On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

On electronic ticketing

Posted on July 30, 2010

Reading time: 3 minutes.

Alternative ways of getting travel tickets have become normal for the airline industry over the past decade and I suppose that the approach was bound to be adopted by other modes of transport too. Possibly inspired by Megabus, National Express and Scottish Citylink have been selling electronic tickets over the web for a while now. In my case, quite a number of trips to and around Scotland have made good use of being able to print out the tickets at home rather than waiting for them to arrive by post. In fact, getting things through the ether of the web has made many a last minute escape a reality.

All of the while that I have been enjoying speedy ticket delivery through my PC, others have been making good use of mobile phone ticketing. On a weekend visit to Fort William, I spotted damp weekend explorers wondering if they had enough mobile phone battery power to show the driver the tickets for a return to Glasgow. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that National Express does likewise though I cannot anyone actually proffering such a thing on alighting one of their coaches.

More recently, Arriva started experimenting with mobile phone tickets on its buses. The initial pilot must have been successful but it has extended to all parts of their network now with Cheshire having them too. To use the facility, it might be best to have a so-called smartphone in order to go down the mobile electronic route. A recent acquisition of a Blackberry in advance of a change of job set me up nicely. Also, that change of working circumstances means that I need to stick with Arriva for the daily commute when I am not using a bicycle to do the honours. With the latter set-up, I was going to work my way through many weekly tickets. They may make useful bookmarks afterwards but there’s only so many of those that anyone needs.

It was the prospect of cutting down on paper detritus that drew me to giving mobile tickets a go. You can choose daily, weekly or monthly tickets and I chose the middle option for a first trial. There is a need for website registration that sends a message to your phone for verification and a PIN for using the service too. That’s a necessity when you are drawing funds from a credit card to pay for any tickets that you buy; just get rid of that original message for more security. An application was added to my phone to do the required ticket acquisition. Unlike buying a ticket on a bus, you can buy ahead of time and activate on first use so there is no need until the day when you need it at all. Mind you, you do need to keep your phone in working order and I wouldn’t like to be stood in an area where mobile phone signal is weak either. Apart from that and a need to have everything set up in good time, it seems to work so far and I might even go for a monthly ticket next time because of the savings, a rare thing in the world of bus travel. If things continue as they are, the era of paper weekly tickets and their red seals might be behind me. Of course, only time will tell if that comes to pass.

Update 2010-08-03: This morning my Blackberry crashed minutes before the bus appeared so a paper ticket was needed; the Opera Mini browser was to blame and reinstallation (bookmarks needed manual restoration, though) was the cure. Otherwise, there have been some frantic moments trying to get the ticket on screen in time but no driver has rejected the electronic item. In summary, the dalliance with mobile ticketing worked well most of the time. From now on, it might be an idea to start closing down applications on the handheld device instead of suspending them in order to avoid problems.