Rail Industry must look back to the future to improve integration. By Alex Mott

cambridge wireless rail innovation


Alex Mott on innovation, integration and the introduction of smart ticketing serveries to the Rail industry. Key insights from the CW Automotive and Transport SIG ‘How Innovation is Reinventing Rail Travel.’

On Thursday 2nd April the Automotive and Transport SIG met to discuss the successes and setbacks of bringing new tech development to National Rail. Since the privatisation of British Rail back in 1992 introducing innovative new products and services in this sector has become an increasingly fragmented task.

This is most evident in the uphill struggle to introduce new fully integrated smart ticketing products across all Train Operating Companies (TOCS). The current landscape sees 24 separate franchises fighting ferociously to meet their own strict targets.  Achieving full integration with all TOCS on board is therefore proving a challenge. ITSO (Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation) ticketing is the furthest forward in this regard. Progress is slow as schemes can only be introduced during refranchising meaning few overlap. However with seven separate franchises now operating ITSO smart ticketing across the south east of England and government funding of £45m it appears to be the horse to back.

Even ITSO has hit road blocks producing smart tickets that provide enough choice to match rising passenger numbers. ‘The future of smart ticketing solutions needs to accommodate for the varying needs of the leisure traveller versus the daily commuter’ said Mostafa Gulam, from Rail Settlement Plan ATOC.  This might easily be achieved through loyalty and discount schemes but fares regulation forbids discounting on smart ticketing compared to their paper based counterparts.

It was a problem discussed at length during a heated open forum on the day with some delegates even suggesting we were better off with British Rail.  The solution to the issue would seem to be somewhat less drastic.  Alliances between TOCs, such as the one recently formed between South West Trains and Network Rail, have proved hugely effective in improving integration. It allows for aligned objectives with both organisations working towards common goals and means that schemes can be rolled out side by side without having to have a one size fits all approach.

What can be achieved through collaboration was highlighted by Rob Morland of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust during his in depth look at the manufacture of the 60163 Tornado, a steam train fully certified for use on the UK mainline. The project started in 1990, before privatisation, however upon completion in 2008 the landscape of national rail was drastically different.

The mammoth endeavour was dragged over the finishing line by a weight of good will, charity, volunteering and sponsorship. That is not to say that the Trust did not still have to wade through ‘7 miles of paperwork’. The end result was well worth it however as hundreds of people turned out to see the Tornado arrive in Kings Cross after its maiden voyage from Darlington, the first time in 40 years a steam train had entered the station.  This was a story that captured the imagination of both the general public and the press, becoming very much a feel good story to warm the hearts of a nation gripped by recession.

Presentations from the event are now available at: http://www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/crmapp/EventResource.aspx?objid=47046


About The Author

Alex Mott

Keep the conversation going on Twitter: @CambWireless

Want to find out more about Cambridge Wireless? Visit http://www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/