To meet the demand for ease and continuity in travel, transport operators need to collaborate to offer passengers one virtual ticket, from beginning to end, says Steve Wakeland, Executive Chairman, ITSO.
The provision of integrated transport services is at the heart of developing smart cities. The unifying factor to bring different transport modes together is to give the travelling public the ability to pay for and access them through one device, their smartphone.
Due to constantly developing technologies, there is a mounting expectation for everything to be available at our fingertips, and joining up all forms of public transport in our smart devices is a necessary evolution.
Across all industries, we are seeing a shift towards mobile payments and in transport the focus is on providing a ticket straight to the passenger’s mobile phone. These can vary from m-tickets, held on a mobile device in a travel app and e-tickets, which provide a barcode downloaded to a mobile phone and scanned at ticketing gates.
In addition, Host Card Emulation (HCE) technology enables a travel smartcard to be stored on your mobile phone, therefore securely storing virtual tickets and replacing the need for a paper ticket.
"Transport for London says contactless payments now account for around 50 per cent of transactions on its network every day"
Customer-facing industries, such as retail and hospitality, are now steps ahead in meeting the demands of today’s tech-savvy consumer. Retail has firmly established itself in the digital realm, with most well-known vendors creating mobile-compatible websites and apps that allow customers to look up product information and purchase goods effortlessly with a touch of the finger.
We are also now able to pay for products and services in many shops and restaurants by simply tapping our phone on a card reader.
Passengers on the UK’s expanding public transport network now have the very same expectations. With passenger rail journeys increasing from around 340 million to 440 million per quarter between 2011 and 2018, UK rail users need a better experience when it comes to ticketing.
Across all modes of transport, passengers want to be able to plan journeys, buy tickets and access public transport from their mobile devices as they do for every other aspect of daily life.
But it goes further than this. To meet the demand for ease and continuity in travel, transport operators need to collaborate to offer their passengers the ability to carry out their journey from beginning to end all on one virtual ticket.
"Customer-facing industries, such as retail and hospitality, are now steps ahead in meeting the demands of today’s tech-savvy consumer"
According to data released by Barclaycard, the UK saw a growth of around 365 per cent in mobile payments between 2017 and 2018.
It’s realistic, then, to predict that within five years Britons will use mobile phones in place of smartcards for purchases and this will also apply to the way we travel.
How we pay for public transport in the UK is very much in the spotlight as the Rail Delivery Group recently launched its rail fare review and announced that nine in 10 tickets offered around UK rail stations will be soon be available via smartphones.
Transport for London also says contactless payments now account for around 50 per cent of transactions on its network every day, with one in eight of these contactless payments coming from mobile wallet apps such as Google Pay. These remove the friction of having to queue for a paper ticket and keep it safe, creating an effortless travel experience.
At ITSO Ltd we believe that mobile ticketing is a critical starting point in bridging the gap between where we are today and achieving a fully integrated transport system in UK cities. Only when there is a commonly accepted and widely used digital payment method, and one that connects across bus, rail, car, taxi and bike journeys, will operators be able to deliver true mobility in a fully connected state.
However, the next phase must be for passengers to be able to purchase more complex fare types, such as season tickets, using this smart ticketing technology.
Contactless payments work well for single journeys in closed-loop transport systems with a maximum price cap. For longer journeys, however, that involve multiple rail operators, peak and off-peak travel times and rail card discounts, it could be confusing for passengers using contactless to understand what their end fare could be.
"Ticket fulfilment in the easiest possible way is an important part of the journey towards smart cities"
With mobile ticketing and Google Pay, the pre-pay technology gives the confidence of knowing the final ticket fare, while keeping a passengers’ travel details and even season tickets to hand in one app on their smartphone.
Mobile ticketing is all about ease, saving time and providing passengers with a seamless travel experience – the smartphone is both the ticket machine and the ticket, meaning less time is wasted queueing and passengers only need to carry one object, their mobile device.
For the transport industry to lead the way towards the evolution of smart cities in the UK, governments and operators must recognise the integral part mobile ticketing plays and invest in the technology that will make integrated services a reality.
Having an infrastructure already in place that is compatible with mobile technology will enable the implementation of trusted, secure and interoperable ticketing systems. Compatible infrastructure will also enable operators to deliver a mobile ticketing scheme that enhances the passenger experience.
"The smartphone is both the ticket machine and the ticket, meaning less time is wasted queueing and passengers only need to carry one object, their mobile device"
This work should also not be in isolation of wider technological developments. With an active user base of one billion people, Google Maps is now an everyday part of many people’s lives, used to plan their journeys.
In the future, when searching for the best way to travel from London to Milton Keynes, for example, passengers could also be given the option to buy rail or bus tickets in Google Maps and download them straight to the Google Pay wallet on their smartphone.
Ticket fulfilment in the easiest possible way is an important part of the journey towards smart cities.
As passengers join up their journeys across UK public transport, we will begin to see the development of a much more interconnected transport system, like those already in place in cities such as Hanover and Helsinki.
There are also other benefits. Operators with mobile ticketing will see reductions in ticket issuance and cash handling costs. They can also collect and analyse data more easily – for example, helping travel planners decide where they could best extend transport services to help meet passenger demand.
"In our ever-increasingly digitalised world, we expect ease and speed in all aspects of our lives, especially travel"
We see this analytical side of mobile ticketing as a critical starting point in working towards smart cities in the UK. By having access to new and more accurate data, operators will be able to identify the most popular journeys and work to adapt their networks accordingly.
In our increasingly digitalised world, we expect ease and speed in all aspects of our lives, especially travel. It is undeniable that to keep up with the needs and desires of today’s passengers, and for cities to become truly smart, the transport industry must embrace a better ticketing solution.
The provision of smart transport services is a core function of strategic importance for cities and regions in the UK and globally – particularly as we grapple with increasing urban congestion and become more mindful of our growing carbon footprint.
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