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The Be-in/Be-out (BiBo) ticketing system has proven a success on the Pre-Alpine Express between St. Gallen and Lucerne © Schweizerische Südostbahn AG

Integrated transport systems

A vision becomes reality at Swiss South Eastern Railway

In the last three to four years, transport and mobility conferences all over the world have been covering the benefits and modalities of an integrated transport system. Now, solutions are starting to crystallize, such as at Swiss South Eastern Railway.

No sorting through fare schedules for the best price. No paper tickets. No fixed train. And most of all, no hassle. Upon entering a train, a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensor registers the passenger’s smartphone, and at the end of the journey the passenger is again checked out automatically. All of this is hands-free, of course. The IT landscape operating in the background determines the best-possible price for the journey. What sounded like a scenario for the future just a few years ago has indeed become reality. Since the end of 2014, Swiss South Eastern Railway (SOB) has been operating a Be-in/Be-out (BiBo) ticketing system as a pilot on the Pre-Alpine Express between St. Gallen and Lucerne.

“Rail passengers don’t have to choose in advance which ticket to buy for their journey, because with this system the best-possible price is determined after travel is completed,” explains Thomas Küchler, Managing Director of Swiss South Eastern Railway. “The only requirement is a smartphone.” Passengers are ensured the optimal price, as previous uses of public transport are subsequently considered and an overall best price is calculated. This feature is a boon to occasional users of public transport. The optimization can take place over a period of time, such as a day, week or month. Traditional systems require the passenger to choose a day, week or month pass in advance – mostly with a dreadfully complex fare system.

For passengers and SOB, the pilot proved a success, and at the end of 2015 the rail company commissioned Siemens to develop, implement and operate a customer-oriented mobility platform for SOB’s entire network. The next milestone is the extension of the BiBo pilot to cover the rest of the SOB’s network with an initial set of functions going live by the end of 2016 and more to follow in mid-2017.

Just the tip of the iceberg

BiBo ticketing is only one of the functionalities covered in the contract SOB closed with Siemens for an integrated mobility platform. The business model is based on a platform-as-a-service idea and includes installation, operation and system support along the entire value chain. Aside from BiBo ticketing, the cloud-deployable solution comprises the traveler frontends – such as an app and Web user interface – the integration of vending machines, and backend technology.

Initially the platform will take over mainly routing and ticket sales for the SOB network. As time goes on, the mobility platform will be augmented to enable ticket purchases for the entire public transportation network in Switzerland. A feature is being conceived to help passengers find the fastest route to a platform within a given train station, which can be especially useful for transfers. The final phase will make it possible to use further means of transport intermodally. “We’re talking about the integration of car- and bike-sharing, park-and-ride offerings, taxis and other transport services. And one day it will even be possible to book flights or even an entire trip including a hotel,” adds Küchler.

The mobility platform Siemens is delivering to SOB is based on the SiMobility portfolio. Passengers get a travel companion on their smartphone that takes care of all the details: It proactively offers all necessary information for each situation and location for a smooth journey. The companion helps navigate the user to the final destination using all transportation modes and operators. Furthermore, it enables paperless ticket payment and helps with transactions like booking a shared car. For rail operators, the mobility platform provides more exact information on ridership, which in turn aids in resource planning. Of course, travelers have a more attractive journey, which enhances the mobility company’s image. While complete multimodal journeys are still in a nascent phase, SOB is taking steps today to make sure it stays ahead of the game. And by introducing a mobility platform early on, SOB is developing competence in intermodal travel and securing its position as a mobility expert.

Alexander Chavez