back to article Blighty to get mobe-download barcode rail tickets

Barcode ticketing specialists Masabi have signed a deal with TheTrainLine.com for a national rollout of its mobile ticketing service, reducing tickets to downloaded images. Punters can still pick up physical tickets if they want, though that would rather defeat the object of the service which is to sell tickets though the mobile …

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Lots of queues due at Leeds, and some other stations, then.

Will be interesting to watch people queue to get through the barriers at stations with magnetic-strip readers only -- I hope the "gating assistants" have all been briefed and given barcode scanners too?

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Go

Problem solved

At Marylebone, where this has been trialed, they fitted the ticket gates with barcode scanners that you just hold your mobile phone's screen over (in addition to the mag-strip slot and Oyster card reader). Worked fine when I used it.

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting...with caveats

I'm cautiously optimistic about this - it is a good idea to have this as one of several options. I'd hope that as part of the deal you get an email confirming your purchase with an option to print/download an invoice (presumably acceptable to accounting depts. but we'll have to see).

Of course, judging past performance of UK rail operators, this will, if it proves in any way succesful, pave the way to either getting rid of ticket machines or charging you extra money for the privilege of using one. And god help you if you need to talk to an actual human when buying your ticket - might as well just hand over your credit card, PIN and Verified-by-$CREDIT-COMPANY password and have done with it...

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RingGo do it

The phone-based parking company RingGo will send you an email/text message when you sign up for the service detailing a website that you can log in to and print out VAT receipts or set up automatically emailing them to your expenses department.

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RingGo is broken

Yeah the problem with RingGo is that their systems don't work and you get parking tickets anyway.

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Not only the accounts department needs to be convinced....

...there are still a lot of ticket gates without barcode readers here in London. I would assume they are going to 'upgrade' these before rolling this out. No?

Apart from this little flaw a good idea.

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FAIL

You need a nice thin phone

...so that it fits into the slots on the Underground barriers.

Scanned by inspectors? That will work while there is a tiny takeup, and then become unworkable as we queue up to hold our phones out for an RSI-afflicted scanner operative to wave a reader at us. And if your battery fails while you're standing in the queue... well. Penalty payment time, innit.

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WTF?

Inspector

Smashing though that may be to show the inspector a barcode on the screen, how will the hundreds of automatic gateways read a barcode? should I still shove it into the slot for a paper ticket, or rub it on the Oyster pad?

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It's a shame that every station in any major city has automated barriers

That rely on old school tickets or RFID. This clearly won't work going in and out of London.

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Anonymous Coward

I've yet to pass through a station that has completely dipensed

with the services of old-fashioned unionised flesh'n'blood ticket inspectors

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flat battery

I hope my phone battery doesn't die before the ticket inspector comes along.........

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HAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHA They probably did not think of this....

...unless they did, and now a dead phone means not only lack of calls and texts but a £50 penalty fare too!

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Unhappy

flat battery

That could be the least of your problems. I don't want a ticket inspector punching a hole in my HTC Desire, thank you very much.

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Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways have had this for a few years, and it works well. However, despite being a techie, I do prefer the printed paper version (still bar-coded) as a sheet of A4 is somewhat less prone to running out of power.

Chiltern, however, are unusual amongst UK Train Operating Companies (that's TOCs to the insider) in that they're well-organised, efficient and provide a decent service. Some of the others make you want to put Bob Crow in charge of renationalisation...

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Works well in Switzerland

But then, we don't have barriers before we get to the trains. The only time it needs scanning is when the inspector comes along. Since all the public transport is managed under the same umbrella organisation, it works on buses too.

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FAIL

Ticket barriers

I'm not someone who spends their life traveling the UK on trains, but in my limited travels, I've only ever seen ticket barriers which take mag-stripe cards.

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Go

Eurostart paper tickets

EuroStar send tickets to you by email, you the print the ticket out. It's one side of an A4 printout, with a 2D barcode in the bottom-left. The ticket barriers have a standard red-led scanning barcode reader, you place the barcode over this, and the barrier opens.

Using a video camera to read a barcode from a phone's screen isn't that big a leap. With a little smarts, the camera could detect that there's a bit of paper in front of it, not a screen, and turn on some white LEDs to read the barcode printed on it, for those without a smartphone.

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Anonymous Coward

About time...

Granted, Deutsche Bahn doesn't quite do this yet, but they do the whole 'print it yourself at home' portion of the experience which makes so much more sense.

But if BMI can do boarding passes by mobile (and it's a fabulous experience), why can't trains?

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So how long before

someone writes a phone app to generate valid ticket bar codes to get paying for traveling?

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Badgers

Probably as soon as...

...someone else writes a phone app to create the corresponding entries in the train operator's database.

