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Essex Rail passengers to test smart card technology - pilot for future £45 million new ticketing scheme across South East

The government is to invest £2.85 million to trial paperless ticketing as part of a push to deliver smart card technology to rail passengers across the South East.

As a result, Train operator c2c, which operates between Fenchurch Street, Shoeburyness and the Essex coast, will upgrade its ticketing systems at all of its stations outside London, paving the way for passengers to start using smart cards in the region. This will be rolled out on services outside London from January and those into the capital from April.

The Department will evaluate the results of the pilot as part of government plans to roll out smart ticketing across the entire south east region by the end of 2015. A £45 million south east flexible ticketing scheme, which has been launched to promote seamless and convenient travel across the region.


Government want smart card technology "rolled out as far and as quickly as possible"

DfT hope that smart ticketing will allow automatic ticket gates to operate more quickly and reduce queues in stations.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said, "Smart ticketing is the passport for more efficient and flexible travel for passengers and I want to see this technology rolled out as far and as quickly as possible."

"This pilot with c2c is a vital step in making that ambition a reality and will be used as a benchmark to drive innovation across the rail network for years to come.'

"We want to build a stronger economy in a fairer society and this will not only help the tens of thousands of passengers who use these services every day but will also deliver benefits to our economy by getting commuters to their places of work quickly and on time."

DfT hope that smart ticketing will allow automatic ticket gates to operate more quickly and reliably and that it will be easier for passengers to buy tickets online and collect them at stations, plus help to shorten queues at ticket offices and the tickets to be more durable than paper tickets and do not wear out as quickly.

c2c currently operates 26 railways stations, including the commuter hubs of Southend and Basildon , serving 90,000 passengers daily.

Commuters can currently use the Oyster smart card for the majority of rail journeys in London.

Smart ticketing – what rail passengers want

According to the Passenger Focus report:

While the research focussed on the South East, and includes respondents who are generally familiar with Oyster in London, the results are relevant nationwide and indicate some key principles that any introduction of smart ticketing should address.

The expectation or requirement of smart ticketing is that it should deliver on seven key attributes.

Value for money: Participants expected that smart ticketing would involve some kind of cost saving, either via cheaper fares or new cost-effective tickets and products.

Convenience: Smart ticketing needs to be a convenient option that is easy to use.

Simplicity: Simplicity is important, especially for those unfamiliar with smart technology or smart ticketing.

Security: Participants were concerned about the security of smart ticketing, so need to be reassured that it is addressed in the design of any system.

Flexibility: Alongside a convenient and easy-to-use system, participants wanted smart ticketing to be flexible on ticket options, purchase methods and account management.

Tailoring: In addition to new products enabling participants to tailor their smart ticket products to their needs, tailored management of their smart ticketing account is also desired.

Leading edge: Participants are clear that the introduction of smart ticketing is a shift into a more technology-focussed way of ticketing. Many of them are keen that the technology used is forward-thinking, although this is less of a concern for some than the other perceived essentials.

While the respondents were mainly positive, there were numerous questions on the concept and practicalities. Areas which prompted questions included:

  • how the purchasing would work
  • how smart tickets should be used
  • what would happen if anything went wrong
  • security concerns.

It is clear that there is a need for extensive communication and education before any smart systems are launched, so that passengers are informed about how it works. Alongside this,

there will need to be understanding and flexibility from train operators and extensive support from and for their staff as such schemes are rolled out.

In order to make sure that the passenger is at the heart of the development of smart ticketing in public transport, transport consumer group Passenger Focus has started a wide-ranging research programme on smart ticketing, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT).

The first report in the programme - published in July, considered views and needs around smarter ticketing among rail commuters in the South East. The study has claimed that there is an appetite for smarter ticketing among commuting rail passengers, both in terms of moving the ticket format from paper tickets for added convenience, and in being able to access more innovative and flexible ticket types as a result, so saving money.

In response to the DfT's announcement of the £45m south east flexible ticketing scheme, David Sidebottom, passenger director at the independent watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “Passengers believe that smart tickets can make travelling easier and cheaper so this is good news for South East travellers. However it is crucial that the system is designed and implemented with passengers’ needs in mind rather than what is convenient to administer.”

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