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TAP TSI – improving the customer experience of European rail journeys

Posted: 4 December 2013 | Rütger Fenkes, Project Leader, TAP TSI | No comments yet

Not too long ago, travelling abroad by rail was a privilege reserved for a selected few. With poor telecommunications, reservations made by telephone and recorded on manual reservation coupons, journeys had to be arranged well in advance. Likewise, the focus of the former national railway administrations was on domestic travellers. With the opening of the railway markets and the emergence of cross-border high-speed services, a single European railway area has started to evolve. Rail is set to become the backbone of the European passenger transport system. Substantial infrastructure investments have been made over the past 20 years to overcome legacy signalling and control systems, for instance. In the area of passenger information, distribution and ticketing, the emphasis has been on domestic customers and services. The needs of international travellers in a competitive, multi-carrier and intermodal environment, however, require new answers. Some experts claim that this is nearly as big a task as harmonising the rail infrastructure across Europe.

The EU Commission has addressed this challenge by means of two key legislative initiatives:

● Passengers’ Rights Regulation (EC No 1371/2007): Concerned with the rights of rail passengers to receive adequate information before and during the journey so they can make an informed purchasing choice and feel reassured during the journey as regards on-board services, disruptions, connecting services, etc.

Not too long ago, travelling abroad by rail was a privilege reserved for a selected few. With poor telecommunications, reservations made by telephone and recorded on manual reservation coupons, journeys had to be arranged well in advance. Likewise, the focus of the former national railway administrations was on domestic travellers. With the opening of the railway markets and the emergence of cross-border high-speed services, a single European railway area has started to evolve. Rail is set to become the backbone of the European passenger transport system. Substantial infrastructure investments have been made over the past 20 years to overcome legacy signalling and control systems, for instance. In the area of passenger information, distribution and ticketing, the emphasis has been on domestic customers and services. The needs of international travellers in a competitive, multi-carrier and intermodal environment, however, require new answers. Some experts claim that this is nearly as big a task as harmonising the rail infrastructure across Europe.The EU Commission has addressed this challenge by means of two key legislative initiatives:● Passengers’ Rights Regulation (EC No 1371/2007): Concerned with the rights of rail passengers to receive adequate information before and during the journey so they can make an informed purchasing choice and feel reassured during the journey as regards on-board services, disruptions, connecting services, etc.

Not too long ago, travelling abroad by rail was a privilege reserved for a selected few. With poor telecommunications, reservations made by telephone and recorded on manual reservation coupons, journeys had to be arranged well in advance. Likewise, the focus of the former national railway administrations was on domestic travellers. With the opening of the railway markets and the emergence of cross-border high-speed services, a single European railway area has started to evolve. Rail is set to become the backbone of the European passenger transport system. Substantial infrastructure investments have been made over the past 20 years to overcome legacy signalling and control systems, for instance. In the area of passenger information, distribution and ticketing, the emphasis has been on domestic customers and services. The needs of international travellers in a competitive, multi-carrier and intermodal environment, however, require new answers. Some experts claim that this is nearly as big a task as harmonising the rail infrastructure across Europe.

The EU Commission has addressed this challenge by means of two key legislative initiatives:

● Passengers’ Rights Regulation (EC No 1371/2007): Concerned with the rights of rail passengers to receive adequate information before and during the journey so they can make an informed purchasing choice and feel reassured during the journey as regards on-board services, disruptions, connecting services, etc.

● Interoperability Directive (2008/57/EC), setting out the conditions for achieving common technical specifications within the EU rail system.

Both are at the roots of the new regulation on Telematics Applications for Passenger Services – Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TAP TSI1), which entered into force in May 2011 as Commission Regulation (EU) No 454/2011.

A key technical enabler

TAP TSI defines European-wide procedures and interfaces between all types of railway industry stakeholders. These stakeholders are notably passengers, railway undertakings, infra – structure managers, station managers, third party ticket vendors and public bodies. TAP TSI contributes to an interoperable information exchange eco-system for the provision of quality journey information and ticket issuing in a cost effective manner, yet inviting businesses to innovate and ‘do better’. The regulation requires, amongst other things, that railways make their timetable data broadly available in a given format and level of quality. To achieve its ends, the TAP TSI builds upon various pillars of the railways’ legacy, notably UIC standards (‘leaflets’) and established rail sector databases.

Implementation now entering the development phase

The regulation is being implemented in three phases:

Phase One

Phase One ‘implementation preparation’ was run between May 2011 and May 2012 by a project team of railway and ticket vendor representatives. A multi-stakeholder Steering Committee, co-chaired and co-funded by the EU Commission and the rail sector, supervised the project. It resulted in implementation concepts that take the railways’ legacy into account as best as possible and a master plan that shows when the RUs and IMs will be compliant with the regulation. Following a positive recommendation by ERA, the EU Commission has meanwhile accepted these deliverables.

Phase Two

Implementation development, formally starting towards the end of 2013, continues to be run in the same set-up. One of the key tasks is setting up a sustainable long-term governance structure that respects the rights of nonrailways and non-UIC members at large, whilst ensuring minimal additional costs for the stakeholders.

Phase Three

Deployment of the data exchange eco-system and on-going operations.

Operations and ticket distribution

The provisions of the TAP TSI embrace two main areas: communication between RUs and IMs and functions related to ticketing.

