Railway Booking application - CC via pixabay Railway Booking application - CC via pixabay

On The Rails

Sat, Jul. 27, 2019
The number of passengers using the railway system in Egypt reached 21.9
million in January, as the train remains considered an easy and comfortable means of transport for traveling round the country independently. Yet, the system does
not come without errors.

Seeking to relieve crowds at the station, and to avoid queues outside ticket kiosks, the Ministry of Transport officially launched a new application in October 2018 that would help users book their ride via mobile phones for the first
time.

Egypt’s first railway line was established in1851; and since then, booking tickets has always been through ticket booths, requiring passengers to head to the station hours before their trip’s departure time to save seats. A website was available in recent years for online bookings, but it would often crash and was criticised for
not being user-friendly.

The new free application, its name in English translating to “Egypt Trains – Booking and Inquiries,” is considered one of the latest bids in the government’s move for the digital transformation of services, aiming to relieve the ordeals often involved in the booking process, especially for people using the trains on a frequent basis to commute for work across different governorates.

Assigned to be the application’s developer, Transport Information Technology CO (TransIT) has introduced it for Android users, and is working to adapt the service to other operating systems, like IOS. The application has attracted around 80,915 users thus far, while the total number of people who installed the app hit 210,371, the company announced.

By installing the app, booking tickets will become at travelers’ fingertips, and they will conclude the process through their phones by creating profiles, following registration steps and paying by credit cards.

The new application does not replace standard ticket purchases at the stations.

Assigned to be the application’s developer, Transport Information Technology CO (TransIT) has introduced it for Android users, and is working to adapt the service to other operating systems, like IOS. The application has attracted around 80,915 users thus far, while the total number of people who installed the app hit 210,371, the company announced.

By installing the app, booking tickets will become at travelers’ fingertips, and they will conclude the process through their phones by creating profiles, following registration steps and paying by credit cards.

The new application does not replace standard ticket purchases at the stations.

E-booking experience

Currently available only in Arabic language, the application asks users to create a registered profile by entering their names and national ID numbers. Users who already have accounts on the Egyptian National Railways Authority’s website will not need to sign up again.

Users need to enter their visa card number, through which they will electronically purchase the tickets, after selecting precise dates and seat numbers.

The application allows users to make complaints and to leave recommendations for better service. Each passenger can book up to four tickets, with their names added to the tickets.

The application asks users to approve a list of conditions and regulations, which include that the main passenger should be the owner of the visa card used in the booking process, or that the ticket holder should be one of his/her relatives. Then users determine the arrival and departure stations, the date and time of travel, the train class and the number of seats.

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Screenshots of the new booking application

Passengers are charged registration dues, estimated at 4%, added to ticket prices booked via the application. After booking, passengers are emailed a summary of the reservation receipt and details, which they print out before taking their train so
the collectors can review them.

Upgrading system

Chairman and CEO of TransIT Khaled Attiyah tells Business Today Egypt in a phone interview that a new version of the application will be out within the upcoming two months, after amendments are applied in response to users’ comments and recommendations. Available for use across all parts of Egypt, the booking application will be translated into the

English language to help non-Arabic speakers book tickets, especially as some tourists have already used the application with the help of Egyptians who have it installed on their phones.

The new amendments include removing unnecessary booking steps, and enabling seat
selection, according to Attiyah, who says that more features will be added to facilitate the e-booking experience, like tracking the train journeys and providing live information about the trips. “Tickets purchased via the application will have the names of the passengers printed on them, an important feature that has never existed in the standard purchasing system, which will help the Egyptian National Railways Authority to counter black markets,” explains Attiyah.

The Egyptian National Railways Authority has incurred losses of billions of pounds, largely due to the sale of tickets on the black market.The authority’s losses during the 2017/2018 financial year were estimated at LE10 billion, according to Abdel Naby Mansour, an official at the Ministry of Finance, during a testimony at
parliament.

Although the application has been installed thousands of times, a number of citizens randomly polled by Business Today Egypt said they had never heard of it. Some of those who installed the application have used it only to check seats and trip schedules, rather than to book tickets.

TransIT CEO Attiyah says that the company has a plan in the works to advertise the application and explain its features to the public. Egypt has a comprehensive plan to upgrade all aspects of the Egyptian railway system, including the infrastructure, tractors, signals and train carriages, with a total cost of LE55 billion for a 5-year overhaul program. Attiyah further added that the company is involved in the government’s overhaul plan, which the new booking app is a part of.

One of the challenges that might be facing such apps in Egypt would be the e-payment culture, as many Egyptians are not yet willing to use their credit cards online for purchasing. The government has been consistently pushing to digitize services to keep up with the electronic payment wave that is taking over the world.

Egyptians are advised through TV advertisements to turn to e-payment and mobile cash instead of standard payment methods. Among the recent bids was installing more than six million pre-paid electricity meters across the country, targeting raising the figure to 20 million within 10 years.
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Screenshots of the new booking application
 
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