Mobile Ticketing for PAYG on UK Rail

17 January 22

When it was first made available the initial deployment of a virtual credential/ticket on a mobile device as a token for transit did not result in the rapid uptake as might have been expected. Many people still preferred to use the physical form of bank card that they had traditionally carried around and used.

However, the inevitable shift towards use of a virtual credential stored on the mobile device is now growing significantly. Slower adopters are seeing the benefit of being able to manage the whole end to end process on the phone from journey planning, ticket purchase and placement of a suitable token within a mobile wallet on the phone.

For these reasons it is essential that the move towards PAYG ticketing on UK Rail embraces a digital form of ticketing that can be stored in a virtual wallet on the mobile device. Unfortunately, currently the ITSO card only partly meets that criterion. Either an iOS or Android mobile device can be used to update a physical ITSO card with a ticket via an NFC link. However, presently only the Android device can be used to store a virtual credential for transit. Until Apple provide a similar functionality on an iOS device the proposition of ITSO on mobile is limited.

The QR barcode is a well proven mature technology with the added advantage that it provides a visible record of the credential which can be readily inspected if for any reason it fails at the point of validation. It arguably requires more care at the presentation on the ticket gate validator, but a consistent approach delivers a rapid consistent positive response at the gate.

There are some parties who have concerns about repeated use of a single barcode ticket because of the ease with which a static barcode can be copied leading to potential fraud. However, firstly it is not in anyone’s interest to pass a copy of the barcode to a friend since it will simply result in the account getting debited twice if the fraudulent use is successful. Secondly, there are a range of ways that a dynamic element can be introduced to the barcode making it considerably more difficult to copy.

Hence, a mobile barcode solution is an attractive option for PAYG ticketing for UK Rail.

Contactless bank card (EMV) remains the end proposition focus for PAYG ticketing on UK Rail. The attractiveness of this is clear. Firstly, it is the form of credential that most of us are used to in the retail experience of our everyday lives and hence we approve of having that consistent experience when we travel by PAYG on UK Rail. The second advantage is that transit can ride on the back of the technology development which will be driven by the much larger retail sector, rather than having to drive a technology that is dedicated to transit. This problem is particularly accentuated when a closed loop technology is used that has bespoke elements to one country and cannot benefit from global application.

Tracsis Group is a software and technology company based in the UK and Ireland that has a strong presence across all areas of the transportation sector. The company is focussed on providing its customers with innovative and market leading solutions that enable them to optimise operational fulfilment, asset performance, safety and customer experience. To better compliment these objectives, Tracsis has invested in iBlocks, the UK’s first and only accredited provider of rail PAYG smart ticketing solutions. Together, we strive to provide high performing solutions and enhance passenger experience across UK rail networks.

– Chris Barnes, Chief Executive Officer at Tracsis