Instead of buying a ticket and validating it, journeys will be measured and billed automatically without customers noticing it. We could live with a single unit that allows passengers to either validate or buy a ticket with a single sweep of their NFC or Bluetooth device."
Ticketing remains one of the biggest barriers when improving passenger's journey experience, and it's one issue that operators across the globe are determined to solve.
Ahead of our SmartMetro Madrid event on November 25-27th, we spoke with Martin Knoll, the Head of Unit, Digital Sales, Ticket Vending Machines, and Automation at Vienna Metro about some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing that important sector.
Can you tell us more about your role at Vienna Metro ?
Sure! I am responsible for directing ticketing sales towards our digital distribution channels, and my responsibilities include the further development of existing sales channels as well as innovating and thinking about new ways to digitalise the ticketing process. So, for example, it is our goal to bring sales for student tickets exclusively on the app.
What do you like the most about being involved in the rail industry?
I always wanted to work in public service, because I think that there is much possibility to improve on what the taxpayer is getting for his money. I'm proud that the annual ticket in Vienna costs only € 365,00 a year, and I am also very proud of the fact that every day I go to work, I actively protect the environment by offering a smarter and greener alternative to individual transportation.
What ticketing systems does Vienna Metro use? Has the operator introduced anything new, and what does it have any planned?
We use a multichannel approach, and therefore different ticketing systems. There is TickEos for our webshop, our new app WienMobil, and then there are Conduent and Krauth, which provide both our mobile and stationary vending machines.
As you can see, we have a pretty diverse sales channel architecture, and we are trying to come up with ways to make it fit our evolving needs. We think we might have created the sales architecture of the future -- and are currently implementing it -- but it would be best to take a look for yourself in mid-2020.
In relation to ticketing, what would you say are the main industry challenges and opportunities?
Digitalisation is a challenge and an opportunity, but not the only one. There is Industry 4.0 and AI to take into account -- I think they are both opportunities, but the challenge lies in taking every passenger with you on this journey and not forgetting about a group of people or two -- such as older people, disabled people, or the really young ones.
Where do you think passengers will see the biggest changes to their journeys in the future?
Automatic-driven busses and other modes of public transport that function without a human operator should be a big change, but I think it will be the ticketing process itself that will change the most. Instead of buying a ticket and validating it, journeys will be measured and billed automatically without customers noticing it. Ideally, the system automatically checks you in by noticing your device (mobile phone or NFC-Ticket) when you get on the transport, and checks you out again once you are leaving. There are a lot of tests done in this direction and some systems are already live, but I think there are aspects of this technology that are not yet where they need to be for people to actually accept them as a given fact.
Here, it's different. Unlike most cities, Vienna has always adopted an open station policy; we don’t use physical barriers to keep people out, and there shouldn't be too much change in how stations are built. What might change though is the technology used in the stations -- at the moment, we have ticket validators and vending machines at every underground station, and we could live with a single unit that allows passengers to either validate or buy a ticket with a single sweep of their NFC or Bluetooth device.
If money were no object, what would your perfect ticketing system look like?
It would not be noticeable by the customers, but highly adaptive and with lots and lots of data collected for further usage and just waiting to be analysed by us. The system would be highly configurable, and it would be completely digital.
You spoke at SmartMetro in October. What did you most enjoyed about the show? Did you learn anything?
I learned lot of interesting things from the other speakers. And since it was my first time speaking at such a venue, I also learned a lot about that as well. The presentation that impressed me most happened to be the one about how Milano managed to redirect people from individual to public transport in less than 20 years.
Can you tell us a bit about Vienna Metro's energy recovery system?
Well, that is quite simple actually. The brake energy one metro generates is used to propel the departing train out of the station. If there is no departing train, the energy -- after converting it from DC to AC -- is used to operate elevators, escalators, lights, and so on. Once its rolled out, it will be saving us hundreds of thousands of Euros a year.
Final question: where in the world is your favourite rail journey, and why?
That’s actually the magnetic rail way in Shanghai, from the airport to the Expo Centre. And as for the why, it's because I love the speed and the noiselessness. I honestly lament the fact that magnetic railways haven’t become the standard technology yet.
To find out more about technological and operational advancements in ticketing and talk to some of the biggest expert companies in the industry, join us in November at SmartMetro Madrid.