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Get a Swiss railway ticket over the Internet

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Zurich, Switzerland, 16 July 1997—Swiss Railway introduced one of the world's first on-line railroad ticket services over the Internet in July of this year—a system developed jointly with IBM Research - Zurich. The new service allows computer users anywhere to order train tickets for any class of travel, securely pay for them by credit card and automatically receive them by mail. It builds on the hugely popular online scheduling and pricing information already available via the Swiss Railway Web site, which was introduced in 1996 and attracts a large number of visitors.

The on-line scheduling alone is consulted by nearly 15,000 Web surfers every day. Ordering tickets over the Internet is a logical extension and sets a new milestone in the use of the Internet by railways worldwide: customers simply select their destination and itinerary from the online schedule, obtain fare quotes based on specified requests such as travel class and special fare offerings, and then order tickets with the click of a mouse. After name, address, and payment information are provided by the customer, Swiss Railway sends the tickets and travel documents by overnight mail in Switzerland and abroad, or allows the customer to arrange pickup at designated Swiss Railway stations.

To ensure the protection of sensitive information such as credit card numbers, the Swiss Railway system transmits payment information using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocols. Online information is available in four commonly spoken languages—English, French, German, and Italian.

The Swiss Railway Internet ticketing system is based on IBM's Net.Commerce product, which allows companies to present their products and services on the Internet. It is an excellent way to demonstrate—and continue to test—the potential of the Internet for electronic commerce applications. Zurich researchers are looking for ways to extend such systems and to develop such conveniences as obtaining electronic tickets via the Internet that can be downloaded onto smart cards.

Although similar technologies have already been developed for airlines, the idea of selling tickets over the Internet and storing them on smart cards presents new challenges in the case of public transportation. While airlines keep reservation records in central databases, to which smart cards can always refer at check-in time, there are no such facilities in public transportation systems. The ultimate ticket must be stored on the smart card itself, where conductors and passengers must be able to retrieve the ticket any time for validation.

Press contact

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

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