Contactless payment via wristbands, a ‘c2c live’ app, high-speed Wi-Fi on trains and enhanced smartcard ticketing are promised by National Express

 

Pictured: Rail minister Claire Perry tries the contactless c2c bPay band at Fenchurch Street station

 

National Express Group has marked the start of its new c2c franchise by launching a series of technological upgrades and innovations, including a new contactless payment method, and enhanced journey planning features on a new app.

An initial pilot is taking place to trial Barclaycard’s contactless bPay service which enables customers to pay for their journey by tapping in using a wristband loaded with credit of up to £20. Potentially, in the future, the chips embedded in the wristbands could be used in almost any device a customer chooses to use to pay for travel.

At present, the pilot is limited to 200 bands which are being made available for journeys on c2c services from Grays, Barking and Upminster into central London. They can also be used for onward travel on Transport for London bus and Tube services and for small purchases in shops.

c2c plans to significantly increase the availability of the bands after six months and then extend their validity as contactless bankcard payment is made available across its network. The band is initially being  targeted at people who have not received a contactless bankcard.

In a further development, the train operator has launched a new ‘c2c live’ app created with IBM. It is the first app offered by a UK train operator to include a nationwide door-to-door journey planner, with information on bus, rail and walking routes. The app will be developed so that customers will be able to use it to register for automatic refunds if their train is delayed by two minutes or more (PT087), and it will be upgraded to include real time information on train crowding.

The new franchise has also seen the extension of the c2c smartcard to include all season tickets and the introduction of free Wi-Fi at c2c stations, delivered by internet provider Level 3. When the Wi-Fi service is extended to trains, c2c claims it will provide the fastest onboard Wi-Fi on the UK rail network with download speeds of up to 50mb/s.

Other developments in ticketing technology that c2c plans to introduce include flexible smartcard season tickets, with discounts if customers travel outside the peak and partial refunds of the average daily cost on days they don’t travel (PT087).

“Our focus in this new franchise is to improve the experience for passengers whenever they are using c2c. We’re aiming to excel in this area, and build our reputation as a high-quality service as well as a punctual and reliable train operator,” c2c managing director Julian Drury said.

In addition to launching technological improvements, c2c marked the start of the new franchise on November 10 by giving away 25,000 free off-peak return tickets for two, to commuters at key stations.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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