Biometric technologies could be used to speed up ticketing and help boost rail network capacity
Rail passengers could use fingerprints or iris scans to pay for tickets and pass through gates, under plans announced by the rail industry this week.
The initiative, which builds on a mobile app trial announced last week, is part of a broader strategy for coping with growing demand that saw the UK’s railways handle 1.69 billion passenger journeys in 2015/16, more than double the 735 million in 1994/95, according to Office of Rail and Road figures.
In its current form the mobile technology is intended to allow passengers to travel without tickets, instead using Bluetooth and geolocation technology to track a passenger’s movements and automatically charge their travel account at the end of the day for journeys taken.
Arriva’s Chiltern Railways is planning to trial the system this year on its route between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators and Network Rail, said further development could see passengers identified using biometric technology in a way similar to the facial-recognition schemes used at some UK airports to speed up border checks.
The RDG said more than 200 research, design and technology projects have been identified to increase the railways’ capacity and improve customer service.
Other projects include new seat designs that could improve train capacity by up to 30 percent and folding seats that could boost space during peak times, including tables that could fold into seats.
The group said the government has invested £450 million into the Digital Railway programme trialling new signalling technology intended to allow “intelligent” trains to operate closer together, meaning more frequent services and fewer delays.
“This blueprint sets out how we can harness digital technology to make journeys better for passengers and freight customers on a railway that’s simpler and easier to use,” said RDG chief executive Paul Plummer of the plans.
“The Capability Delivery Plan is an important step in ensuring that the whole railway and its supply chain collaborates efficiently and effectively to deliver the digital railway’s wide-ranging benefits.”
Last week a pilot scheme was introduced to make it easier for passengers to buy the cheapest tickets, abolishing some fares for long, connecting journeys, introducing single-leg pricing for some journeys and making ticket vending machines more user-friendly.
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