Train Technology

The other day I was on the train, wondering about how archaic the fare system of  our National Railway Service is. Over the last few years I have seen many business change their fare models dramatically. Usually by adding services and options in the following way:

Old way:

The service consists of one or two categories, one being an economy model, the other a more luxery one

New way:

an array of coptions. One basic fare and about a dozen ways to upgrade your ticket. Think airplanes, where you now pay extra for Luggage, wider seats, more legroom, more food options, besides the more standard economy and first class option. But also think of concerts tickets, where apart from the standard seated/standing you can now, among others, buy golden circle, silver, gold, platinum, meet&greet and merch packages.

The Railway fare system has not undergone such a transformation yet, at least not in my country. There are first and second class tickets, and there might be a surcharge for the (one) high speed train, but that is basically it.

This is a golden opportunity for Railway companies, but also for customers. I imagine the train of the future to look something like this

Your standard fare is now a standing-only ticket. Which, if you take a busy line for your commute, is basically what your experience looks like anyway, right? If you want/can take a seat, you scan your train card on the sensor on the seat. Automatically, a small surcharge is added to your ticket. Only want a seat for part of your journey? No problem, the system will calculate the surcharge based on the number of miles you used the seat. The light above your seat will change from green to red, to indicate that it is taken, based on the weight distribution on the seat. This is handy when you come into the cart and want to do a quick scan to see if there are any open seats but the info also instantly updates your phone’s ‘where can I find a free seat?’-section in the train app. Seats that have an occupant but where no card has been scanned send an alert to the train’s conducter; his/her cue to go and investigate.

Advantages:

There is no need to check the ticket of every single passenger, so you can work, read your book, listen to music or catch up on sleep without being disturbed.

Less conductors are needed to check tickets but people who abuse the system are more likely to get caught. Alternatively, more personnel can be stationed on high-risk lines.

There’s is a surcharge for getting a seat, so the Railway company has a incentive to deploy longer trains on busy tracks, and has real-time information on what the customer needs. So you might actually be able to sit on the train, if you wanted to.

You’re welcome, NS.

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