Smart ticketing and price fixing in (international) public transport

Smart sustainable transport

Up-to-date travel information

Eureka Rail

A transition towards smart ticketing is ongoing in the public transport sector. Customers in the public transport domain are relying more on up-to-date travel information accessed via mobile devices. Also, public transport ticket systems are being digitalised in a number of European Union countries. The first steps are already being taken to incorporate these ticket systems with mobile devices.


This transition faces a number of challenges. First of all, there is the technical challenge to integrate different tickets, rates and payment applications into a single system that is transparent and easy to use for all customers. Secondly, there is the challenge of governance and collaboration: an integrated system requires collaboration between a large number of public and private parties. For this part of the transition, Twynstra developed a methodology that we use in a different transition projects, mostly in a public-private partnerships.

Smart ticketing for the international rail agenda

Challenge: design a user-friendly system to make cross-border travel by public transport cost transparent and inviting for (new) travellers.

Twynstra is managing a project on cross-border ticketing and price fixing in the south of the Netherlands, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and Belgium. Public transport customers want seamless travel, using multiple modalities. To achieve this, they require easy ticketing and payment options based on digital technology. Traditionally, there are boundaries between public transport concessions and different countries. These borders pose an inconvenience to passengers (e.g. difficult access to tickets, high prices for border crossings), resulting in relatively low numbers of passengers and therefore low profit for public transport operators. This in turn puts more pressure on tax money and has a bigger impact on sustainability and air quality goals.

The realisation of a user-friendly system requires collaboration between a large number of public and private parties (e.g. public transport operators, public transport authorities, IT service providers, payment service providers, etc.) in a sector that is traditionally dominated by the public sector. In short, a multi-stakeholder collaboration in which competitors, public and private parties, different worlds, different principles and different languages have to work together in order to achieve the desired result.

The project focus is on:

  • Smartphone technology
  • NFC technology
  • An acceptance structure for all the different tickets offered by all the public transport operators and public transport authorities in all three countries.


We manage the project by creating a specially designed multi-stakeholder governance structure with all the significant partners, based on our methodology for public-private governance. This methodology is suitable for all kinds of transition projects, including the transition to smart ticketing.

Twynstra methodology for public-private partnerships/multi-stakeholder governance

Based on our experience with public-private partnership projects, we developed a methodology for initiating and managing these types of partnerships. At the heart of this methodology are four critical success factors. If these factors are not met or are incorrectly implemented, the chances of a successful collaboration will deteriorate quickly.

The four critical success factors are:

  • Insight in interests
  • Public-private governance organisation
  • Transparency in business cases and value cases (societal value)
  • Independent process management.

Insights in interests

Public and private partners need to have a shared interest in achieving the project goal. These partners will also have different interests in achieving the project result. This is only logical given their respective raison d’êtres and  goals. For people working in public-private partnerships, the different interests of the other partners are generally not completely clear. As long as these interests remain unclear, partners will tend to think and act based on a (possibly false) assumption of other parties’ interests, resulting in discrepancies between these assumptions and the actual interests.

Therefore, it is important to establish the interests of the different project partners at the start of the project. Of course, all parties need to have an interest in realising the project, but their other interests need to be established as well. The better these interests can be described by the different partners, the easier it is to understand each other, which in turn increases the likelihood of a successful collaboration.


Public-private governance structure

With public-private partnerships, as with all projects, it is necessary to be able to make decisions. In the Twynstra methodology for public-private partnerships, the starting point is that decisions can only be made by the joint partners. All project partners need to be able to be part of the decision-making process in order to secure their own interests in the project. Therefore, all partners have a seat at the decision-making table and decisions will be taken based on a broad consensus. All parties have to agree with (or not object to) the decision that is proposed.

The governance process describes the way decisions are prepared and made by the project board. In addition to an organisational structure, governance consists of a set of collaboration rules.

Transparency in business cases and value cases (societal value)

There is usually a financial aspect to all collaboration projects. It is important for the collaboration process to establish the financial impact of the project. It needs to be transparent to all partners which costs and benefits are related to the project and in which way these costs and benefits will be divided between the different partners. A business case covering all the financial elements of the project will be drawn up. In addition to these financial effects, the decision-making process will also incorporate quantified societal effects and other relevant non-financial parameters. Societal parameters could include reducing CO2 emissions, improving quality of life in cities, reducing air pollution, etc. These parameters are generally hard to monetise, but are often an important incentive for these projects. By incorporating both financial and non-financial generated value in the decision-making process, decisions will be based on the entire set of interests of all the project partners.

Independent process management

Generally, parties that have an interest in the business case of a project will tend to try and optimise the final outcome of the project for their own benefit. This behaviour can lead to friction between project partners and ultimately to of the end of a collaborative process. To prevent this behaviour (or to steer behaviour in the right direction), it is important that the process is managed by an independent manager. This independent manager needs to keep the partners together and ensure that the interests of the different project partners remain balanced.

Project partners will have different levels of skills and knowledge. These (potentially) large differences can create a feeling of discontent among those who lack certain knowledge. Therefore, the independent process manager needs to make sure that all partners are informed and are able to understand the ins and outs of the important (technical and/or financial) aspects of the project.

The process manager plays an important role in the project. They normally chair the project teams and are secretary of the executive board. In the latter role, they are responsible for the preparation of the decision-making meetings and corresponding paperwork.