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ITSO: The vision for smart and integrated ticketing

Posted: 11 May 2010 | Michael Leach, ITSO | No comments yet

In December 2009, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) published its strategy for smart and integrated ticketing and in doing so clearly stated an aspiration to revolutionise public transport ticketing and to create a seamless transport experience for the end user. ITSO is at the heart of this vision, through providing and maintaining the ITSO Specification and the supporting security infrastructure.

The ITSO Specification is an open inter­operable smart ticketing standard developed in the UK under Crown Copyright. It provides the platform for integrated smart ticketing schemes in England, Scotland and Wales through enabling technical interoperability and in facilitating seamless travel across modes, operators and regional boundaries. The advent of the ITSO Specification paved the way for the development of interoperable ticketing infrastructures across the public transport sector.

In December 2009, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) published its strategy for smart and integrated ticketing and in doing so clearly stated an aspiration to revolutionise public transport ticketing and to create a seamless transport experience for the end user. ITSO is at the heart of this vision, through providing and maintaining the ITSO Specification and the supporting security infrastructure.The ITSO Specification is an open inter­operable smart ticketing standard developed in the UK under Crown Copyright. It provides the platform for integrated smart ticketing schemes in England, Scotland and Wales through enabling technical interoperability and in facilitating seamless travel across modes, operators and regional boundaries. The advent of the ITSO Specification paved the way for the development of interoperable ticketing infrastructures across the public transport sector.

In December 2009, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) published its strategy for smart and integrated ticketing and in doing so clearly stated an aspiration to revolutionise public transport ticketing and to create a seamless transport experience for the end user. ITSO is at the heart of this vision, through providing and maintaining the ITSO Specification and the supporting security infrastructure.

The ITSO Specification is an open inter­operable smart ticketing standard developed in the UK under Crown Copyright. It provides the platform for integrated smart ticketing schemes in England, Scotland and Wales through enabling technical interoperability and in facilitating seamless travel across modes, operators and regional boundaries. The advent of the ITSO Specification paved the way for the development of interoperable ticketing infrastructures across the public transport sector.

Progress

The foundation has been laid for the widespread implementation of interoperable smart ticketing by the adoption of ITSO in the concessionary travel sector across England, Scotland and Wales. Scottish local authorities were the first to take advantage of the multi-application compatibility of the ITSO smart card and developed the Scottish National Entitlement Card which provides the end user with additional services, such as leisure, library and taxi services or school catering. In Wales, pilot projects are working towards providing multi-modal smart ticketing, with local initiatives designed to assist disabled and the socially disadvantaged. In England, a number of local authorities have successfully trialled or are running ITSO-compliant schemes. The rollout of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme in April 2008 has since seen almost 10 million smart ITSO-compliant passes circulated to qualifying concessionaires. Although the infrastructure required for the acceptance of the ITSO-smart passes and products is only beginning to be rolled out widely, all concessionary smart cards produced for ENCTS have been smart-enabled from the outset and carried full ITSO functionality. Some 250 Travel Concessionary Authorities (out of 293) at that point had no smart infrastructure and had to be extensively supported and assisted with issuing ITSO-compliant smart passes to ensure the full rollout of the ENCTS. This role was successfully fulfilled by ITSO Services Limited, an ITSO licensed operator established specifically for this purpose.

In real terms, significant investment and groundwork has created the structural basis for smart ticketing to flourish in the concessionary travel sector. In England, the emergence of ‘smart’ Travel Concessionary Authorities lead to wider roll out of smart ticketing machines and back offices, moving the sector away from ‘flash pass’ conditions. For an initiative worth in the region of £1 billion, this is vital to ensuring accurate settlement arrangements and secure transaction activities, all of which is achievable within an ITSO-compliant environment.

National integration and interoperability

National integration and interoperability is dependent upon the development and implementation of smart ticketing infrastructure by local authorities and transport operators in particular. Across England, the number of ITSO-compliant Electronic Ticketing Machines (POSTs) and back office repositories (HOPS) is increasing at a steady rate. Nonetheless, concerns have been raised as to the up-front expenditure required to instigate a smart ticketing infrastructure, something that the DfT has begun to address with the announcement of £20 million in new funding to support the nine largest urban areas in England (outside London) in developing such infrastructures. These areas account for approximately 50% of bus journeys made outside London, and targeted funding for urban transport is intended to ensure that benefits can be delivered as quickly as possible to the areas where the most journeys are made. This is a significant investment on the part of the DfT, one which is coupled with the promise of framework agreements to assist local authorities in procuring the necessary equipment and an additional 8% payment to bus companies equipped with ITSO smart ticketing equipment as part of the Bus Services Operator Grant. By providing these incentives and identifying local authorities as the best placed to lead infrastructure implementation, a major leap forward in having a truly integrated and interoperable transport ticketing environment will be achieved.

