11 Oct 2022

Ways out of the ticket jungle

Interview with Daniel Ott, krauth technology GmbH - Company is IT-TRANS exhibitor from the very beginning

Ticketing, connected timetables, facilitated intermodal travelling: Digitalisation has taken public transport to the next level. Nevertheless, there is still work to be done to get more people excited about public transport as a more sustainable alternative and, at the same time, to simplify processes for transport companies, associations and, of course, the passengers. In our interview series on long-standing exhibitors at IT-TRANS, we spoke to Daniel Ott, Managing Director of krauth technology GmbH, a provider of ticketing solutions based in Eberbach, Germany, about the current challenges in the industry.

Portrait of krauth's Managing Director Daniel Ott

Mr. Ott, what do you see as the biggest challenges in public transport at the moment?

Everyone is currently talking about the traffic turnaround - and this is where digitalisation plays a decisive role. More and more transport associations are offering e-tickets in addition to the classic tickets that are still very popular in Germany. Chip cards in particular are widely used over here. However, the Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe are already much further ahead with "account-based ticketing": there, you can simply purchase your ticket using a mobile phone or credit card – and present them if there is a ticket inspection.

Probably the biggest challenge is still public transport in rural areas. If you take the bus to the station, for example, you often don't have good connections. This is why it would be important to implement the Deutschlandtakt nationwide so that there is connections every 30 minutes even in more rural regions. On the other hand, we should be much better equipped for users who travel to the station by bicycle. Do we already have enough bike parking spaces here? Is the cycle path network sufficient and safe enough?

What developments and trends do you think will transform public transport in the long term?

Ticketing is crucial here: at the moment it is often a real jungle for passengers - especially in large cities. There are two different ticket machines at the bus stop, and then two different validators on the bus. As a passenger you have to think twice which one is the right one for your ticket.

Moreover, many ticket machines are not intuitive. On the interface, you usually find the single ticket as a preferred option, but you may have a bicycle with you and don't know whether you need a separate ticket for it. If you are travelling a long distance, you may have to change the transport association; the first association includes the bicycle in its ticket, but the second does not.

Our surfaces follow a different logic: If you want to travel from A to B, as a customer you are interested in which package is the right and cheapest one. However, the corresponding restructuring often fails due to varying terms and conditions of transport.

Nevertheless, digitalisation will help us massively to simplify ticketing or to offer customers best-price options. As a user, you simply get on, check in, check out when leaving the vehicle, and will be invoiced in the end.

Another trend is cashless payment by smartphone or credit card. And this is by no means just a wish of passengers: many bus drivers would also like to do without any cash contact or ticket sales – this is time consuming, especially when there is a high amount of passengers. krauth technology has a large portfolio of cashless solutions, e.g. small vending machines that are installed on buses so that passengers can buy their tickets without having to use cash or contact the driver.

Exhibition attendees take a closer look at krauth's ticket vending machine

What other solutions is krauth technology GmbH working on?

We are involved in standardisation measures that make the sales interface of individual transport companies easier and more cost-efficient.

Transport companies usually have different suppliers for distribution technology, and in addition they summarize their fares differently, sometimes using Access, sometimes Excel, sometimes pdfs. Within transport networks, every change entails complex efforts, as tariffs need to be imported individually.

This was also to be seen when the nationwide 9-Euro-Ticket was introduced throughout Germany – a massive effort for manufacturers to implement the product on their devices and individual background systems.

A uniform import interface could simplify this. We already developed such a concept of a manufacturer-independent standard interface for tariffs years ago, within the HUSST initiative, of which we are a founding member.

What's more, there is a need for greater manufacturer independence, for example in the input masks, so that transport associations will be able to make changes to the user interface independently and in a neutral format, and any manufacturer can read them out. krauth technology is the first company that has successfully implemented such a system, based on the new PKM standard, for a private railway company in central Germany. The customer is thus able to configure his vending machines spontaneously and independently, and at the same time is able to easily change the vending machine manufacturer or to quickly connect additional devices from third-party suppliers.

Which forward-looking mobility projects are exemplary for you?

A project of the aforementioned private railway company is very interesting: The aim was to simplify user guidance at the ticket vending machine. Supported by a consultant, the company conducted workshops with standard public transport users, ranging from commuters to leisure travellers. The result of these workshops was then integrated into a sample vending machine as pseudo user guidance, that helped various user groups test the interface. Based on this experience, a new user guidance system was created. And it was surprisingly small efforts that made a real difference, for example a "gothic-style" display with a black background and white lettering - unusual, but thanks to the higher contrast, it resulted in much better readability.

Why do you think many travellers use public transport services only to a limited extent or not at all?

Especially the areas of safety, cleanliness and comfort are still frequently mentioned. Many passengers don't like to swap their private car with all its comforts for an ageing bus, overcrowded, with folding seats, which might even arrive too late. This is an image on people's minds that we urgently need to address! Because things have changed in the meantime. Many buses are now ultra-modern and comfortable, with power sockets and Wi-Fi access points, clean and on time.

Another aspect is reliability and frequency. Politicians need to become more active again, especially when it comes to the Deutschlandtakt. A much-discussed topic before the Covid pandemic, this issue has now slipped to the back of the agenda. Certainty that there will definitely be train connections every 30 minutes will improve user rates a lot.

And finally, the price-performance ratio: the 9-euro ticket was of course an absolute exception. Nevertheless, I think public transport needs to become more flexible in terms of prices. Especially for travellers who need to opt for either monthly or single tickets. For example, if you travel twice a week, a monthly ticket might not be worth its price. Flex products are crucial here.

krauth technology was already an exhibitor at the very first IT-TRANS. What makes the exhibition attractive for you?

krauth technology is one of the oldest companies in the public transport industry. As a system house of 150 employees, we produce hardware and software at four locations in Germany. Our core business is public transport, and IT-TRANS is the leader in this sector. The decisive factor is that IT-TRANS specialises in distribution technology and digitalisation. It is not about buses and trains in general, but rather dedicated to our area of expertise. This focus also guarantees that the exhibition has just the right size - all the relevant exhibitors and visitors are on site. In addition, we appreciate the networking opportunities and the quality of the expert audience.