The TAP TSI operational part (‘RU/IM comm – unication’ for short) defines standards for the electronic communication between Railway Undertakings, Station Managers and Infrastructure Managers. The purpose of these standards is to enable railways – by means of standardised interfaces and messages for interoperable services – to order train paths, control and manage their train services as well as improve customer information. The RU/IM part is closely related to the Telematics Applications for Freight – Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TAF TSI), for which reason both projects collaborate closely and seek to realise maximum synergies when it comes to implementing both regulations. On the basis of the solid expertise provided and the committed work performed, stakeholders in RU/IM communication are enabled to implement TAP and TAF on a solid basis and with least impact on business while providing the expected improvements for companies and passengers alike.

TAP TSI obligations concerning ticketing aim at improving the data exchange between passenger RUs and between passenger RUs and third parties – ultimately providing travellers with quality information. The focus is on making timetable data widely available. Additionally, there are provisions on tariff data, reservation, ticket formats and the exchange of information related to booking PRM assistance.

A long-term governance structure needed

TAP TSI places an obligation on the railways to establish and run in perpetuity a governance structure that will be responsible for providing those services that are needed for stakeholders to be compliant with and to benefit from the regulation. The main objective is to ensure that regulatory services are available in a non-discriminatory way. Such regulatory services include:

● An electronic registry, facilitating search requests such as ‘Where do I find railway X’s timetable data?’
● Reference data such as standardised location information and code lists
● Data quality checking, allowing railways to have their timetable and tariff data checked against the regulatory quality requirements.

Over the past six months, a working group of railway and ticket vendor representatives together with the project team has assessed structural options for such governance and for an appropriate hosting environment to ensure synergies can be found with existing processes.

Subject to further analyses, a positive vote of the Steering Committee and ultimate approval by the European Commission, the working group favours the establishment of a new legal entity such as a Belgian AISBL. This way, the rights and obligations of parties that are not members of any existing stake – holder organi sation are respected and financing and liability issues can be managed properly. The entity would be very lean with a limited budget and headcount. As recommended by the working group, it would otherwise draw on existing sector working structures.

Master plan to implement the regulation across Europe

In the last quarter of 2012 the railways have established their individual implementation plans, summarising by when they expect to meet the TAP TSI obligations. The individual plans were subsequently consolidated by the project into an overall master plan, which was delivered to the EU Commission by the end of April 2013.

More than 70 licensed railways participated in the exercise. The turnout represents a good mix of RUs and IMs, covering the majority of the EU rail network both in terms of passenger kilometres and network length, thus demonstrating the sector’s commitment to a functioning TAP TSI.

The evaluation of the individual master plans showed that a number of RU/IM functions are already implemented on some networks, but complete implementation of all functions across RUs and IMs is expected to take until 2021. Also, as regards the ticketing functions, a number of functions have already been implemented by several RUs. The general time band for compliance is mid-2015 to mid-2017. Full implementation is to take until end-2017 or somewhat later. The target date for compliance with the mandatory timetable data exchange obligation, for instance, is Q3 2016. The target date indicates that by then at least 80% of submitters plan to be compliant with the regulation. Overall, the target dates for TAP TSI implementation underline the willingness to implement the regulation as soon as possible whilst respecting economic considerations such as funding systems modifications. In line with TAF TSI implementation principles, the EU Commission considers the target dates binding for all railways falling under the TAP TSI. However, companies that have submitted their individual plans with implementation dates beyond the target dates can expect to be granted permission to follow their own submitted planning.

The Master Plan Report provides the route map for the development of the TAP TSI and the target dates defining when stakeholders will meet their regulatory obligations. National Contact Points will also be nominated in each country to supervise and facilitate the implementation.

TAP TSI improves the railways system sustainably

In a nutshell, TAP TSI offers numerous advant – ages if fully adopted by the stakeholders. It defines a framework for interoperability in passenger rail with tangible passenger benefits and a solid degree of business freedom to go beyond. TAP TSI has also succeeded in bringing together the actors involved in passenger rail travel, including third party ticket vendors and passenger organisations.

The ‘Full Service Model’ industry initiative

While TAP TSI has set the grounds for interoperability, technical developments in rail IT accelerate at an ever increasing pace. Stakeholders involved in passenger rail are facing multiple challenges when it comes to keeping up with customer needs and market demands. The TAP TSI ticketing standards are based on an off-line legacy data exchange, whereas realtime connectivity is increasingly needed to provide customers with choice and modern retail channels. This will also affect processes such as after sales, which are not covered by the regulation.

Therefore, both the railways and the ticketing vendors have agreed to launch a voluntary industry initiative, the Full Service Model (FSM), in which solutions for tomorrow’s challenges will be explored.

This initiative intends to specify and design an open IT framework for an end-to-end service model. This will provide technical interoperability for the distribution of rail products while ensuring that individual businesses retain the freedom to design and market their products as best as in line with their individual business strategies.

Reference

1. http://tap-tsi.uic.org/

Biography

Since spring 2011, Rütger Fenkes has been leading the TAP TSI regulation imple – mentation project. Rütger started his career in 1997 in management consulting with a focus on advising newly liberalised industries in strategic and distribution issues. In 2006 Rütger joined Deutsche Bahn’s Corporate Development Department and from 2007 to 2010 Deutsche Bahn seconded Rütger to the Railteam alliance where he was in charge of distribution and travel information initiatives. In spring 2013, Rütger became Head of Project & Programme Management of Deutsche Bahn’s Passenger Transport Division.

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