Whilst ITSO has been primarily adopted for delivering smart ticketing onboard buses for the concessionary schemes of England, Scotland and Wales, there are an increasing number of ITSO- compliant smart ticketing infrastructures being implemented by the Train Operating Companies (TOCs). The DfT’s vision notes that while ticketing is generally more regulated and more integrated on National Rail, there is an opportunity for greater integration with local networks to facilitate door-to-door integration and more innovative ticketing. Six TOCs have committed to developing ITSO-compliant smart ticketing infrastructures as part of their franchise requirements: East Coast Trains, CrossCountry, South West Trains, London Midland, East Midlands Trains and Southern. There are already promising signs emanating from South West Trains and London Midland. In Wales, pilot schemes are underway on selected Arriva Trains Wales services in conjunction with the Welsh Assembly’s Concessionary Travel Scheme and point-of-service terminals implementation on the part of First ScotRail is also anticipated. The onus is very much upon individual TOCs to develop ITSO-compliant smart ticketing infrastructures, in conjunction with their suppliers/equipment providers.

The initial success of London’s Oyster scheme provides a glimpse of how an integrated ticketing infrastructure may be applied. In order to best serve the end user residing within the capital, Greater London Councils are to issue 1.2 million Freedom Passes which invoke dual Oyster-ITSO encoding, so they could be used both in London and outside it. The Government will also sponsor the £60 million ‘ITSO on Prestige’ project, which will update current Oyster readers to accept ITSO-compliant customer media, so the ITSO-compliant passes can be used in London in a smart manner.

Progression

In order to facilitate wide spread adoption of ITSO-compliant smart ticketing schemes, DfT has announced the formation of a dedicated Smart and Integrated Ticketing team, who will be responsible for co-ordinating policy and act as a focal point for all smart ticketing issues. There is a distinct emphasis on engagement and support across the community of stakeholders and a goal to instil a model of best practice for Local Authorities and operators in England and the UK.

Innovation is key to both the DfT strategy and the future of ITSO. Current customer media platforms available supported by the ITSO Specification are smartcard based, however advancements being made in new technologies such as EMV contactless payment and NFC for the mobile phone market must not be overlooked. It is anticipated that NFC handsets will enter the mobile phone market shortly and through development of the ITSO Specification there is scope for this form of technology to become a supported customer media definition. Developing innovative technology can only serve to benefit the end user, providing flexibility and added choice. Further engagement with the banking and mobile sectors could have a significant role to play in future contactless ticketing. Both DfT and ITSO hope that these sectors will continue to engage on the development of equipment, standards and the environments in order for these innovations to evolve.

Moreover, further ticketing solutions built upon the foundations of concessionary smart ticketing investment will mean that local authorities and transport operators will be able to offer more types of tickets supported by ITSO Specification. Commercial and scholar tickets as well as scheme-specific tickets will give a greater choice to the end user, all of which may galvanise the DfT vision for passenger-focused integrated ticketing.

Whilst the UK remains the primary focus, ITSO has aspirations on the international stage and plays a prominent role in European smart ticketing relations. ITSO co-ordinates the European Interoperable Fare Management Project (IFM), which was launched with the aim of developing the common principles on which interoperable ticketing should be based. IFM intends to make access to public transport networks across Europe more user-friendly and provide travellers with shared types of con­tactless media. Co-founded by the European Commission, IFM brings together representatives from Germany, France and Belgium who together with ITSO have made strides to identify the differences between national interoperable fare management systems and outline a future strategy for the development of a European-wide agreed concept or road map for shared back-office rules for cross-border data exchange and an associated downloadable European Security Platform and Application.

ITSO is central to the Government’s strategy for providing technical interoperability and seamless travel. There are clearly defined goals for ITSO to strive for in the future as ITSO continues to deliver the environment for the implementation of smart and integrated ticketing. With the commitment of Government, local authorities, transport operators and other stakeholders, ITSO will continue to play an integral role in pushing the boundaries of smart ticketing.

Change

ITSO as a company has undergone a change, with a new Board composition and establishing of the role of the CEO. Indeed, the DfT has taken a more ‘hands on’ role in the support of ITSO. Michael Leach, Interim ITSO CEO, is keen for ITSO to build on its initial foundation:

“I see a future where the passenger ultimately has a choice of smart media and the ability to travel seamlessly across geographic boundaries, operators and transport modes in a quick, easy and hassle free manner. We live in an age of significant commuting across the UK and it makes sense to have an interoperable smart ticketing solution to support this. The key to this is widespread adoption of an open specification such as ITSO and the cooperation of operators, local, regional and national Governments.

Developing innovative technology can only serve to benefit the end user, providing flexibility and added choice. ITSO must continue to evolve and lead this conversation on behalf of the UK. Our commitment to change can be evidenced through the publication of the new version of the Specification, version 2.1.4, including a new product type developed specifically for and based on the requirements of the rail industry.

We’ve made a start on this journey and the time is right for us to proactively make this vision a reality.”

About the author

Michael Leach
Michael Leach came to ITSO with extensive experience in leading high profile functions and programmes, most rec ently at the Ministry of Justice where he held the posts of Director, Information for Outcomes Programme and ICT Transformation Director. Prior to this he held the position of Chief of Staff to the CIO – Transport for London

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