Technology and ticketing
We expected the 3rd year of VTEC to deliver some major improvements using technology to improve the ticket purchasing experience. The new ticket machines had already rolled out at the end of the 2nd year but we expected the early issues of these machines would be sorted out. Also to look forward to was a new web booking engine and a new mobile app which was intended to improve the end to end customer experience.
It would be fair to say that everything released by VTEC has had major flaws.
The new ticket machines had received some updates but they remained cumbersome to use compared to the previous machines. It takes longer to perform a transaction and therefore means bigger queues at busy periods. They also had reliability issues which meant there was a number of times over the year where the ticket machines were not working.
We've covered the launch of the new booking engine extensively. The previous booking engine was introduced by GNER in 2007 so ten years later it was due for a refresh. Unfortunately the new site lacked features that the old site had from the beginning such as cycle reservations and the ability to modify bookings. In addition to missing features the site also had a number of bugs which could result in some people not getting the best deal.
The 'Travel Buddy' app is the most disappointing of all the VTEC developments over the year, it's basically a ticket wallet app that just stores tickets and opens web pages. The app has received mostly one star reviews in the app store and for a few weeks in November the app was crashing for many users which meant for these passengers there was no way to validate their tickets so the on train teams were told they had to accept an email confirmation (easily faked) if the passengers app was crashing.
Finally as part of their franchise commitment VTEC have to invest a certain amount of money in promoting innovation from third parties. The way they have done this is to work with startups. An example of this has been Seatfrog which offers upgrade by auction with a starting price from £5. This didn't get off to a good start with the app failing to recognise many bookings. The app did improve slightly recently but it seems most people have given up on it as it gets very little mention on social media.