back to article Train firm offers phone-based ticketing across UK

Train passengers can now buy a ticket for any UK train journey from a mobile phone, without paying any additional commission and with the ticket displayed as an on-screen bar code. The service was developed by ticketing specialists Masabi, and has been available for about a year from which provides an easy …


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  1. Mike Richards

    Well done Chiltern

    Now, is there any chance of DB picking up a few other train operators around the country? I'd especially like First Great Western to vanish into history to be replaced by a competent company who might be willing to - oh and let's get radical here - buy new trains???

    1. Chris Miller
      Thumb Up

      Chiltern are the model

      But (in addition to a sensible owner and enthusiastic senior management with a rail background) they also have a comparatively long franchise agreement and are (almost) the only user of most of the rails over which they run. Even Chiltern aren't throwing their weight behind electrification of their line to Birmingham (part of Rail Package 2 - the vastly more cost-effective alternative to the abomination that is HS2), because it wouldn't happen until after their franchise expires.

  2. TheProf

    Oh dear

    my battery has gone flat. How do I get out of the station?

  3. Chad H.

    Interesting definition...

    Travel outside the Chiltern Railways region and you'll need a paper version, which can be picked up from any ticket machine though that rather defeats the object of the whole thing


    So you cant travel across the UK on a Paperless ticket

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Flat battery?

    No, sorry sir, I'm afraid I can't check against your name / card to see if you've bought a ticket.

    No, sorry sir, you'll have to pay the fine then appeal it later.

    1. Boring Bob

      Solution: NFC

      This is why NFC is better. If your battery is flat there should be enough energy coming from the reader to power the SIM or the secure IC in the telephone. Even with the battery flat you should still be able to use a ticket based on NFC.

  5. Kevin Johnston


    Would love to know how long it will be before they can read these at all the stations where they have installed automatic gates. I am sure that station staff will be delighted to have a surge of people waving mobiles at them as they stack up, filling the areas around the gates in the midst of rush hour.

  6. Buzzword

    Great idea, but...

    What happens when the battery runs out? At the end of a long day-trip from Warwick to London, your fancy smartphone is likely to have run out of juice. It's not like the conductor can just swap in a new battery. Even plugging it in isn't an option - it takes 5-10 minutes for my 3GS to become usable after plugging it in - far too long for a train conductor to wait.

    Good to see J2ME devices covered though - they typically have a battery life measured in weeks, not hours!

    1. Jeff Deacon


      Most of the trains from Warwick to London have power supply at each seat to permit you to recharge during the journey, and have enough power left to gossip/surf all day in London.

  7. Pete 43
    Thumb Down

    Sorry Mr Ticket inspector...

    Been surfing El Reg on the train and my battery is flat.....

  8. Conrad Longmore


    I thought this is what NFC was for. Yeah, yeah I know that there aren't many NFC handsets about but there ARE some and there will be more on the way in 2011.

    I did a quick lookup, and the Nokia 6216, C6, C7 and the Samsung Galaxy S II and Nexus S are NFC enabled.

  9. Paul 25

    Standard practice in Switzerland

    I was in Switzerland last year and you could buy tickets online that you could either show on your smartphone or print out. It used a 2D barcode. Not sure if there were any special clients for it, you just got a PDF I think, but as I didn't have a smartphone at the time I went with the paper copy anyway.

    It seemed to work exceptionally well.

  10. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Never mind that...

    ....when the hell are the lines that feed London going to support Oyster?! Sick and tired of having to replace my yearly gold-card ticket every 2-3 months when the underground barriers chew it up, that's when they will actually accept it. Not forgetting the looks of derision I get from ticket inspectors who can barely read the smudged print on my gold-card ticket and think I'm pulling some sort of scam, meanwhile they ignore the gits who walk up the train and jump off at the next stop to avoid getting caught!!

    Gladly replace my gold-card for one of these software coded doohickeys, software copy of the ticket stored at home as a backup in case I lose the phone? Sorted!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Never mind that...2

      ...when the hell are prices going to be a little more reflective of the quality of the trains and the service???

      I mean the bloody trains in Switzerland are cheaper by a significant margin...and the quality of service...well, as an example, we got an apology because our spotless, utterly quiet, distinctly un-over-crowed train left Zurich *10 seconds* late. In rush hour. We still arrived at the next station on time...and within 2 feet of the designated door marking on the platform.

      Right now, I recon a trip from Edinburgh to London is worth...£2. not £200.

  11. Eponymous Cowherd

    On Reflection

    ***"Masabi has tried using normal bar-code readers but found mobile-phone screens to be too reflective"***

    Actually, the reverse is the problem. A 2D scanner use, what is effectively, a digital camera to image the barcode. This works nicely with a back-lit LCD screen. It sees the barcode in the same way as your eyes do.

