Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BPN 1314 Dutch railway co. starts e-ticket service, at last

NS, the Dutch railway company, has started an e-ticket service, at last. The company is late in the game considering airline companies and foreign railway companies like in Germany, France and Italy. As I had to travel by train to Amsterdam to apply for a visa to go to India, beginning next month, I tried out the service. And it was not exactly a joy, despite the discount for using this service.

The service contains three modules. The first module maps the destination, using the same module as for the information service. The second module requests personal information such as name, date of birth, which can be checked by the ticket collector against a railway card or a passport or an ID card. The third module is the payment one. This one is the tested and tried iDeal module. The routine is closed by a confirmation screen. The e-ticket will be forwarded to you by e-mail within 15 minutes after closing the data entry exercise.

At first glance the service looks reasonable, but at close inspection, the second module is rather weak. Whenever ordering an e-ticket, you will have to fill out your name, date of birth and e-mail address. There are no provisions letting the computer remember the name and date of birth. The e-mail address will have to be confirmed by … the e-mail address, making sure it is complete. I am also wondering why the service does not accept numbers from the off-peak hours service; just the number from the card, while the rest is known in the database.

When I tried the service everything worked, except for the forwarding of the e-ticket. After 15 minutes nothing was delivered. After three quarters of an hour there was still no e-ticket. By 13h25 it finally arrived. This does not give you any certainty that you can travel with an e-ticket. I can not understand either why the ticket can not be forwarded immediately after closing the procedure. If I buy books from an internet web shop, I have a confirmation immediately. So what is the problem with the NS.

As I had to go earlier to Amsterdam, I had to buy a ticket in the conventional way, from the ticketing machine. I did so and it took 40 eurocents extra from my virtual wallet. The e-ticket service is cheaper.

When I called the customer service later that afternoon, the lady intimated to me that the service did not function well yet and that she had a many callers telling that they did not get an e-ticket. It is one of the teething problems.

Am I impressed by the service? Not really. The service is late in operation and still has teething problems. And the second module could be tweaked better.

Will I try it again? Not for the time being. I guess after a while, when the teething problems are over, I will. When I started to bank electronically in 1986 I knew that it would be an instant success as I would not have to stand in line before the teller. But the NS e-ticket procedure is still unnecessarily laborious.

Blog Posting Number: 1314


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