‘Just the smart ticket’: more rail passengers than ever before can go paperless

Thousands more train passengers will be able to wave goodbye to their orange tickets this month as train companies make smart tickets more widely available with the roll out of new technology across the network.

Following recent upgrades, passengers travelling from all major stations across Britain including Waterloo, Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central are now able to go paperless, buying smart tickets more quickly and easily online or via their smartphones to store on their handset or a smartcard. After further installation of readers at stations around the country and software updates due at the end of this month, we expect nine in 10 tickets to be available for sale to customers as smart tickets.

With smart ticket options now available with every train operator in Britain, the rail industry is now working with government to progress its proposed reforms to the fares system which would allow passengers to make the most of the benefits. Its first major submission to the Williams Rail Review put forward proposals which, with updates to regulation, pave the way for pay‐as‐you‐go price caps to be introduced across the country. On long‐distance journeys, it could enable a greater range of on‐the‐day fares for people to buy on their smartphone, giving them more options at a better range of prices.

The increased availability of smart tickets is already benefitting passenger by:

  • saving time as they can buy online from anywhere and can skip queues at ticket machines, with 22% of journeys in 2018 made on tickets bought online, up from 7% in 2013.
  • allowing them to go paperless, ending the days of lost tickets with passes stored securely on a phone or a card. 
  • connecting information about their journey to a personal account, enabling ‘one click compensation’ as already available on some operators, so it’s simple and easy for customers to claim compensation as train companies and Network Rail work together to improve punctuality.

Train companies, the Department for Transport and national and regional transport bodies, including Transport for the North, have worked together to offer smart ticketing at almost all National Rail stations across Great Britain. This included upgrading and installing gates and ticket readers at 890 stations to recognise smart tickets and speed up queues for buying tickets, for example at Britain’s busiest station, London Waterloo, which sees over 94 million journeys to and from every year.

Robert Nisbet, Regional Director at the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“Together, rail companies are going full steam ahead with smart ticketing, with passengers increasingly able to use their phones or smartcards thanks to station upgrades across the network. Of course, we want to go further, but realising the full benefits of new ticketing technology requires regulatory reform of the wider fares system. That’s why train companies are working with government to update the rules that underpin our rail fares.”

This month the rail industry is installing new readers and computer software at Blackfriars, Watford Junction, City Thameslink, London Bridge, East Croydon and Shenfield to make it even quicker and easier for customers to use smart tickets. In May and June, there will be further upgrades at more stations particularly in Scotland, including Edinburgh Gateway, Bathgate and Glasgow Argyle Street.



  • Between 6 January 2019 and 3 March 2019 alone, 14.1 million smart tickets were sold - the equivalent of almost 1,200 km (or the distance from London to Edinburgh and back) in traditional orange paper tickets.
  • The Rail Delivery Group, train operating companies, Department for Transport, Transport for the North, Transport Scotland and Transport for Wales have all worked together to roll out smart ticketing. This involved upgrading ticket barriers at stations and bringing millions of ticket options for customers on to a shared database, which enables smart ticket transactions to be processed for the whole industry.
  • In February, the Rail Delivery Group set out proposals to reform the fares system which, if accepted, will make fares simpler and easier-to-use, enhancing the benefits of smart ticketing.

Contact Information

Rail Delivery Group Media Team