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Collaboration for smartcards on rail

Wednesday 21st February 2018

Last week, the Integrated and Smart Travel team brought together representatives from northern train operators to celebrate the collaborative nature of their project to bring smartcards onto rail across the North.

We have been collaborating with Northern, TransPennine Express and the Department for Transport to deliver a solution in the North as part of the national smart on rail programme. The team has been working hard to replace traditional mag strip season tickets with plastic smartcards. This is a £18.5 million programme that launches as a technical trial between Scarborough, Malton and Hull in Spring and will have been rolled out across the region by the end of the year. We continue to work with Merseytravel and Merseyrail to enhance the established Walrus Smartcard scheme.

Last week’s event focused on the importance of speaking with one voice. It is one of the first times that northern operators have worked together on a solution that will meet the needs of customers.

Early benefits will be delivered to passengers across the North by enabling faster passage through ticket barriers, and the option to buy online so that passengers can avoid the ‘Monday morning renewal’ queue, providing more flexibility.

This project is the first customer-facing deliverable for Transport for the North, and shows what can be achieved when different companies in a competitive sector work together for the benefit of customers.

The Integrated and Smart Travel Programme Director, Alastair Richards opened the event saying: “This is the first step towards creating a pan-Northern smart travel solution. It is a really exciting time to be involved in a project that offers the customer something they can actually use.

“By having the three northern train operators and the suppliers in one room discussing how to make a success of the project, this shows the fruition of our drive to bring together companies that will speak with one voice to achieve real change in the North”.

This was echoed by Darren Higgins of TransPennine Express who said, “Customer satisfaction with ticket retailing is not where it needs to be. That is why we are proud to be working together in partnership with others to make this a reality.”

The event saw operators and suppliers split into groups to decide how the project will be a success, defining how groups of different stakeholders can achieve the same aim. People were challenged to think about typical organisational challenges such as sharing documents across different organisations or ensuring that project delivery remains on time. To overcome these, they were then encouraged to think of how these challenges could be mitigated before they become issues.

Defining best practice and a clear vision for how we measure success came out as a strong desire from operators and suppliers. Part of this involves learning from similar schemes and having an approach of encouraging feedback and reflecting on progress. Smartcard schemes already exist in Scotland and some areas of Merseyside, which have had a very high take-up rate and can be used as case studies on how to implement similar schemes.

By the end of the morning, the groups had come back together to agree overarching principles. These included being honest and open, communicating clearly and having a clear definition of success, underpinned by a meaningful customer proposition.

This means creating something that is familiar to customers, as Stephen Bond from Northern said, “Our aim is that 360 million miles will be travelled on rail next year on smart ticketing. This is at the cornerstone of our retail transformation”.

Overall, the event started the momentum needed to drive forward the project in a collaborative way. The project team will soon be working on a campaign that highlights the benefit of switching to plastic smartcards for customers. This is designed to ultimately make life easier for customers.

It is just the start of a wider journey towards smart travel for the whole of the North and is designed to support the implementation of our account-based back office travel solution.

To find out more about the Integrated and Smart Travel programme, click here.