On the other hand, if they're designed as offline barcodes, a reasonable strategy would be to armour the ticket details with multi-way error detections, and encrypt the armoured information using an oft-changing (weekly?) key with a nice long bit length. Readers to hold a year's worth of keys; new keys not added until current; error detections changed on a different frequency. Job's a good'un.

As a backup for dead phone batteries, inspectors use an online/phone check using the credit/debit card used to buy the ticket, to confirm ticket details.

Forgotten your card? Numpty! No different from forgetting your ticket. Pay the penalty, get refund later on proof of purchase.

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Agree with all that...

except "Pay the penalty, get refund later on proof of purchase."

Who refunds penalties in this miserable world?

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Happy

Smug

Do you have to look as smug as the woman in the video when using it?

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Re: Smug

I don't think it was smug, more shock that it actually worked. Then again, given how quick the data was sent/received I expect it was a fake demo application rather than a real test.

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Already have this

On the Wrexham & Shropshire services.

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Ticket Barriers

I was in Newcastle the other day and they have got barcode readers on the barriers there.

Also Virgin Trains online printed tickets already have 2D barcodes on

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Booking fee

And what's the betting they'll add yet another £1 charge to the cost on top of their insurance, card fee and booking fees and call it something like a 'convenience fee'?

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More expensive?

I may be wrong, but wouldn't this be more expensive as you would be subject to data charges from your phone operator as I doubt the ticket is any cheaper using this service.

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Anonymous Coward

Won't work here

One of the stations I pass through regularly installed barriers for tickets and swipe cards. Because they didn't bother to think about "2 seconds to check a ticket or 10 seconds to swipe and pass through a barrier", they ended up with surging masses of commuters clogging the place up and now have gone back to eyeballing the tickets.

Next, consider the guards who check tickets. On my trains, they're 4 seats wide, and the regular snoozers stick the ticket on the table in plain sight. Even the conscious ones do a bit of a wave. Can't do that with a 'phone that needs a few millimeters proximity, so everyone at the window will be annoying the person next to them even more than usual. Not to mention the inevitable "I told you, I bought a valid ticket" fights with the guards (at least with paper, you've got a destination visible to all, you're not going on the word of a bleepy machine that doesn't belong to you).

There may be ways to solve these problems, I don't know. But until there's a solid solution for them, paper tickets are still looking much more useful.

(Actually, I have one solution - making the morons who run my line suffer the way their "customers" do would fix it, but not really help much with the phone/ticket issue.)

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Anonymous Coward

Gots yer receipt roight here, guv

These systems are wonderful ways to MAKE YOU PAY, not to make sure you get your money refunded (even from somebody else). Also: Again it's depending on some other system that is far from privacy safe, here credit cards, meaning that they now have your credit card details including name and address, and they can track your entire travel history for years to come. And all that information sits in servers you just have to trust won't leak, get broken into, have backups lost in the mail or on trains, what have you.

Paper tickets and paying cash still beat all this fancy stuff in terms of privacy, liability, robustness, resistance to fraud, and graceful degradation. The only drawback is long lines at the ticket counter, but a bit of planning might help you around there too.

Me? I'm a sysadmin, netadmin, coder, programmer, and general unix-y guy. And that is perhaps exactly why I prefer oh-so-1900s but well-understood, working solutions.

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Anonymous Coward

Bah

I've only just got around to putting my weekly ticket on my Oyster card.

Also- if there's a place where loads of people get their phones out as a matter of course, any self-respecting mugger will hang around near the exit gates, to get a good idea of who's worth mugging..

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WTF?

Odd

One question (as a frequent, 4x week train traveller) - why do people rave about the "wonderful experience" of saving the TOC the hassle of printing a ticket and printing it out yourself?

It annoys me that BMI do it. It would drive me up the wall of Virgin did it as well.

There is never a reduction in fares (or even a slow down in increases), it is simply a way for the travel company to pass costs onto the passenger. Not to mention additional dramas such as having to change transport plans while away from home (trying to find a printer etc) or the simple disorganistion punishment of running out of ink mid-print (happened to me on a sleazyjet flight, caused all manner of arguments with the staff at airport).

We buy the ticket for the travel rights it grants us, fair enough, but you'd think the least the fleecing companies could do is go to the hassle of giving us the ticket rather than demanding we rave about having the "privilege" of printing it ourselves.

But, hey, if printing a bar code is a wonderful experience for you, knock yourself out - why limit it to just times you are going somewhere........?

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WTF?

PDF

Print your ticket on your PDF printer, problem solved, email/multiple copies even dropbox

easy

agree about the theft aspect, where's my discount ? It's not that long ago that beancounters claimed stupid costs for bank letters etc greedy thieves !

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Expenses

"though we're still working out how one gets an accounts-department-acceptable receipt printed out."

