A Flexible Future For Norwegian Buses?

If we designed a Norwegian public transportation ticketing system from scratch, surely it would play together nicely?
Bus Trondheim

Ticketing solutions have developed fast in the four-and-a-half years I've been living in Norway. The majority of people in Trondheim use a smart card containing their monthly ticket or buy a single-use ticket through the mobile phone app. Almost noone uses cash.

But what happens when I go to Stavanger? If I don't seek out and purchase a Kolumbus “reisepenger” card, then I pay 32kr for a ticket even if I use the mobile phone app. Everyone with a Kolumbus card pays just 24kr. It's a similar story in other cities.

The problem is different bus companies owned by different municipalities using different standalone systems. If we were designing a Norwegian public transportation system from scratch, surely we would have one nationwide ticketing system?

A modern solution

Trondheim-based FourC may hold the answer.

The only pre-cloud solution to this problem would be for every bus company to use exactly the same system. FourC has developed an open services platform, that CEO Tor Rune Skoglund describes as “a marketplace for new systems.”

“On a bus there are a lot of different systems that don't integrate well with each other and with the hardware on the bus. It's not uncommon to have up to five seperate computers on a single bus, which is such a waste of time and money when one computer could do it all.”

“All these separate locked-down systems means that the public transport companies are locked to one supplier for a long time. Changing a system becomes a much bigger task when you have to also change hardware on an entire fleet of buses.”

The proposed solution from FourC is to have a single service platform instead of multiple dedicated hardware items. This way, the transport company could buy the services they need, irrespective of the hardware.

“This is common in other businesses, think cloud services, email and so on. We believe this service-driven solution will benefit the public transport sector too.”

Benefits for you and me

A service platform also offers are many benefits to the public transport user, not least with ticketing. Most Norwegian cities have political aspirations to increase public transport usage over the coming decades. Making it as simple as possible to use the buses is one surefire way to help meet those goals.

“It is no problem to offer ticketing through the service platform, although we are trying to approach this in a new way without using the old travel cards. By using a mobile phone or credit card you dont have to travel with a specific travel card and if you go to Oslo you dont need to work out the system, buy a specific card, or a specific app. Even if you don’t have your mobile phone with you or the battery is dead, it doesn’t matter as long as you have a bank card."

"This also means tourists can use the system without trying to figure out how it works. We look towards London for inspiration here.”

Public transport companies AtB (Trondheim) and Kolumbus (Stavamger), together with researchers from SINTEF ICT, have joined forces with FourC on a 3-year project to test, prove and develop the solution. A pilot project is underway in Stavanger to analyse passenger movements, with a similar project set for Trondheim early next year. A pilot ticketing system project will be launched next year following lab tests.

Photo: Nils Kristian Eikeland

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