Passengers using Germany”s high-speed ICE (Intercity-Express) trains and those on the UK's Chiltern Railways will able to use mobile phones to buy travel, using the internet and existing mobile companies.
From October, Deutsche Bahn is to pilot an electronic ticket scheme in tandem with Vodafone that will allow passengers to simply press a mobile phone button on arrival and departure at stations to purchase travel. Due to be trialled initially on the high-speed Berlin-Hannover route, Deutsche Bahn says it is aiming to introduce the Touch&Travel scheme within two years and extend it to long-distance and regional trains, as well as local public transport.
The concept is based on new mobile phone technology known as Near Field Communication that will make it possible to use remote data transmission within a distance of a few centimetres. New generations of mobile phones will be equipped with this option and a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bahn told ABTN that it ”would definitely be an ideal situation if UK business travellers could also use the system.”
All bus platforms and train stations will be equipped with so-called touchpoints, at which passengers will check in by pressing a button on their mobile phones and check out at their final destination in the same way. The route taken and the relevant fare will be calculated, with the registered user receiving a monthly invoice.
In a similar move, Chiltern Railways is improving its initial three-month trial in which 6,000 mobile phone tickets were sold, adding further automation to the process. Two scanning devices have been attached to the ticket gates at London Marylebone station to allow passengers to use their own phones and go through.
”We have listened to our passengers and currently this technology is only valid with our E-day website product, allowing passengers to travel between Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon to London Marylebone,” said Chiltern Railways commercial director, Neil Micklethwaite. ”We are now looking at ways to expand this technology across a range of our tickets, following strong support.”
And staying with the technology theme, the German rail operator is also extending broadband access on ICE services between Frankfurt airport and Cologne in conjunction with T-Mobile. All high-speed trains with wireless internet availability are recognisable by a HotSpot logo.
Towards the end of this year, two more ICE connections will follow: Frankfurt- Fulda-Gottingen-Hannover-Hamburg and Frankfurt-Stuttgart-Munich. Plans are in hand to increase the total number of broadband-equipped ICE trains from seven to more than 50.
Passengers using the service require a laptop or other terminal with W-LAN capability, while the technical integration of the system is supplied by technology partner, T-Systems. Deutsche Bahn will equip its trains with the necessary hardware and software. Those with a T-Mobile contract can log on straight away, while other passengers will be able to order a certain amount of time online and pay by credit card.
A further 14 Deutsche Bahn station lounges are included in this project.