The OV-chipkaart story



The OV-chipkaart story
The OV-chipkaart story
Executive Summary
OV-chipkaart stands for the new contactless transport card valid
across the Netherlands. The program started in 2001 in the mind
of the Dutch Ministry of Transport. The OV-chipkaart is now in
operation and has quickly become successful for transit service
providers and citizens. Flexible, easy to use and powerful, the OVchipkaart brings major benefits to any players in the Dutch transit
Beyond technical complexity, the delivery program has
concentrated many important challenges that are detailed in this
paper. The OV-chipkaart is first the replacement of existing paper
tickets by a plastic contactless smart card, containing private fare
products, interoperable products and the electronic purse. Thus, a
comprehensive governance model between the different operators
and authorities has been required, leading to fundamental changes
in the ticketing management processes.
brings major
benefits to any
players in the
Dutch transit
In addition, this program has been an opportunity to set up a
robust model for interoperability of the fare collection system,
called SDOA: fare media, field equipment and back office
interfaces have been specified and certified. Last but not least, this
program has been and is still an amazing industrial adventure for
Transit authorities, Transport operators and decision makers of the
transportation industry can find essential lessons learnt in this
document. Building a ticketing system seems to be simple but
could become extremely complex when the number of modes
of transport and the variety of players become as wide as
in the Netherlands.
This paper will first describe the key challenges of the
OV-chipkaart program. Then, we will detail
Thales proposal and implementation. As a third
step, we will address an important aspect of the
program: the Coordination Contract and the
Architecture. Last, we will highlight the
main benefits and the further steps.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
Challenges of the OV-chipkaart
In the late 90s, Dutch citizens used to travel through the country with a
number of local fare media and two different paper tickets. They are in a
way the roots of the OV-chipkaart.
The railway ticket was in use in the network of the railway operator NS,
Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The price of the ticket was based on the origin
and the destination of the travel and calculated on the travel distance.
The Nationale Strippenkaart was in use in cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam,
Den Haag and Utrecht for instance. The Strippenkaart is a set of strips,
typically 15, and each strip represents a unit that is valid in different
areas. As shown besides a trip may require one or several strips. When
entering the transport network, an agent stamps the relevant number of
strips, or the last one, to validate the Strippenkaart.
Distance-based fare policy and interoperable transport units are at the
fundaments of the OV-chipkaart: a unique transport card, to be used
anywhere, anytime, for any kind of travel, and able to support either
local fare products, for example monthly passes for commuters in a city,
and interoperable fare product.
The paper tickets have a number of limitations that the OV-chipkaart,
as a fully contactless electronic media, intends to solve. First, the
purchase of a fare product is simplified. Not only travelers can use
standard vending machines, but the can also take advantages of digital
features such as Internet sales, automatic reload when the balance of
the card is below a given value, etc.
Second, while validating the product, no stamp is required. The OVchipkaart is presented to a contactless validator that reads and writes
onto the card. The fare product validity is automatically checked, a
transaction is created, written on the card and sent to the back office.
The total duration for such process is less than 300 ms which makes it
compatible with boarding into a crowded bus or crossing an automated
Last but not least, at the end of the day, every transaction is collected to the back office and is
processed for settlement, clearing, and several kinds of reports: finance, usage, etc.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
The OV-chipkaart program intended to tackle the security of transport in the Netherlands. On
one hand, transport operators were looking for a way to reduce the fraud, by using a more
secure fare media, a more secure ticketing system, and introducing systematic validation and
control. On the other hand, passenger security had to be improved by using automated gates
in the station and thus allowing entry to valid travelers only.
One of the key challenges of the OV-chipkaart program was to set up an interoperable solution
nationwide, all over the country, regardless the modes of transport and the operators: bus,
tram, metro, train, ferry, etc. It is a way to improve mobility for the traveler by easing the
transfer between the modes of transport. It is also a way to liberate the transit industry in the
Netherlands by introducing new competition at the industrial level and possibly connecting new
services: parking, retail, city card, etc. For such objectives, the interoperability must be
ensured, trusted and accepted.
Such program is definitely complex due to the above challenges, but also due to the number of
players and consequently the number of stations, equipment, etc. The table below summarizes
the key parameters of the program. In particular, we would highlight the number of provinces,
municipalities and transport operators that must join the program and make it possible for every
Key parameters of the OV-chipkaart program
16 millions
Finance back office
Ticket office machine
Ticket control unit
Transport Operators
Ticketing back-offices
Transactions per day
10 millions
Ticket vending machines
Metro stations
Automatic gates
Train stations
Station processing system
Busses & Trams
In 2001, the Dutch Ministry of Transport
enabled the creation of a private transit
authority called Trans Link Systems B.V.
(TLS), as a joint venture of the major
public transport operators. TLS was
mandated to coordinate the design, build,
and test program and operate the central
system of the OV-chipkaart over time. TLS
was established by the regional bus
operator Connexxion, the city operators
GVB (Amsterdam), HTM (The Hague), the
RET (Rotterdam) and the NS (Dutch
Railway Company). Together these five
transport services in the Netherlands.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
TLS and the operators put in place the basis of the OV-chipkaart program. With Thales
expertise on the standardization work coming from ISO24014, the key roles of the transport
operators and TLS were defined:
The transport operators are responsible for transporting travelers and operating
ticketing in their network. They are in charge of defining the private fare products,
promoting the electronic purse and selling interoperable products when appropriate,
buying ticketing infrastructure and maintaining it.
