Mobile rail ticketing standard agreed

Missing your train as you queue to buy your ticket could soon be a thing of the past as UK train companies and operators develop a new mobile barcode standard.

UK train companies and operators have announced the development of a new standard for secure barcode rail ticketing to allow passengers to pay their fares on the go.

The train firms have worked together through their jointly owned rail ticketing body, the Rail Settlement Plan (RSP), with mobile applications specialist Masabi to launch the open standard.

The standard will enable all mobile ticketing schemes to use a common secure barcode system and allow customers to buy a single mobile ticket on a journey involving multiple rail operators.

Up until now all rail mobile ticketing systems have used the web to sell a restricted selection of advance tickets using proprietary standards.

The approval of the UK-wide standard RSPS3001 is being hailed as the first step towards using mobile or print-at-home tickets across different rail operators for everyday tickets bought on the same day of travel, which represents the vast majority of sales.

RSP's Mostafa Gulam stated: "We have been able to bring down the cost of implementation and raise the functionality of the system in ways we had not thought possible."

The new barcode contains enough ticket and security information to allow offline systems to scan and validate tickets with similar security to the Oyster smartcard system used in London.

The offline capability is designed to prevent any new systems based on the standard from being affected if internet, database or server connections fail. They would then operate as island systems on vehicles or handheld terminals to continue processing tickets.

"The trend towards paperless ticketing benefits both the passenger and rail industry as a whole; it makes travel more convenient and environmentally sustainable," said Mike Short, president of the Mobile Data Association.

"Mobile phones have become the most inclusive digital device that we carry today, secure mobile barcodes offer a clear pathway towards an increasingly cash free society. Other innovations may follow, but this landmark RSP decision shows a clear way forward to serve mobile customers anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

Masabi has already delivered systems with Atos Origin for National Express and Heathrow Express and also with YourRail for Chiltern Railways. Its applications allow travellers to both buy and display tickets from their handsets without the need for users to sign-up or remember any usernames or passwords.

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