6 Sep 2022

Heading for interoperability

Interview with Nils Zeino-Mahmalat, VDV eTicket Service

How can a ticket be used interoperably, i.e. between different transport associations, without prescribing the use of uniform fares or a uniform ticket system for all? This crucial question was the starting point for a research project in 2002. Its result: the VDV core application, a common German standard with which transport companies can offer e-ticketing, interoperable, intermodular, but still according to their individual fare structures. The IT-TRANS team asked Nils Zeino-Mahmalat, managing director of VDV eTicket Service GmbH, about the advantages and challenges of e-ticketing.

Nils Zeino-Mahmalat, VDV e-Ticket Service

What do today's users expect from ticket systems?

Zeino-Mahmalat: What passengers want most of all from public transport ticketing systems is easy access without having to know the fare. No one enjoys standing in front of a timetable and puzzling over whether a journey from the station to the hotel requires price level 1b, the short route for adults or completely different fare levels. What's more, passengers want to be able to pay for their tickets flexibly. A vending machine that only accepts suitable small change is the opposite. Plus, buying a ticket should be done quickly.

What challenges are transport companies facing as a result?

Zeino-Mahmalat: Customers want digital, mobile ticketing and usability - whether via app or chip card. This is what transport companies must provide. This means that they have to digitalise their offer, their sales platforms and their customer service even more, starting with an app and ending with the comprehensibility and user-friendliness of the vending machines on the platform or in the vehicle.

How long does it take to switch ticketing to eTicket Deutschland?

Zeino-Mahmalat: How long the changeover will take depends on the initial situation of the respective transport company or the complexity of the transport association. The personnel resources within the transport company also play a role in the timetable. Another important factor: How many ticket control systems, vending machines and on-board computers need to be converted? With (((eTicket Deutschland we have experienced companies where the implementation took only 14 months. For others, it took several years before everything was digitalised.

What about security – data security for customers, counterfeit protection for the transport companies?

Zeino-Mahmalat: Data protection was already ensured during the development of the VDV core application (VDV-KA) together with the data protection officers of the federal states and the federal government. The system behind (((eTicket Deutschland is based on the guidelines of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Unless it is an anonymous prepaid e-ticket, the name, gender and date of birth of the passenger as well as the ticket itself are stored on a chip card. Tickets according to VDV-KA are protected against forgery. This applies both to the classic chip card (monthly ticket, annual season ticket, job ticket) and to mobile phone tickets thanks to the copy protection Motics of the VDV eTicket Service.

What other advantages do e-tickets offer?

Zeino-Mahmalat: For passengers, e-tickets are more intuitive and convenient. For transport companies, they are more secure because they are protected against copies and forgeries. (((eTicket Deutschland also works interoperably, i.e. it can be used across all transport networks. This is a huge benefit for both passengers and transport companies.

Talking about intermodular transport: Can e-ticketing lead to simplified processing for the user when switching between different means of transportation - from the bus to the train and then to the e-scooter?

Zeino-Mahmalat: A sure thing. With (((eTicket Deutschland, other means of transport such as car sharing, bike sharing or scooters can be used and paid for in addition to classic public transport. Two examples are the KVB bicycles in Cologne, which can be used with a job ticket or a monthly or annual pass, and the MVGmeinRad of the Mainzer Verkehrsgesellschaft. Theoretically, a visit to the zoo or a day at the public swimming pool could also be paid for with the (((eTicket.

What do you think will prevail with customers in the long term - card, smartphone, wearables,...?

Zeino-Mahmalat: In the medium term, it will lead to a mix of chip cards and smartphones, the latter mainly because of the introduction of Motics, which brings the same level of security as a chip card to a smartphone. This gives transport companies and passengers the choice of where to file which type of ticket. The demand for wearables is still very low. Basically, however, the medium does not matter when it comes to (((eTicket Deutschland. Anything that has a secure chip and an antenna can be an (((eTicket.

Are there any particularly successful, user-friendly or flexible examples using eTicket Deutschland?

Zeino-Mahmalat: Currently, (((eTicket Deutschland is used in nine out of ten metropolitan regions, mainly with chip cards. In total, more than 15 million chip cards with (((eTicket Deutschland are active, i.e. used by passengers. Incidentally, the first (((eTickets were issued in Saarbrücken in 2005. There are really fine examples of (((eTickets: In Schwäbisch Hall and in the Bodensee-Oberschwaben Verkehrsverbund, people can use public transport with a check in/check out function. This means that they hold their chip card up to a reader when getting on and off a vehicle, and the billing takes place in the background. And in Munster, passengers can buy prepaid tickets on chip cards from vending machines and use them for 90 minutes on any bus on any line.