National rail travel approaches the 21st century, with the overdue roll-out of smart ticketing.
We Londoners take it for granted. Wave your Oyster, bank card or magic phone at the barrier and get automatically billed for your journey. But try to leave the capital and you actually have to think about what you’re doing. Queue up, tap in lots of details or (shudder) have a conversation with a human, all to receive a pile of orange and cream paper tickets that you’re sure to lose en-route to the Midlands.
Nine out of ten journeys will soon by available via smart ticket (the ‘soon’ is unqualified). This means that tickets bought online can be stored on your phone (in an app or email) or smartcard. No more queueing at the station, or misplacing the paperwork. It’s not quite an Oyster network, but it’s a start.
Smart tickets have other advantages, including one-click compensation for late journeys, and environmental benefits.
The system isn’t flawless, of course. If your phone runs out of juice mid-journey, or you have a cracked screen, you can be fined for non-presentation of ticket. This should lead to some interesting arguments at the gateline.
Find out how to buy and use smart tickets at the National Rail website.
Last Updated 10 April 2019