Mike Walker

Merseytravel trials online smartcard top-ups

A UK ‘first’ in smart ticketing is being trialled in and around Liverpool by public transport operator Merseytravel and its partners.

The three-month trial of a smartcard ‘ticket at home’ system has exceeded expectations, and Merseytravel aims to be developing the system in conjunction with the full roll-out of its Walrus smartcard next year.

The system allows customers to download transport tickets on to their smartcard instantly through a reader attached to their PC.

“Response to the Remote Ticket Download (RTD) trial has been overwhelmingly positive, and we can see many benefits, not just for individual customers, but for the travelling public as a whole – reducing queuing, for example,” said Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of Merseytravel.

Traditionally, smartcard systems require the user to go to a top-up point such as a ticket vending machine or manned kiosk to top up their smartcard, or to purchase smart tickets online and collect them at a rail gate or bus, usually 24 hours later.

Merseytravel – working on the system in a joint venture with Ecebs Technology – saw the benefits of an ITSO smartcard solution which allowed the end user to directly download smartcard products securely.

The technical solution known as ITSO Part 11 Remote POST was an addition to the ITSO specification in 2010 and its implementation represents a UK first for Merseytravel and Ecebs.

The trial consists of two products – Pay As You Go (PAYG) for bus and Rail pass for rail. Merseyrail operator Abellio is also an active partner in the trial.

Mel Pashley, strategic account director at Ecebs, commented: “RTD is Ecebs’ ITSO-certified delivery mechanism for the Merseytravel Walrus pilot. This is the first time that anyone has been able to provide ‘ITSO in the cloud’ in a commercial environment and we are delighted with the response to the trial and also with the vision of Merseytravel and Abellio to bring this to market.”

Mike Walker, one of 50 people across Merseyside taking part in the trial said: “For me the Walrus card is fantastic, the convenience of paying for it in advance, online from home really helps and saves having to queue up at the station in the morning.

“It’s great, you just present your card at the turnstile and walk straight through. You don’t even have to take it out of your wallet, which reduces the chance of losing it too!”

Helen Mitchell, Merseytravel’s head of smart and integrated ticketing, added: “Benefits of the RTD solution will not only be for travelling customers but our extensive retail network will be able to use the solution. We are already looking forward to how this solution can be rolled out, in our forthcoming school transport trial.”

Full evaluation of the RTD system will be carried out before comprehensive implementation in 2013.

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