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March 2016

The innovators: a virtual train pass that allows you to get the best price even after the trip | Entrepreneurs

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BBuying a train ticket in Great Britain can be a nerve-racking experience. Getting the best price available for a train trip, while facing long queues to see a seller, can test even the most sturdy patience.

In the coming months, commuters in Greater Anglia will be offered a new service that aims to simplify train travel and charge users the best price, avoiding the often Byzantine fares of train travel.

MultiPass is an application that finds the best rate for the day or the week, depending on how the user has traveled previously. Commuters must register on the app after arriving at the station. The app then works like a virtual pass, recording journeys, with data used to determine the best fare. A trial involving 100 people last year is now extended to a full operating system from May with the aim of replacing paper tickets.

Alexander Peschkoff, one of the three co-founders, said there was frustrating complexity regarding the type of tickets purchased from a machine at a station – understanding what time was considered full or slack the inability to change the ticket once you have purchased it.

“The idea was to recreate something similar to the ticket office experience where you walk into the ticket office and say ‘I’m going to Manchester’ [and they say] ‘When will you come back? Tomorrow? Here is your ticket. ‘ Done, ”he said.

The MultiPass system works similarly to the London Oyster Card, where the cheapest fare is calculated for all journeys made in one day. When the user enters a station, a beacon registers his presence via the application and he enters his destination. A barcode ticket is issued to the phone to show to an inspector.

The actual price of the tickets used is only settled at the end of the week, giving the best possible price on the basis of the outward and return journeys, and also takes into account whether a weekly subscription would reduce the users’ bill.

“If you buy a single but your plans change and you have to go back, you have to buy another,” Peschkoff said. “With MultiPass, we offer you a virtual ticket, a flexible ticket. It is stored in the cloud and is only settled on weekends. If you travel more during the week, we will cancel the original ticket and replace it with a more suitable and better version of the ticket.

Buying tickets from vending machines does not guarantee the best price. Photograph: NewsCast

“If you wake up on a Monday morning and decide to go to Cambridge and buy a one-way ticket, with MultiPass you always buy a one-way ticket, you get a one-way ticket, you go to Cambridge and then you come back. We’re saying we’ve already charged you £ 19.90 for a one-way ticket, but the return is £ 24, so we’ll only charge you for the return fare, ”says Peschkoff.

If customers make the round trip to Cambridge every day, then by Thursday they will have racked up four round trip tickets in the cloud. MultiPass will therefore cancel them all and replace them with a cheaper seven-day subscription.

“Then we tell you that you can travel for free on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays because you bought the ticket,” adds Peschkoff.

This can allow users to take advantage of tickets they may not have been aware of, according to Peschkoff, who said three-quarters of people bought their tickets at the station.

Many travelers were unaware, he said, that round-trip tickets were valid for 30 days after purchase. The majority of people who would benefit from buying a weekly ticket do not buy them because of the cost. “People don’t realize it,” he said.

A first test took place in 24 stations between London Liverpool Street and Cambridge with 100 customers. The Greater Anglia rail network, operated by Abellio, will be equipped with beacons by May and the MultiPass system will then be deployed, route by route. The first routes to go online will be London-Cambridge, followed by lines to Southend and Norwich. All routes will be completed by the end of the year, Peschkoff said.

How MultiPass works.
How MultiPass works. Photography: Abellio Greater Anglia

Another pilot project is planned for the north of England, most likely between Sheffield, Doncaster and York. The aim of MultiPass is to become a nationwide ticketing system, eventually used on contactless payment cards in the same way as adopted by the London Underground. Navigating the complex network that is the UK rail network – and its 24 operators – is a huge challenge, however, with the only slight relief being that some companies operate multiple rail franchises. “It’s wizarding,” Peschkoff said.

There has been some resistance from operators who benefit from customers buying tickets at a higher price, he said, and there is a complex bureaucracy of getting multiple approvals and clearances from each operator. .

The company earns money by taking a commission from operators on tickets sold, while consumers no longer pay for their journeys. So far £ 2million has been invested in the business and it has received £ 1.1million from Innovate in the UK, the government agency that supports the funding of research and technological development. He also developed a secure wearable device.

Peschkoff said tackling the UK’s complex rail and ticketing system would give them a better basis for international expansion. “Once we’ve cracked the UK, the rest is simple.”

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