooperation agreements between local transport providers, railways, airlines and other parties. At a first glance, this seems like a dream, but at a second glance, there is the potential for some “giants” in information and communication technology, such as Google and Apple, to take a significant role in this kind of business.
UIC’s e-ticketing expert Kurt De Vriendt provided a very comprehensive overview of different ways of e-ticketing and security levels. His classification of tickets in “security in paper”, “security in data” and “security in system” and examples of their different fields of application were received with great interest by the audience.
Overview and outlook
Five main e-ticketing variants at Deutsche Bahn were presented by Lothar Pistor. Each of them has its special advantage, dependent on the target group and the field of application. DB Online Ticket (print-at-home), for example, has become increasingly popular for long distance, including selected cross-border routes, whereas chipcard-based systems prevail in areas where DB cooperates with local and regional public transport (transport associations or, in German: Verkehrsverbünde).
Paul Compen from NS Hispeed presented the future ticketing strategy of Dutch railways based on the recently introduced nationwide smartcard system “OV chipkaart”. OV chipkaart is an integrated system and does not only cover railways, but the whole public transport system (Openbaar Vervoer in Dutch) of The Netherlands. It is not only focused on smartcards, albeit these represent the solution for today, but designed to keep pace with other NFC-based developments in the future. Although OV chipkaart seems to be a “nationally closed solution”, he underlined that there cannot really be a “closed solution” in a European country like The Netherlands and demonstrated how international travellers will be helped in their system through the use of UIC barcodes.
Mark Mallants from SNCB Europe took off from railway tracks for a while and demonstrated the challenges and technical solutions of an integrated air-rail ticketing between Belgium and The Netherlands. Air-rail integration is a promising strategy for replacing short-distance flights where a competitive offer of high-speed train services exists. The particularity of this approach is that air and rail do not behave as competitors on these relations, but rather as alliance partners in the way that air travellers are accommodated on high-speed trains by maintaining their airline ticket and IATA flight code. An important technical challenge has been resolved, with the IATA departure con-trol process emulated in railway ticketing with the boarding card issued as a UIC Leaflet 918-3 ticket.
Back on the ground, Alexander Ledenev informed about the e-ticketing developments in a country where distances are really great. Representing the Federal Passenger Company of Russian Rail-ways, he gave an overview of e-ticketing development for international and night trains with the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as Western European countries, such as Finland.
Representing Switzerland, a country renowned for operating a world-class public transport system, Susanne Grün shed light on the challenges and opportunities of introducing e-ticketing into the Swiss transport system. The system shall be designed as a “BIBO” (be-in be-out) system, where passengers are automatically detected (through RFID) when they board and leave a vehicle; the fare will be calculated according to usage pricing rules underpinning a ticketing product purchased from the one of the national transport undertakings. She pointed out that this system is not only for Swiss residents, who are very loyal users of public transport, but also for occasional and foreign travellers, if they want to use the “BIBO card”. However, conventional ticketing methods will have to remain available for the latter.
“When I landed in Germany, I switched on my British mobile phone, and... it worked! So why can’t my public transport smartcard do so?”, was the provocative question, John Verity put to the audi-ence. Representing ITSO, a British government-funded non-profit standardisation and certification body for smartcard ticketing applications and the EU IFM (interoperable fare management) pro-ject, he outlined the chances and opportunities of a Europe-wide harmonisation of e-ticketing standards. He underlined that ITSO, VDV, Calypso and the like are not limited to card technology alone, but – like OV chipkaart as presented before – will keep pace with technological develop-ments such as mobile phones. The main objective is to facilitate the use of public transport and to allow the passenger to make use of a multi-application device or card he or she already holds – like an NFC phone or a bank card or a smartcard from the “home network”– rather than requiring the collection of proprietary smartcards from transport authorities all over Europe.
Day One was concluded by a networking dinner.
Workshops in a workshop
Day Two was dedicated to analysis and discussion. After a short opening round where the speakers of day one were asked what they had picked up from the presentations of their colleagues, the audience was subdivided in five “topic groups”, each of which were given two questions for two subsequent sessions – one with focus on e-ticketing cooperation between different railway under-takings, the other with focus on cooperation between railways and local public transport. The questions were formulated in a way that could be answered with either yes or no, but which also provoked discussion and analysis. One poll was made at the beginning of the sessions, and the other one at the end, after 45 minutes of discussion. Interestingly, in most cases, the picture at the beginning (“gut instinct”) was considerably reviewed after discussion. The workshops gave all par-ticipants the chance to make their own contribution and they were judged a success by the dele-gates.
E-ticketing solutions are manifold and not necessarily compatible to each other. However, each solution should keep the customer in its focus and facilitate the booking of a rail journey in the most convenient, transparent and reliable way. In many cases, different variants may coexist in parallel, and it shall be left to the customer for which one to choose.
From the operator’s or ticket vendor’s perspective, efficiency and cost reduction are important objectives. What is an efficient solution for long-distance travel may turn out to be inappropriate for mass transit, where focus should be put on minimum processing / ticket inspection time. The difference in business drivers between public service contract railways and those acting competi-tively on their own account was also noted.
Security and fraud prevention, as well as legal implications and privacy, remain crucial issues. In-troducing a new ticketing system or switching from one to another is not a trivial exercise, and should be subject to a thorough assessment.
The vivid discussions and feedback from the audience were a proof that “e-ticketing” is an impor-tant issue in railway distribution for the present and the future and encouraged us to immediately start preparations for a follow-up workshop in a year’s time.