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French train users can pay with mobiles

SMS barcode replaces ticket

Travellers heading to Brittany can buy train tickets on their mobile phones as part of a service that will be rolled out in other areas of France soon, said MobileAware, an Irish company that supplied the technology behind the service.

Other European countries offer a variety of mobile phone ticketing services, but few of them allow a user to make the entire purchase, start to finish, on the phone, MobileAware said.

Travellers in France buy the tickets using an internet-capable phone and the Tikefone website. They navigate through a series of pages that ask them to choose the event in Brittany they're travelling to, the departure station, the type of ticket they want and time and date of departure. Users then pay for the ticket over a secure payment system.

After completing the purchase, the traveller receives a multimedia message to their phone that includes a bar code. The message serves as a ticket that can be shown to ticket collectors on the train.

Tikefone is limited to mobile users with phones that have browsers and are capable of accessing the Internet and receiving multimedia messages. The offering is expected to be introduced for other train routes in France starting in September.

SNCF, the French railway operator, designed and hosts the offering using a mobile service development platform from MobileAware. SNCF offers other mobile services as well, including one that lets travellers use their phones to look up real-time arrival information about trains, including information about routes that may be delayed.

Tikefone is similar to a trial that will begin in October in seven German cities including Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Dresden where selected customers can buy and receive tickets on their phones. They must first download a Java-based application to their phones in order to use the service, which was designed by Siemens.

Other rail networks, including the Swiss train system, allow customers to buy tickets from their computers and receive the ticket via short message to their mobile phones.

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