Mobile technology could spell the end of paper train tickets

PIC: Tony Johnson

PIC: Tony Johnson

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Losing a paper ticket before getting to the barriers at Leeds train station is a potential nightmare for many a commuter.

But those fears may soon be alleviated, after news that the traditional tickets may soon be phased out, in favour of electronic tickets on smartphones instead.

The plans were unveiled yesterday at the Rail Delivery Group’s annual conference. They would see barcoded mobile tickets - known as m-Tickets - potentially extended within three years to cover journeys involving several train companies.

Train passengers would be able to have their tickets scanned directly without fear of losing or damaging them.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin joked at the conference that rail ticketing is so complex it should be the subject of a PhD programme.

He said there is “massive potential for improving” the system and urged operators to work together to enable their IT systems to interact better.

“The railway still seems light years behind other industries on this issue,” he told the audience of rail industry leaders.

He added: “There must be the availability to get a PhD in ticket pricing and ticket regulations across the industry. Well, that doesn’t help the passengers, it doesn’t help your customers, it doesn’t help my constituents and it is time we looked at the simple ways we can change it.””

The RDG is also exploring how to enable passengers who buy tickets online with a contactless credit or debit card to use the same card to go through the barriers at the station, so they do not need to print out tickets.

Jacqueline Starr, of the RDG, said: “We have a vision of fully digital, mobile-friendly train travel with smarter types of quick and easy electronic tickets which are convenient, personalised and can be used on different providers’ services.

“Many train operators already offer options like tickets on mobile phones and travel using smart or contactless cards.

“The rail industry is developing technology to make buying and using train tickets simpler.”

She added: “There is no one-size-fits-all solution and we’ll continue to cater for everyone.”

A pilot of the extended m-Ticket scheme covering more than 230 stations, including several in North Yorkshire, has seen some 40,000 fares bought.