UK railway passengers who book tickets through The Trainline will soon be able to opt for a paperless version.
The Trainline's pilot program, launched in conjunction with UK train operator Midland Mainline, currently allows just 15 select business travellers to order rail tickets online and then have them securely sent to their mobile phones.
The selected routes for the pilot program are between London St. Pancras and Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
Jeremy Acklam, business development director for The Trainline, said he expects the mobile phone ticketing service to be available to all passengers by late summer 2007. "It will be rolled out on a train company by train company basis," he said.
Paperless ticketing through smart cards or mobile phone ticketing is particularly useful for business travellers, Acklam said. "Traditionally, tickets have always been on paper and had to be printed or collected, and that's always a problem for business customers in particular who are in a hurry."
The Trainline is the first rail ticket retailer in the UK to offer mobile phone ticketing with secure messaging and regular priced tickets, Acklam said. "There is another pilot program for mobile phone ticketing ongoing with Chiltern railways, though it is just SMS-style messaging. We are the first one to offer secure messaging and the first to pilot a program for business passengers."
The Trainline plans to continue electronic retailing by combining the two technologies to use mobile phones fitted with smartcard software, possibly as soon as 2010.
The South West Trains franchise is the first train operator in the UK that is required by the Department for Transport to accept smartcard technology by 2009.
"It is fairly clear that you can define that date as the start of the smartcard implementation for the railways," Acklam said. "The other franchises will follow soon after."
In addition to developing the mobile phone ticketing technology, the British ticket retailer took another step toward paperless ticketing on Tuesday (June 26) when it acquired Advanced Smartcard Technologies. AST accepted the £18.7m takeover by the British ticket retailer on Tuesday, and the acquisition will allow The Trainline to develop its own smartcardtechnology like the pilot program with mobile phones.
For more information see thetrainline.com.
Report by Lucinda Housley