Most of us have at one time arrived at an airport and been perplexed by the rail options for onward travel. Whether it’s the language, currency, or choice of operators or routes buying a ticket for travel from an airport can prove an unwelcome initiation into a nation’s rail service, particularly if there are no staff around to assist.
However, a new system from the company that brought you London’s Oyster card, is aiming to change this and improve ticket purchasing options for rail passengers. Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS), together with Abellio (the international arm of Dutch operator NS) have started a trial for the UK's first 'video ticket office' NextAgent at Stansted Airport near London.
NextAgent aims to provide passengers with the benefit of a walk-up ticket office that will connect passengers via a live video-link to an Abellio Greater Anglia, the local rail franchise, (@) ticketing expert. NextAgent can use the inbuilt camera for document validation if needed and share information with passengers to help them make their journey. By doing it over video they hope it offers an easier way to display information such as maps, time tables, when the next train will arrive, as part of the conversation that the customer service agent has with the consumer.
Despite the variety of innovations when it comes to train ticketing, Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) data shows that there is still a high demand for human interaction when purchasing tickets. Nowhere more than at an airport where a lot of arrivals will be unfamiliar with the local network.
We asked Roger Crow, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, CTS Europe (@CubicTS) on how they have looked at this challenge of human interaction; “The attraction of speaking to a person when buying a ticket is well-known in the industry, but we also appreciate the economic pressures our customers face. Cubic's response is a solution combining innovative technology, industry understanding and, most importantly, an exceptional customer experience."
Also being trialled in Germany at Essen Central Station, the NextAgent currently only sells magnetic tickets but the unit is capable of delivering all the functionality of a staffed ticket office, including vending a comprehensive range of media such as smart cards, magnetic tickets, paper barcodes, e-ticketing and mobile ticketing.
And as fitting for an airport the NextAgent can connect passengers to agents speaking in Italian, French and Spanish.
For operators, the incentive is that they get a lot more flexibility on how they deliver customer service. So, for example, a customer service agent at a less frequented station may be called upon to help a customer via NextAgent at a station that is really busy.Or,at busy times at a major station, they can bring on extra staff via video conferencing technology and get operationally much better.
To finish we spoke to Jeremy Whitaker, Head of Commercial Development at Abellio to tell us a little more about how the service is being received; "Abellio aspires to be at the leading edge of an innovative customer service that constantly improves to deliver a door to door service and provides passengers with what they want, when they want it, and to a high quality. We are pleased that NextAgent offers our customers another step on this door to door journey through this exciting innovation which will help people arriving at Stansted Airport to simplify the process when purchasing train tickets for their onward journey, with the reassurance of a member of staff on hand via the video link. We are delighted that customer feedback has been very positive."
Putting at the passenger at the heart of innovative developments is a key part of SmartRail Europe (April 19-20th 2016, at the Passenger Terminal, Amsterdam, Netherlands). The two day event has four unique and focussed congresses within it: Smart Signalling and Telecoms, SmartIT, SmartTrain and SmartPassenger. The SmartPassenger congress includes representatives from Network Rail (UK), ProRail (Netherlands), SNCF (France), London Overground (UK), Metro Dublin (Republic of Ireland), Deutsche Bahn (Germany), Transport Focus (UK) and more. Click below to learn more...
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