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Smart networking of background systems

March 2022

Smart networking of background systems
Cross-border e-ticketing is to become simple and straightforward with easyConnect.

The Aachen transport association is working on a new ID based type of ticketing system: easyConnect allows passengers to use different mobility services via their regional smartphone app – across the border into the Netherlands. In the long term, the new ticket system will merge with the eezy.nrw sales channel launched for North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in December. The first test route is Aachen – Maastricht.

EasyConnect emerged from the “European Travellers Club” (ETC) project. As part of the European Union‘s funding programme for research and innovation, Aachener Verkehrsverbund GmbH (AVV) has already been working as part of the ETC on how ticketing can work across borders. “Through the funding, the EU wanted to avoid the development of nationally isolated E-ticketing systems that could not be connected across borders,” explains Dominik Elsmann, head of the Euregional Coordination Office at Aachener Verkehrsverbund. The neighbouring countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany use different and incompatible e-ticketing systems. Belgium uses the Calypso standard for its MoBiB Card, the Netherlands the MIFARE standard for its OV-chipkaart, and the e-ticket Germany is based on the VDV core application. The different technologies do not alllow passengers to pay in the neighbouring countries with their own chipcard. Within the ETC, the Aacheners developed a cloud-based identification number for a chip card that everyone has access to. This was well received in the pilot region, in the triangle between Aachen and the Dutch cities of Maastricht and Heerlen. However, the survey also revealed that the test persons would prefer an app on the smartphone instead of the chip card for additional convenience. In addition, they would welcome a check-in/check-out app, which already exists in the Netherlands.

In the joint project easyConnect, the German side took over the development of a secure barcode for the smartphone. The Dutch transport enterprise Arriva, the foreign subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, dealt in parallel with a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) concept to be able to query different mobility offers via an app.

“To develop easyConnect, we combine the best of both worlds. With the smartphone-based ticketing variant, it will in future be much easier to buy a multimodal ticket from A to B, even across the border,” Elsmann describes the status of the project with the neighbouring country, which began in October 2020. The first pilot phase is planned for June 2022. In North Rhine-Westphalia, easyConnect is not the only project dealing with standardisation. However, cross-border e-ticketing is its unique feature.

From Aachen to Maastricht using the regional app

In the first test phase, the technology is being examined. On the Aachen – Maastricht route, the experts are testing whether the copy-protected Motics barcode is issued correctly and can be checked flawlessly on both sides of the border. In the second phase, the focus will be on being able to charge distance-based fares across borders via a check-in/check-out system. “For this, we have to consistently think further about what eezy.nrw can already represent today in NRW,” Elsmann explains.

Eezy.nrw is a sales channel to which the Ministry of Transport, various transport companies and special-purpose associations as well as transport associations and communities have committed themselves in North Rhine-Westphalia. It was launched on 1 December 2021. The idea behind the joint action is to achieve a nationwide, linear distance-based eTariff for bus and rail throughout North Rhine-Westphalia, bookable via the existing app of the regional transport association. “Instead of one app for the whole of NRW or for the entire country, we want to intelligently network mobility in the respective sub-areas,” Elsmann explains. In the interest of the environment, access to multimodality for potential public transport users should be barrier-free and as simple as possible. Elsmann gives an example to illustrate this: “With a ticket booked via the AVV app, the journey could go through Aachen by bike-sharing, continue with the eTarif through North Rhine-Westphalia to Cologne and end there with public transport in the city centre at the desired station.” Billing is based on the check-in/check-out procedure.

ID-based Ticketing

The core of easyConnect is ID-based or account-based ticketing. The customer opens an account through which he can use all services. “With our system concept, we make sure that everything runs smoothly,” explains Elsmann. “For the passenger, it is mobility from a single source.” For cross-border journeys, only the creditworthiness of the ID is confirmed to the respective neighbouring country. The Dutch back end calculates and prices the Dutch leg of the journey. Settlement takes place in the national systems. With ID ticketing, other mobility providers can also be integrated. “This is easier than with the previous standards, behind which there is an elaborate security architecture. For smaller providers, for example bike-sharers, this is often too complex,” explains Elsmann.

Through easyConnect, e-ticketing should become simple and straightforward. “In the end, it is a piece of the puzzle of the central distribution platform in the AVV, where all threads come together, from public transport ticketing to subscription management to the integration of other mobility services, brought interoperably across borders,” says Elsmann. “In this way, we want to make a very significant contribution to making people wish to use public transport.” (MF)