ticket barriers uk train station

Smart ticket barriers could see the end of queues at train stations

Image credit: Dreamstime

Ticket barriers could be removed from train stations in favour of sensors that detect passengers through an app on their smartphones.

The prototype technology being developed by Hitachi Rail would mean smartphones wouldn’t even need to be taken out of the bag, ending the need for queues at the barrier or ticket machines.

The Japanese firm said that passengers would be automatically charged the correct fare and testing will take place in Italy shortly, although it ultimately hopes the system will be used on buses, trams and trains in the UK.

The sensors would link up with a smartphone app and could be installed either at the entrance to the vehicle itself or on platforms.

Hitachi Rail managing director Karen Boswell said: “This technology has the ability to transform public transport in every corner of the country, from rural buses to city centre train stations. The common travelling woes of queues at ticket machines or trying to find the cheapest fare could be solved without even needing to reach for your pocket.

“We are now beginning to test this technology and looking at the possibility of one app working across large stretches of a country. For example, a passenger could use the app to take a bus in their local town and a train elsewhere in the country all in one day.

Hitachi Rail is currently part of a joint bid with Bombardier Transportation to build trains for the upcoming HS2 project that will take advantage of the latest tech for rolling stock.


Mock-up of the Hitachi/Bombardier HS2 trains

“This technology could have potential to make public transport more accessible for all passengers,” Boswell added.

“We believe this would also be good news for operators, who can entice more people to use public transport thanks to this simple-to-use payment method.”

Passenger groups have said the introduction of smart ticketing, where a ticket is held on a smartphone or plastic card, is long overdue.

A spokeswoman for the Rail Delivery Group said: “We welcome this exciting step towards easier fares and, as we continue to roll out smart ticketing, new innovations have a key role to play.

“To make the most of technology and make it easier for passengers to get the best value fare, outdated fares regulation needs to be updated.”

The Department for Transport claimed in February that it has made “real progress” over the issue and announced plans to ensure all commuter areas offer the pay-as-you-go ticketing structure available in London.

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