State rail operator in ticketing u-turn controversy

Swedish state-owned rail operator SJ has performed a u-turn and made changes to its controversial ticketing system. Travellers will from next year be obliged to carry identification in a push to tackle ticket touts.

SJ has decided to tackle the problem of ticket touts buying up tranches of cheap tickets only to sell them on at a profit.

“Our cut price tickets should be for our travellers, not for black market sharks who want to make a fast profit,” said Johan Ingerö at SJ to newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

The tickets concerned retail at a price of 95 kronor ($12) when purchased three months in advance. Many of them are then sold on over the internet at inflated prices.

SJ has announced its decision to make the tickets personal thereby requiring travellers to carry identification in order to travel by train. The new system will be introduced during the second quarter 2009.

“This is the only way we can check the tickets,” said Ulf Wallin at SJ.

SJ’s ticketing system has long been the subject of controversy since the most recent model was introduced last summer. The system has been changed several times in recent years and is now similar to that used by many low-cost airlines with prices changing from day to day, time of departure and time of purchase.

The system has been criticized for being complicated, expensive and that the cheap tickets sell out fast. While the new move will tackle the problem of ticket touts it is set to be controversial as personal integrity is called into question.

SJ has however no plans to change the system entirely and introduced a flat rate journey-based pricing system.

“Travellers want to retain the possibility of buying cheap tickets,” said Ulf Wallin.