I’ll be spending the next couple of days at Fujitsu Laboratories’ European Technology Forum listening to presentations on some of the new and upcoming technological advances that could well be making their way into our daily lives (disclosure: I work for Fujitsu but that has no bearing on the contents of this blog post). I had considered driving to London (and leaving the car at my hotel) but, in the end,Â I decided to take the train. As the state of our railways is something that us Brits spend a lot of time complaining about (since long before privatisation), it’s nice to have something positive to write about my journey this morning.
A few years ago, catching the train meant a weekly trip to the bank to obtain sufficient coinage to feed the parking machines at the station (even when credit card payment was introduced, not all of the machines could accept cards), getting up stupidly early to make the 12 mile trip from the small town where I live to my nearest station, parking the car (if there were any spaces left) and joining a queue to buy a ticket. All of this meant that, in order to ensure I was able to catch a particular train, I needed to allow 45 minutes to an hour.
This time, I used the online booking system to buy my tickets in advance (although, because it was only a few hours in advance, there was no option to have a ticket mailed to me but I did have the collection reference sent over by SMS). Then, when I got to the station, I found a parking space and, instead of feeding money or a credit card into the machine, I used the pay by phone service to enter my location code, confirm my car registration, the length of my stay and my credit card details. I then collected my tickets from a machine and, around 30 minutes after leaving my house, was on the platform waiting for the 07:28 to arrive. Meanwhile, the parking system had e-mailed me a receipt ready for my expenses claim.
None of this is exactly rocket science, but it’s a step in the right direction and a huge timesaver. Looking to the future, there is no reason why the parking payment system couldn’t identify my location using GPS (as more and more mobile phone handsets become GPS enabled) and why I couldn’t print my own rail tickets from home (albeit without the magnetic stripe to operate the barriers at the station – although these could use an alternative access control technology).
Now, the fact that I had to pay Â£13 for parking my car on top of my Â£40 travel (when there was no public transport alternative to get to and fromÂ the station)… that’s an entirely separate issue about which I’m less happy…