The digital revolution will soon affect rail operations at a station and ticketing level, said Trenitalia passenger affairs deputy director Enrico Trapazzo at Africa Rail, held in Johannesburg, on Wednesday.
Barrier-less ticketing will enable passengers to walk straight through a station and directly onto a train without using a ticket of smart card.
The WiFi based system proposes connecting passengers’ smartphones to the rail station’s WiFi network, which will automatically recognise where and when they got on and off the train, creating ‘live’ tickets for each journey.
Using a special account on an app, passengers will be charged for the journey they have selected. They will also be able to track their journeys in real time, or look over their previous journeys in the app.
It is also expected that personal bots will replace ticket counters and websites, which are more than 20 years old.
An Internet bot is an application that performs an automated task.
Rather than passengers going to a ticket counter or website, entering their details and searching for tickets and services, a personal bot will be able to book tickets on their behalf.
This bot will also be able to tell customers if there are any major disruptions on the railway and help plan other routes if there are any available.
Another innovation is flexible tickets, said Trapazzo.
These tickets allow passengers to select a range of times they are available to travel, instead of having to select a fixed time.
Instant refunds would also be possible for passengers affected by delays, seeking compensation, through a mobile phone system called ‘c2c Automatic Repay’, he added.
UK rail operators are already trialling this new tool.
Trenitalia is an Italian rail and mobility group.