Digital train tickets is the way to go
After a few months of testing it out on a single route this fall, NSB (the Norwegian state railway company) now offers digital train tickets all over Norway. I got a chance to test it out this week, and I’m generally impressed. The ticket system is a new part of the company’s old train times app, and now has an option to buy tickets when you search for a route. You then select things like seat type (standard, premium, family etc), traveler type (student, normal, and so on) and click your way through to the password confirmation that finalizes the transaction. You then get an email confirming the purchase, and the ticket becomes available in the app.
The ticket itself contains a link to real-time updates of any issues, such as delays and platform changes. It also has an activation system that activates it when the journey starts and deactivates it when it’s done. You show the device with the ticket to the ticket controller and he then confirms its validity. There are two pieces of information that’s used to do this: one QR code, and one animation. Both become available on the date of the departure. On the two trips I took, only the animation was checked, the QR code wasn’t scanned – so not sure what that’s for, perhaps another type of ticket.
It all worked fine and saved me a lot of time, but there are some possible issues with this. First off, I’m not sure exactly when or if this uses mobile data; if it saves it the moment you buy the ticket or if it downloads it every time. If you use this on a WiFi-only tablet, that might be an issue. The app actually wasn’t available for my Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus without getting the .apk elsewhere, but it worked fine, so perhaps a 3G connection is a criteria for downloading it. Then again the iPod touch and iPad are lusted as supported for the iOS version, so probably just internal stupidity that it isn’t supported on my particular Android tablet, even after I informed them about that problem months ago. I’m also wondering what would happen if a train is delayed so much that the ticket has expired by the time the controller comes to check it.
Either way, this is a great use of modern technology, and it’s things like this that makes life easier. Now if only the local movie theater would do the same, then the last place I have to use paper will be gone too.[Android Market | iTunes]