With the advent of information and communication technologies, many industries and service providers have changed the way they operate. This transformation has also been observed within the public transport sector with the introduction of integrated eTicketing as a way to improve public transportation.
With integrated eTicketing, multiple modes of transportation are combined with a single ticket. Setting up eTicketing should be easy, build an app, invite users, and you’re done. However, the rail transport system seems to be struggling to adopt the technology.
Why Is It Difficult For Rail Transport?
It may also have to do with the byzantine nature of rail fares, or the nature of the ticketing process itself. This system has been built and supported well to allow interoperability of the ticketing reservation and settlement systems, however, there is no centralised barcode issuing system to accompany the reservations and settlements system.
Railway operating companies procure their ticket issuing systems, and each franchise will have its own procurement point. This will result in each franchise having its own priorities, and each vendor’s Ticket issuing System will have slightly different capabilities.
It can be difficult to develop a business case for additional sales channels. Despite the fact that we must service our customer needs through digital, especially in such a sophisticated digital economy, any additional sales channel costs money, and it would be beneficial to demonstrate when we can reduce costs by turning off the legacy systems that support ticketing offices and ticket vending machines. Despite investing significant funds in improving digital channels, we will not be able to switch off the old ones just yet.
What Rail Transport Can Learn From Other Industries
In the air travel industry, where barcoded e-tickets are now the norm, it took 10 years from issuing the first electronic ticket for a transition programme to be implemented globally. Due to their lack of interoperability issues, low-cost carriers completed it faster.
The advantage of air travel is that it requires a great deal of personal information to get on a plane – name, email address, passport number, etc., which customers were used to providing even before eTicketing was introduced. Travelling by train is different. It makes no sense for a customer to hand over their (valuable) personal information to get a ticket when they can simply walk up to the ticket vending machine in the station, purchase their ticket, and board the train. For them to do so, there must be a compelling reason. One way to make that case is with the price.
To make an eTicketing rollout successful, we need to consider core customer propositions, interoperability, and even national infrastructure.
In order to convince the customer to give us their valuable data, we need to create some pull factors that will encourage them to use our new eTicketing services. This can be done with price, but it can also be done with service information. Having a registered account allows operators to tailor service information to the traveller’s regular journeys and also to apply refunds automatically – greatly improving customer service.
As a whole, the industry needs to focus on interoperability. On various routes, operating companies utilize barcoded tickets, but they can only automatically scan another company’s ticket if they have a bilateral agreement and are in the process of interoperating. Some leveraging of centralised systems may prove to be beneficial in this area.