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Pilot phase for new ticket:: Fewer and fewer problems with e-fares in the Rhine-Sieg transport system

Pilot phase for new ticket: : Fewer and fewer problems with e-fares in the Rhine-Sieg transport system

The Rhein-Sieg transport association reports a positive interim financial statement for the e-fares system. Approximately 8,500 customers are currently testing the new ticketing system. The pilot phase will run until the end of June.

Not everything is running smoothly with e-fares yet, but the system is well received. Holger Klein, spokesman for the Rhein-Sieg Transport Association (VRS), is very satisfied, and most users appear to be as well. The e-fares only calculate the kilometres actually travelled by bus or tram and does not acknowledge any fare zones. Currently, 8,500 VRS customers are testing the app. The pilot phase ends at the end of June.

“The e-fares system is actually much more successful than we had even dared to hope for,” says Klein. Interested customers were able to register for this test phase via the Internet last year. The initial limit for participants was 3,000, but demand was huge and for this reason, the test period was extended once again. The trial originally should have ended in autumn 2019, but will now end in June. “We are receiving a lot of feedback. At last 80 per cent of e-fares users had agreed to take part in a survey, so that we can actually improve and expand the system on an ongoing basis,” explains Klein.

The e-fares run via an app, i.e. a smartphone. The passenger swipes the screen at the start of the journey and reports the end of the journey and only the distance travelled is then charged. For example, if you take the train from Sankt Augustin Ort to Konrad-Adenauer-Platz in Beuel, you will pay 4 euros, 3.60 euros with the Handy-Ticket or 2.40 euros as an e-fare. During the pilot phase, it is possible use the express bus between Bonn Hauptbahnhof/Bonn Flughafen and all TaxibusPlus lines at no extra charge.

Test users report problems

“Things couldn’t be fairer,” says Klein. Because the app doesn't care whether the passenger changes fare zones, all that matters is the route. Every trip is calculated in this way: On top of the basic price of 1.50 euros, an additional 0.15 euros is added for each kilometer or part thereof as the crow flies, between the starting and destination points. The ticket is valid for 180 minutes and the maximum price per day is 15 euros.

However, reverse price ranges may occur. One test user wrote to us that they paid more from Sankt Augustin Ort to Siegburg train station with the e-fare app: the normal short-trip ticket costs two euros, the mobile phone ticket costs 1.80 euros, and with the e-fare it costs 2.10 euros.

“Yes, we are aware of and collect such cases,” says Klein. That's why an e-fare price calculator has now been installed on the Internet. This enables passengers to calculate the ticket price before they set off.

Test users have also reported another problem: “Since the app requires a GPS connection at least at the beginning and end of the journey, it cannot be operated underground and even in very built-up areas the app doesn’t always work”, wrote one GA reader. He already had the experience of having to walk outside again because he had forgotten to activate the app before starting the journey in an underground station. “It is exactly to detect such shortcomings and to evaluate the system that we are conducting this test phase,” says the VRS press spokesman. He says that “seven or eight” underground stations were found that were so deep that the signal could not get through. In the meantime, so-called repeaters have been installed there, so that this problem should no longer occur.

VRS has expanded payment options

What has also been rectified is that a passenger pays too much if he forgets to end the journey by swiping the app. Customers are now reminded of this by an SMS. “At the request of the customers, we have also expanded the payment options. Among other things, payment via PayPal is now possible,” Klein emphasises.

So is the e-fares system the entry into a fairer tariffing policy? After all, the VRS is one of the most expensive local transport services in Germany. “That is only true to a limited extent,” contradicts Klein. “80 per cent of passengers use one of the many subscription tickets. And there are no other federal states or regions in Germany where the fares by subscription are as cheap as they are here. Admittedly, our fares for the 20 per cent occasional passengers are actually among the top third; however, this is also related to the financing system within the Verbund Group. Cities such as Stuttgart subsidise local transport much more.”

The VRS spokesperson was currently unable to say how the e-fares system will continue after the pilot phase from July 2020. “Of course, we would prefer to continue offer this without a break, but this still depends on a number of technical factors. Incidentally, the technology and the app were generated by Fairtiq, a Swiss start-up that already offers this form of electronic tickets for public transport in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Vorarlberg, Linz, Göttingen and Halle (Saale).

Are you also a test user of the e-fares system? What are your experiences? Please write to us at siegburg@-ga.de. Info: etarif-price calculator.vrs.de.

(Original text: Dylan Cem Akalin; translation John Chandler)