For as long as I've been claiming expenses, in many $MEGACORP, bridge tolls, rail fares and bus fares have been claimable on trust. Even the inland revenue don't expect reciepts for train fares, as long as you can demonstrate to have been at both ends of the journey in some casual way.

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Alert

Better idea

Make all public transport free, and pay for it from general taxation. No need for tickets at all, then.

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Corrrrrrrrect !

Public Transport should be free, certainly within a city/set area.

Instead of a debit card/ticket that reduces in value.

Give users an (optional) credit card/ticket that increases in value

The ticket would be used to record small tax off-set credits for the traveler.

This would be a real incentive to help reduce carbon emissions/traffic congestion/[insert any other cause here].

If you don't like the idea of subsidising free public transport through taxes, then tough. You'd better get out there and make full use of your (mandatory) investment.

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@A non e-mouse

"I'm not someone who spends their life traveling the UK on trains, but in my limited travels, I've only ever seen ticket barriers which take mag-stripe cards."

So you haven't been to London then?

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Remember Tomorrows World?

They were always a few years behind the times, too. Chiltern Railways have had these for ages ... and very convenient they are, too

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WTF?

People still use thetrainline.com ??!?

What with the £1.00 booking fee and the additional £3.50 surcharge for using a credit card I'm surprised anybody still gets their tickets there !

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Rip off

Indeed. It's also pretty stupid when it looks like Virgin uses exactly the same back end for tickets, but doesn't shaft you because you're booking online or using a credit card.

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Works well

for domestic air travel in NZ - download barcode to iPhone,and either scan at self-checkin machine if you have luggage or present as boarding pass if carry-on only.

Even better, if I change my travel plans while on the road (and this happens most times I travel) I can easily see when my bookings have been updated without having to drag out a laptop and mess around with websites.

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iPud

I hope the scanners will be big enough to get an iPud under them.

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FAIL

Flat battery

Flat battery = free travel ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

If you're excited...

... in anticipation of this soopah new technology coming to your station, it's probably best to try not to remember just how long it took First Capital Connect (olim Thameslink) to integrate with Oyster. By the time they've got this working, it's less likely we will be queueing for trains than to be eaten by the morlocks.

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That'll be £3 for the privilige, then

Just like greedy cinema chains that offer downloadable booking barcodes, the rail co's will no doubt want to levy an extra charge for this 'privilege'

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Bod

No use in London & South East

Everywhere I go has ticket barriers. And even if they put scanners on there, you'd cause an almighty row with the queue whilst you fiddle around on the phone looking for the barcode.

No. RFID / NFC phones is the way to go. Buy ticket on phone. Wave phone over Oyster style reader. Job done (until the system breaks down or your phone battery dies).

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FAIL

Over-complicated and inferior to self-printed tickets

I prefer the Deutsche Bahn's system of allowing you to buy a ticket online, then print it on your own printer. You also get a confirmation e-mail with a copy of the PDF, and - even if you lose that - you can just log in to the DB site and search for your purchases - and grab a copy. If you have a BahnCard 50 (1st class will cost 460 euros for one year, 2nd class costs 230 euros for one year), all fares are half price (however, you lose none of the flexibility of a full-price ticket!)

Spend more than 2 grand on tickets in a year, and you get automatic access to the 1st class railway lounges and ticket counters. (Loyalty is rewarded.) Collect enough points on your account, and you get various interesting offers (such as a free 1st class ticket to any destination, or a day's car hire, or a bunch of four upgrade tickets - which, used with any 2nd class ticket, entitle you to sit in the 1st class.)

Online tickets are also free to cancel - there is no penalty charge levied (unlike the 15 euro charge for amending or cancelling paper tickets.) We also don't have ticket barriers here - instead, you can be assured that your ticket WILL be inspected on the train, although if you have to make a run for it and can't plan ahead, you can also buy a paper ticket from the inspector (and if you have a BahnCard 50, you enjoy the usual half-price reduction.)

Ticket security is simple but effective: A 2D barcode on the ticket, signed with the Deutsche Bahn's own private key, is pretty much impossible to crack without having the key (and even if you managed to steal one of their nifty little Casio ticket machines, it still wouldn't help you.). As added security to you, the ticket holder, the barcode is salted with a hash of your credit card or BahnCard, and this is used to identify you on the train (the ticket inspector swipes your card and scan the ticket.) So, even if someone hacks my PC and tries to board the train with a copy of my ticket, they will be unable to validate their ticket without also stealing my card.

Next to this system, the British "solution" seems overly-complicated and decidedly lacking in practicality; pretty much par for the course as far as the British are concerned. Technology is no substitute for a better process, and the British system does not appear to have been designed by people who will actually use it (as usual.) If you want to see how people get from A to B in a first-world country, come to Germany and take a look for yourself.

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