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London Midland

Delivering a progressive smart ticketing scheme for London Midland

London Midland

As a progressive rail franchise operator, London Midland aims to put passenger convenience at the heart of its service, while minimising ticketing overheads and distributing capacity more evenly across its infrastructure.

To achieve these ambitions and meet the Department for Transport’s mandate for smart ticketing, London Midland initiated a project requiring the integration of 11 separate third-party interfaces.

It needed an established provider that could not only provide the technical platform for the scheme, but also navigate the complexities of the ITSO specification and lead the delivery of this landmark project.

Understanding passenger behaviour to optimise operations

Today’s passengers need a joined-up public transport system that reflects the demands of their daily lives. The Department for Transport (DfT) maintains that the single most important step in this direction is the adoption of smart, integrated ticketing.

London Midland, part of the Go-Ahead Group of public transport providers, operates train services throughout the heart of England, connecting London, the Midlands and the North West. With over 1,300 train services a day, it supports 50 million passenger journeys annually.

John Backway, Business Analyst - Ticketing Technology, Go-Ahead Group, explains: “As part of our franchise commitment, we needed to convert a percentage of our paper-based ticketing to ITSO-compatible contactless technology. As well as complying with the DfT’s mandate, we wanted to create a seamless travel experience for our passengers and minimise our overheads to sustain value for fare-payers’ money.”

With demand for rail travel growing, London Midland also wanted to gain greater insight into passenger behaviour, to ensure its rail infrastructure could cope. “As a forward-thinking rail company, we wanted to understand customer demand, but our paper ticketing system couldn’t offer this insight,” says John.

As well as providing back-office functionality, the ambitious project required the integration of interfaces from no fewer than 11 disparate third party systems. “ACT was recommended by our consultants to co-ordinate the delivery of this landmark project, and act as the ITSO design authority, as well as provide the scheme platform,” says John. “Our decision to use ACT was based on its successful track record of delivering similar, sophisticated ITSO-compliant schemes to other public transport operators nationwide.”

 

Delivering a best-in-class ticketing system

As the technical design authority for the project, ACT set about devising how the scheme would operate in practice. It had to ensure that each of the suppliers met the design criteria, so that all of the central and ancillary systems would be compatible.

ACT provided all of the central applications, including its HOPS transaction processing engine, Customer Management System (CMS) and new rail Retail Fulfilment Service (RFS). It then co-ordinated and integrated all the third-party systems, including gates, ticket vending machines, platform validators and a web-based consumer portal to support journey planning. On an ongoing basis, the ACT back office systems manage the card lifecycle including the issuance of the smart card, called ‘The Key’.

The central back office elements of the scheme are provided as a fully managed service by ACT, spreading both the cost and risk for London Midland,” says John. “They have designed and delivered a best-in-class smart card ticketing system.”

The ACT solution at a glance

Managed provision of the ACT HOPS, ACT CMS and Retail Fulfilment Service (RFS)

Back-office integration of 11 third-party systems

Issue of The Key through management of the ENCTS card bureau

Ongoing ‘line of sight’ operational support

Management reporting

An open-ended scheme, and a template for best practice

The pilot scheme in Worcestershire is available to season ticket holders and enables passengers to conveniently order their smart cards online. These can be collected at the validators at local stations. Tickets can be easily cancelled if lost or stolen. As a stored value ticket, the smart card is inherently more fraud-resistant than paper-based tickets and the addition of gates and readers provides physical barriers to prevent fare-dodging.

John points out a number of additional benefits of the scheme to passengers: “Our new customer portal, powered jointly by Imaginet and ATOS Origin, enables passengers to plan journeys, check what’s on their card and see journeys they’ve already made. Business travellers can even print off their transactions to help with submitting expense reports. Our growing passenger insight means that we will also be able to recognise and reward frequent travellers in the future.”

The transactional insight delivered by the ACT back office platform will also ultimately underpin exercises to optimise demand across the network. “This means we will eventually be able to offer attractively priced fares to incentivise passengers to travel outside peak hours when trains and platforms have greater capacity,” says John.

In addition, ACT is working with London Midland to provide extra operational support through its ‘line of sight’ model. For example, if a validator or gate isn’t reporting transactions, it will light up on ACT’s monitoring system. This system of exception alerts will mean that issues can be proactively identified and addressed before they turn into problems that impact passenger service.

The Key will continue to be rolled out on a phased basis across London Midland routes, with the majority of stations expected to be on board by the end of 2012.

To create long-term value for London Midland and its customers, ACT’s development roadmap will enable passengers to use their mobile handsets to purchase travel in the future, supporting contactless transactions. Because the scheme is ITSO-compliant, the infrastructure is already in place to support this kind of innovation. Being interoperable, it will be possible to expand the remit of the programme across additional modes of public transport to realise the DfT’s vision of a ‘whole-journey experience’.

To other transport operators considering a similar scheme, John says: “The ITSO technical specification is pretty daunting to the uninitiated, but ACT fully understands the ITSO requirements and has translated them into a clear, customer-friendly plan of action. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve the scheme we now have without their willingness to pull out all the stops, rather than just providing an off the-shelf solution.

“The potential for The Key is phenomenal - this is merely the tip of the iceberg. With ACT as a trusted partner, we’re now able to replicate the successes of the pilot scheme across the rest of our estate.”

 

Read other case studies

“Our decision to use ACT was based on its successful track record of delivering similar, sophisticated ITSO-compliant schemes to other public transport operators nationwide.”
“ACT has designed and delivered a best-in-class ticketing system.”
“The ITSO technical specification is pretty daunting to the uninitiated, but ACT fully understands the ITSO requirements and has translated them into a clear, customer-friendly plan of action.”
“The potential for The Key is phenomenal - this is merely the tip of the iceberg. With ACT as a trusted partner, we’re now able to replicate the successes of the pilot scheme across the rest of our estate.”