    A 1D scanner is quite different. It scans the barcode with a laser and relies on the laser light reflected from the dark and light lines of the 1D barcode. While there is some issue with the reflectiveness of the screen, this can be worked-around by angling the scanner. The real problem is the way the 1D uses its own laser light reflected instead of that produced by the screen. To get an idea of what the scanner "sees", turn off the backlight of you phone and look at it under a bright red light..

    e-ink does work well with 1D scanners, view a 1D barcode on the Kindle web browser. You will find it scans perfectly well.

    1. Jerome 0

      1D Scanner

      On the other hand, there's no rule which says that has to be the case. My Android phone scans 1D barcodes perfectly well from the camera image (unless HTC built in a laser without telling me).

      1. Eponymous Cowherd

        From experience

        A 2D scanner works in exactly the same way as your phone camera. Its a CCD imager. It has a few refinements, such as IR illumination and an aiming reticle (it projects an aiming cross onto the barcode), but it basically takes a picture and processed what is seen, exactly as your Android does. For obvious reasons it is better to turn off the illuminator when scanning from backlit LCD screens.

        As its just processing an image, it will work as well on 1D codes as 2D.

        If you are only ever going to scan printed or etched 1D codes, a laser scanner has some big advantages. It provides its own illumination, and the scan-line acts as an aiming reticle in itself. It is also focus-free and will work more quickly and over a wider range of distances than a 2D head.

        If you are going to be exclusively scanning 1D codes, and you are going to be scanning a lot of them, then a 1D laser head is your best bet.

        If you are going to be scanning 2D, or a combination of 1D and 2D codes, and you are going to be scanning a lot of them, then a 2D head is your best bet.

        If you are going to be scanning relatively few barcodes (not time critical), then a mobile camera works adequately, but will often fail on damaged or indistinct barcodes that the dedicated heads (particularly the 1D laser head) can read OK.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Please tell me.

        Someone has taken advantage of this and made a barcode battler emu.

  12. dotslash


    The virgin trains app is on android (released yesterday or so) and is identical to the chiltern one on blackberry and the trainline one on android as far as I know. It hasn't been announced on their site last time i checked but is also made by Masabi.

    It too has no fees and claims to support mobile ticketing.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    No Android?


    Now the most popular smartphone platform by quite some margin.

    I'm laughing my socks off at all these companies that have paid some 3rd party to develop apps, and the ponces that came in told them to develop iPhone first, as that's what they carry every time they visit the local wine-bar.

    Shouldn't the priority be what every REAL people use?

    1. Gareth Gouldstone

      Product vs OS

      People can actually buy an iPhone product. Where do I buy this mythical 'Android' product?

      Oh, that's right, you mean one of the many products running Android OS.

      For actual customers (as opposed to techies), that is an important distinction.

  14. Jon Press

    @First Great Western - buy new trains

    Clearly the politicians have succeeded in deflecting blame for the state of the railways...

    FWG won't buy new trains because they are not allowed to - if they owned them outright they'd have an advantage in a new franchise round and the leasing companies won't buy them for them unless they're assured the next franchisee will continue to lease them. Hence they get to use precisely those trains the government dictates they can have. To be fair, they have negotiated with the government for more trains than they had originally and they got some. However, the "benefit" to First Group of operatiing the franchise is such that they're exercising their option of a break in the franchise agreement to get out of the increasingly loss-producing contract.

    I've just got back from a trip to Penzance and from my experience, FGW have more reasonably-priced and more comprehensive timetable across a relatively complex network of mainline and branchline services than some of the other TOCs.

    The TOCs are essentially arms-length agencies of the DfT with a small margin of budgetary control over peripheral parts of their operations. There are built-in disincentives to invest and innovate. The whole system combines all the worst features of public and private enterprise and eliminates any of the benefits of either - complain to your MP, not to the TOCs.

  15. JB

    Good idea

    Being visually impaired, I absolutely HATE these ticket machines! I recently turned up at my local station to find the ticket office had been vandalised and all that was available were two ticket machines, one of them with just a red screen. I got to the front of the queue, with about 10 people behind me and was totally flummoxed, and had to get someone to help me. I'm normally pretty tech savvy, not afraid of technology, but this was too much for me.

    I hope that if they are going to close ticket windows, that we can buy tickets on the phone on the day of travel, so blindies like me can avoid the humiliation at the ticket machines!

    1. Chris Parsons

      Which pathetically sad bastards voted you down?

      What a world we live in! I sympathise with your plight.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Android version of the app.

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