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Smartcards introduced for train users in move away from paper tickets

Image credit: PA

A long-distance train operator has introduced smartcards which allow travellers in the UK to avoid using paper tickets.

Avanti West Coast said it had introduced the new smart system to avoid using paper tickets that can be “mixed up or damaged”.

The firm had already carried out successful trials, allowing customers to store all their tickets securely on one card.

Tickets can be purchased online and then loaded onto their smartcard at a station using either a ticket vending machine, an automated gate or a hand-held device used by Avanti staff.

The card can then be scanned at ticket barriers or by a train manager on board the train. Cards can be ordered from the Avanti West Coast website free of charge.

Avanti said that digital tickets account for around 65 per cent of its journeys and the introduction of the smartcard gives rail users another option for moving away from traditional paper tickets, which should also help to cut waste.

Previously, those who ordered season tickets online would receive them in the post and in most cases a record needed to be kept in case a replacement or refund was needed. With the smartcard, the details are stored in the booking system, making this process more user-friendly.

Avanti worked with Paragon ID, which produces and manufactures the cards, using Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation technology: a system that electronically stores a travel ticket on a microchip and can be used for different journeys on other train operators.

Similar systems have already been put in place for local travel networks in the UK, most prominently London’s Oyster Card which was first introduced in 2003, with more than 86m cards issued since then.

Chris Heaton-Harris, rail minister, said: “The introduction of the smartcard scheme will allow passengers to choose a modern alternative to the paper ticket, providing simpler journeys and reducing time spent in stations.

“As we build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic, this government is committed to smarter ticketing. Avanti West Coast’s scheme will allow for more convenient travel and will improve the passenger experience once it is safe to return to the railways.”

Sarah Copley, executive director, Avanti West Coast, said: “We are really pleased to be introducing this smartcard for our customers, especially those using season tickets, as a convenient way of travelling and saving time in the process.

“As we have seen with digital ticketing, the smartcard will enhance customer experience as well as remove the need for multiple paper tickets which has an obvious impact on sustainability. Traditional versions are also susceptible to damage which can make them unusable, so this will help solve that problem as well.”

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