On November 15th expressions of concern were circulating round the FoFNL committee about the short amount of time remaining for NR to complete work on the December 2017 timetable in time for the information to make its way into the advanced ticket booking system. It transpired that, among other things, Network Rail had made an extraordinary decision to suspend this work until they had finished dealing with details needed for the May 2018 timetable. An informed source observed:
"To my mind it is like a chef preparing everything for a lavish dinner party tonight but then being called away in mid-cook to prepare breakfast for the following morning."
Our convener, Mike Lunan, has been much exercised by the topic of Smart Ticketing. Writing to Robert Samson, of Transport Focus, he explained:
Lest there be misunderstanding - I am all in favour of smart ticketing (the smarter, the better) being available across as many transport modes as possible but my concern is that smart cards may soon become compulsory and that I will resist with my last breath. I don't think that politicians and officials who sing the praises of smart ticketing actually use trains or buses very much. The benefits are clear to see (for transport providers and people with smart phones already) but the drawbacks tend to be hidden, and more readily seen by transport users than by people in offices with ministerial cars. How often are there people whose battery has run out at the wrong time? More, I suggest, than those who have dropped their paper ticket in a puddle rendering it unreadable. The real killer for me is the encounter with the stroppy individual in my seat who won't move until the guard (should there be one, of course) boots him out by waving my paper reserved seat portion in front of him. Who will wave a smartphone in front of a stroppy individual lest it be grasped from the hand and crushed in a hairy paw?
Responding to this passage in the DfT White Paper "Connecting people: a strategic vision for rail", published 29-11-17:
3.5 "The paper ticket needs to be largely consigned to history, and we have set a goal of securing smart ticketing across almost all of the rail network by the end of 2018, while maintaining suitable provision for users for whom smart technology is not suitable." (Mike's italics)
This is dangerous nonsense. Couching the use of paper tickets as somehow quaint, and merely an interesting historical relic, implies that the DfT has little interest in those passengers (a proportion unknown, surely) who, for whatever reason, do not now use mobile phones to serve as rail tickets. These include the old (mobile phone usage being less among the old than the young), the poor, for whom a mobile phone - certainly a smartphone - is an expense too great, those who actually like to have their travel details (including their seat reservation) written down on a piece of card, those whose mobile phone has a run-down battery ... the list goes on. It is rather charmingly naive of DfT to maintain "suitable provision", as though it were necessary to invent some new mechanism for any travelling peasant without a phone. The suitable provision is a magnetic stripe ticket, and requires no consultant to pronounce upon its suitability.