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Zurich project for railway tickets over the Internet

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Zurich, Switzerland, 27 Aug 1996—The Swiss Federal Railway and IBM have signed an agreement concerning the joint development of a system for ordering railway tickets over the Internet. According to the project schedule, the basic principles of the system will be worked out by the end of this year, and a prototype should be available for railway customers to test by the spring of 1997.

Since February of this year, the Swiss Federal Railway has provided online schedules and other travel information to the well over 100,000 Internet users in Switzerland and many more abroad. New security technology to protect against tampering and fraud now makes it feasible to extend this online service to ticket ordering and sales: The customer will select the desired destination and itinerary from the online schedule and fill in an electronic order form on a PC screen. Once all relevant information, such as one-way or round trip, travel class, applicable fare reductions etc., has been entered, the fare will be calculated, and the customer may order the ticket. To pay for the ticket, the customer will provide the appropriate credit card data and confirm the purchase with a click of the mouse. Such information is sensitive, of course, so the SET network security protocol (Secure Electronic Transaction) will ensure that the data is protected. Scientists from IBM Research—T.J. Watson Research Center and Zurich Research Laboratory—have made significant contributions to the SET standard, which has also been selected by the world's three largest credit card companies—Visa, Mastercard, and Europay (Eurocard)—for secure electronic payment over public networks.

Experts from the Swiss Federal Railway and the Zurich Research Laboratory are jointly developing the architecture of this first-of-a-kind ticketing system. It is based on a Web server that conducts the ordering dialog with the online customer, provides continuously updated information from the railway's data base, and forwards orders for processing. At the same time, a link to the financial network allows the credit card to be checked prior to confirmation of an order. Also in this part of the transaction, reliable protection against fraudulent invasion and possible manipulation must be ensured.

Benefits for customers and railway company

An Internet-based online ticketing system of this kind will reduce work at ticketing counters, provide an additional distribution channel with new promotional opportunities, save travelers time waiting for service at a counter, and allow tickets to be purchased from a PC at any time and from anywhere.

The prototype system will allow payment only by credit card. Future releases, however, will also accommodate other payment methods and, through the use of chip cards, offer a variety of other interesting options. Such chip cards can replace conventional paper tickets and allow a wide range of ticket combinations. For example, the train ticket and a ski lift pass for a given resort might be combined on one card.

Press contact

Nicole Strachowski
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 45

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