Rail industry gives itself award for failing ticketing scheme


The rail industry’s project to roll out barcode ticketing has won an industry ‘innovation’ award, despite falling short of a key Government target.

The National Barcode Acceptance Programme, led by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), won the cross-industry partnership award at the Railway Industry Innovation Awards in June.

A non-operational barcode scanner at Vauxhall, London

The RDG said that by the end of this year the programme ‘will see barcode tickets accepted on more than 70% of travelled routes in the country (outside of London)’ and that the award ‘recognised the collaboration across the industry to achieve such widespread implementation’.

However, as previously reported on Transport Network, the Department for Transport’s November 2017 Strategic Vision for Rail, set an 'aim' that by the end of 2018 ‘barcode tickets will be accepted for travel on almost all of the network’.

Transport Network has approached the RDG for clarification as to what percentage of the network is expected to accept barcode tickets, if London is included.

Duncan Henry, the RDG’s head of ticketing, said: ‘We are honoured to receive this innovation award for a programme which is playing a key role in our strategic plan, delivering part of our commitment to customer satisfaction by upgrading technology, and allowing more passengers to use digital tickets on their mobile devices.’

The RDG said that under the programme, in addition to the 759 barriers that already accept barcode tickets, more than 800 are being upgraded. In addition, over 3,100 handheld scanning devices are being introduced.

It added that some stations, where more than half of customers are expected to use a barcode ticket, will have every gate upgraded. ‘For example, all 173 barriers at Waterloo station are being upgraded.’

A spokesperson for South Western Railway, which runs services from Waterloo, told Transport Network that it was 'looking forward to introducing barcode tickets for passengers by the end of this year', adding: 'Our guards already have the technology to read barcode tickets, as we already accept Great Western Railway barcode tickets that are valid on our network.'

As an example of how the project has improved passengers’ experience with barcode tickets, the RDG, said it had developed an audible alert to ensure that passengers know that their ticket has been scanned, ‘thus reducing confusion when using the barriers’.

Although barcode tickets will not facilitate genuinely ‘smart’ ticketing, such as the fare capping provided by smartcard systems like Transport for London’s Oyster, Mr Henry made it clear that one of the main benefits of the drive to bring in ‘smarter’ non-paper ticket formats is that it will allow the industry to track passengers’ movements.

He said: ‘Smarter ticketing such as Barcode is part of the foundation of understanding our customers and being able to provide them with simpler, faster ticketing choices, better travel products and more valued services including more useful information.’

The RDG also said that while barcode tickets have been in use on the rail network since 2008, different train operating companies developed different products and there was limited interoperability between them.

However, in 2008 smart ticketing provider Masabi said that working in conjunction with the Rail Settlement Plan (now part of the RDG), it had developed a new standard for secure barcode rail ticketing that ‘allows all mobile ticketing schemes to use a common secure barcode system, and also to be able to start accepting a single mobile ticket on a journey involving multiple rail operators’.


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