Northern: ‘Magstripe’ train tickets could soon be in a museum

Posted: 7 June 2024 | | No comments yet

UK operator Northern have announced that the ‘magstripe’ ticket may soon be obsolete, noting a rise in digital ticket purchases.

northern magstripe ticket

Northern says the iconic, orange ‘magstripe’ train ticket could be something of a museum exhibit within as little as five years.

The train operator says its customers’ ever-growing preference for digital tickets and the introduction of actual ‘paper’ tickets has seen them use 2.3m fewer ‘magstripes’ in the last 12 months.

Less than 20% of journeys on Northern services in 2023-24 were made using a ‘magstripe’, with the number in-use falling by 12% compared to 2022-23, from 20.3m to 18m.

During the same period, the number of people using digital tickets on Northern services grew by almost 19%, from 54.8m to 65.2m. 

A spokesperson for Northern said: “All of our standard tickets are available in electronic format and people clearly enjoy the flexibility of buying their ticket ‘on the go’ and being able to store it on their mobile phone or tablet.

“We’re also increasingly able to offer actual ‘paper’ tickets from our ticket offices and vending machines for those who prefer a physical proof of purchase.

“Whilst ‘magstripes’ might generate a sense of nostalgia, it’s important to remember that because they’re made from more than one material, they’re less recyclable and could ultimately end up in landfill – whereas paper tickets can be easily recycled with other paper products.

“At the current rate of decline and with an ever-greater focus on digital and paper alternatives, ‘magstripes’ are definitely nearing the end of the line. They could be something of a museum exhibit within five years.”

Northern released the information ahead of World Environment Day, a United Nations-led day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. For more information, visit:

The current version of the iconic, orange ‘magstripe’ ticket was first used in 2014, when Northern was selected by the then Association of Train Operating Companies (now known as the Rail Delivery Group) to carry out a trial at stations across the North of England. They went on to become the standard ticket for all train operators and remain in use to this day.

Northern is the second largest train operator in the UK, with 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.

Want to know more about ticketing in the rail sector? Follow the link to watch Global Railway Review’s recent webinar on digital ticketing.

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