article

TLS: Leading the way

Posted: 7 December 2007 | Jeroen Kok, CEO of Trans Link Systems (TLS) | No comments yet

The Netherlands is the first country in the world to introduce a nationwide electronic payment system for public transport. Smart card transport systems are not new. However, the Dutch are the first to roll out such a system (OV-chipkaart system) for an entire country and for all modes of domestic transport; train, tram, bus and ferry.

Trans Link Systems (TLS), a joint venture based in Amersfoort, was founded in 2001 by the five largest Public Transport Operators in The Netherlands; Connexxion (the trans-regional bus service), GVB (Amsterdam’s public transport operator), HTM (the public transport group for The Hague), NS (Dutch Railways) and RET (Rotterdam’s public transport operator). TLS, as an independent governing body, facilitates the introduction of the national OV-chipkaart system in The Netherlands. The OV-chipkaart is a contactless smart card for public transport costs that can be used on any bus, train, tram and subway within The Netherlands.

The Netherlands is the first country in the world to introduce a nationwide electronic payment system for public transport. Smart card transport systems are not new. However, the Dutch are the first to roll out such a system (OV-chipkaart system) for an entire country and for all modes of domestic transport; train, tram, bus and ferry.Trans Link Systems (TLS), a joint venture based in Amersfoort, was founded in 2001 by the five largest Public Transport Operators in The Netherlands; Connexxion (the trans-regional bus service), GVB (Amsterdam’s public transport operator), HTM (the public transport group for The Hague), NS (Dutch Railways) and RET (Rotterdam’s public transport operator). TLS, as an independent governing body, facilitates the introduction of the national OV-chipkaart system in The Netherlands. The OV-chipkaart is a contactless smart card for public transport costs that can be used on any bus, train, tram and subway within The Netherlands.

The Netherlands is the first country in the world to introduce a nationwide electronic payment system for public transport. Smart card transport systems are not new. However, the Dutch are the first to roll out such a system (OV-chipkaart system) for an entire country and for all modes of domestic transport; train, tram, bus and ferry.

Trans Link Systems (TLS), a joint venture based in Amersfoort, was founded in 2001 by the five largest Public Transport Operators in The Netherlands; Connexxion (the trans-regional bus service), GVB (Amsterdam’s public transport operator), HTM (the public transport group for The Hague), NS (Dutch Railways) and RET (Rotterdam’s public transport operator). TLS, as an independent governing body, facilitates the introduction of the national OV-chipkaart system in The Netherlands. The OV-chipkaart is a contactless smart card for public transport costs that can be used on any bus, train, tram and subway within The Netherlands.

In 2001, I was asked to form and manage the company. TLS is a private company with an independent supervisory board managing both the private interests of the Transport Operators and the public interest of national and regional public authorities. I am proud to work with my team on this unique OV-chipkaart project. I am especially proud of the fact that we have been able to implement an open architecture system using an innovative approach.

Through a public tendering process, it took TLS one and a half years to put together a team capable of designing, building, launching, rolling out and operating the project. TLS was looking not only for bidders that could offer an open architecture system flexible enough to accommodate changing customer and provider requirements (a first for any smart card transport network), but also for systems integrators that could, in addition, demonstrate a proven e-ticketing system that was up and running.

East-West, the international consortium by Accenture, Thales and Vialis that finally won the tender, owed its success in part to the fact that it included MTR Corporation, whose Octopus smart card had been operating on Hong Kong’s mass transit system successfully for more than eight years. Right from the start, TLS took care to establish a governance structure that shared both responsibilities and obligations among all shareholders and capital providers. The entrepreneurial approach we selected has borne fruit.

Open architecture

Our team has built a flexible transport services platform which currently provides completely integrated, end-to-end inter-operability within a centralised and automated clearing and management system. The system allows de-centralised single operators to plug-in seamlessly because the platform is based on service-oriented open architecture that allows swift, smooth and efficient interface with multiple individual providers. This openness also permits new transport operators or broader service providers to easily and cost-effectively join in. Indeed, this type of platform can support any number or type of operators and providers.

Important roles

TLS now fulfils three roles within the OV-chipkaart system. As scheme provider, TLS is responsible for the security and correct usage of the system by all connected parties. Every company connected to the OV-chipkaart system should use the same guidelines to design their systems and processes, thereby ensuring the complete system works seamlessly while creating a safe and reliable environment to correctly process financial transactions. As the system has an open architecture, several vendors can supply equipment which can be connected to the central OV-chipkaart system. The companies involved are therefore not dependent on a single supplier.

As clearing operator, TLS is responsible for the central processing of all transactions that take place when cards are used in the system. The transactions are checked upon receipt at the central system to ensure that these are valid transactions. Next, the transactions are processed. The final result will be clear information (on a daily basis) on the distribution of costs and revenue for each party on the specific day. TLS is responsible for the transfer of the money and for reporting to the public transport companies.

Furthermore, TLS is the card issuer for every OV-chipkaart that is distributed in The Netherlands. It is responsible for the correct functioning of the chip and the e-purse loaded on the card. TLS produces both personalised and anonymous cards and owns every OV-chipkaart on the market.

The test and demonstration office for the complete OV-chipkaart system is located in Amersfoort. All modifications to the system are extensively tested on the technical platform within this building before implementation. These modifications may vary from a small software modification, to the connection of a new public transport company. TLS can also demonstrate the work that is carried out behind the scenes and what travelling using the OV-chipkaart actually entails. Indeed, foreign countries are monitoring our project with more than usual interest. TLS is often visited by international companies, including many suppliers that are interested in the Dutch system.

On track

The OV-chipkaart will be implemented in The Netherlands step by step in the near future. It was originally introduced in a multi-operator setting in the Rotterdam area at the end of 2005 and for me, this was a milestone which made me proud of what we have accomplished.

Currently, passengers can travel using the OV-chipkaart in Amsterdam and on the train connection between Rotterdam and Hoek van Holland. The national implementation of the OV-chipkaart will take place in 2008 with the introduction of the OV-chipkaart in large sections of the urban and regional transport network and for train travel within the Randstad area. By the beginning of 2009, everyone within The Netherlands will be able to pay using their OV-chipkaart and this will be the only valid public transport ticket for the entire Dutch public transport system.

The technical complexities associated with the nationwide implementation of an electronic, multimode and multiprovider transport system are many. Trans Link Systems is proceeding progressively, making sure each bit works properly before the full-scale rollout, to be finalised by the end of 2008 when the system will be accommodating more than 2 million passengers a day.

Positive about the future

There is a lot of work ahead for the country’s numerous different public transport authorities; each of which represents a regional or municipal fiefdom. Dozens of stakeholders, such as consumer organisations, also play an important role.

I fervently believe in the entrepreneurial approach selected for this complex trajectory. We know at which table each decision is taken within this complex field. Moreover, we do not see the implementation of the OV-chipkaart as a project. We run it like a business.

We understand the potential of the OV-chipkaart, but we mainly focus on the optimisation of the system for the public transport branch. Our main goal is maintaining an open architecture and a healthy foundation for further innovation. This trajectory is, and will remain, an enormous challenge. I have faith in the future of the OV-chipkaart.

HOW DO YOU CONVINCE PASSENGERS TO SHARE DATA?

Josef Schneider, Chairman, European Passengers’ Federation

Collecting passenger data is technically easy, but knowing what data you have permission to use for which job is much more complex.

Josef Schneider, Chairman of the European Passengers’ Federation will discuss confidentiality and ways you can convince passengers to share their data at the Intelligent Transport conference being held in London on 31 October 2017…

Download the full Conference programme



Related topics

Send this to a friend