TLS is responsible for the interoperability of the system, the certification process and the
definition of the interoperable fare products. TLS manages the card base, anonymous
and personalized cards, performs the clearing and the settlement of the revenue.
The below chart briefly describes the revenue sharing principles.
First, travelers purchase fare products or reload their electronic purse. The money goes to the
bank or to the sales agent. At the end, all the money flows to TLS. A part of the revenue (x%
and y%) is directly sent back to the sales agent and the clearing operator to cover their own
costs. The major part of the revenue is dedicated to finance transport operators and shared in
a fair manner depending on the usage rates.
The citizens travel through the network and each validation is recorded. From these trip
records, the revenue sharing operator calculates usage rates. These rates represent the real
usage of traveler through the different transport networks.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
The core of the OV-chipkaart program is the definition of the electronic purse and interoperable
fare products, ie student passes or equivalent. The electronic purse is stored in the card and
deducted at each validation step. The traveler is invited to validate at each important step of
the trip: when he steps into a transport mode (check-in) and when he steps out of the same
transport mode (check-out). To make it viable in an intermodal, multi-operator environment,
the purse is ruled as shown on the drawing below.
On the railway, the purse value shall be over 20€ in order to limit the risk of non-payment. At
check-in, 20€ are deducted from the purse and the inspection agent will be able to verify this
by reading the card with a handheld equipment. At the end of the trip on the train, the traveler
checks out and the exact fare is calculated. The validator writes back on the card the correct
value of the purse.
The traveler can continue his trip by getting into a bus. While checking in, the downpayment is
only 4€ and the exact price is calculated at check-out depending on the exact length of the
journey. Increasing mobility is a key driver for the OV-chipkaart. As a consequence, the
traveler benefits from discounts if he transfers from one mode to another mode. The purse is
adjusted at every check-out depending on previous transfers.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
Our proposal and implementation
With the strong commitment to meet the challenges of the OVchipkaart program, Thales built the consortium called “EastWest”.
Such a name came from the roots of the proposed solution,
fundamentally inspired from the Thales experience in Hong Kong
shared by MTR Corporation and Octopus Card Limited. From East to
West, the EastWest consortium was born to serve the OV-chipkaart
Along with Thales, the consortium was strong with two other
partners: Accenture, the consulting company and Vialis, a Dutch
company, specialized in electrical installation and maintenance. One
of the EastWest’ strength was the complementarity of the three
partners and the robustness of each individual company.
The EastWest consortium structured its offer with:
Accenture, taking over the card management and revenue clearing operations
Vialis, responsible for the site intervention, replacement and repair
Thales, providing the ticketing systems, based on the experience of Hong Kong for
the metros and trains, the experience of fleet management in France for the bus
and trams, and the innovative “Open Architecture”.
Thales wanted the architecture of the ticketing systems to be as open as possible for a straight
forward interoperability. By “Open”, we meant to use standard protocols in any possible areas,
use distributed security with a Public Key Infrastructure and define a transaction model that
was specific to the Netherlands, but free and accessible by anybody.
EastWest proposal had been preferred to others competitors proposing solutions like in London
or in Singapore. Finally, EastWest was awarded by TLS in 2003 and started to work on seven
different contracts:
One with each transport operator: NS, RET, GVB, Connexxion and HTM.
One with TLS, for the card management and the central back office
And the coordination contract, committing the consortium to coordinate the different
players, for the objectives of the interoperability of the OV-chipkaart. Since this
topic is particularly unusual in a ticketing system development, we will detail deeper
the concept in the next section.
Rather quickly the technical teams started the specification of the system and prepared some
pilot experimentation in order to check the validity of the specified concepts. We had to
progress quickly with TLS and start the operations of the central back office as soon as
possible. Once the central back office in operations, the other operators would be in the
position to connect to it and test their own back office.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
OV-chipkaart for the train
The railway operator, NS, chose the Hoekse Lijn for the
pilot. This line goes from Rotterdam to the sea side as
shown in yellow beside. This line was not too crowded
during the duration of the pilot but enough for us to test the
full system and the equipment: ticket vending machines,
gates and validators. We ran the pilot until 2005, when NS
decided to implement on the other lines.
Two other lines followed, Flevolijn and Schipollijn, in red
besides and then, the full network. We had to install about
2000 validators on more than 250 stations in order to
prepare the “Go Live” in October 1st 2009. After about one
year operation, NS took the decision to stop the paper
ticket. In order to secure the business, 90% of the travelers
should check-in at least once during their trip. As a
consequence, NS decided to close 62 additional stations,
and awarded Thales for the procurement of 1400 automatic
OV-chipkaart for the bus
The bus operator Connexxion had a different approach for several reasons. On one hand,
installing equipment in a bus fleet has nothing to do with installing equipment in a train station.
Buses move all day, and the time left for installation and commissioning is rather short. On the
other hand, Connexxion wanted to take the opportunity of the OV-chipkaart to start a large
improvement plan on its buses. In addition to the ticketing, Connexxion wanted to introduce an
innovative bus architecture, having a single bus computer to host the different applications: the
ticketing and the fleet management system.
In a standard bus architecture, the two applications have their own computer and usually their
own driver interfaces. It leads to heavy operations where the driver has to log on two times
and follow two screens. Connexxion wanted a simplified bus architecture. Thus Thales installed
only one bus computer, hosting the two applications: the ticketing application which controls
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
the on-board validators and synchronizes with the back office at the depot station and the fleet
management application, from third party, controlling the bus route and timing. The
architecture concept is as shown below.
Since the technical challenge was important, the implementation has been in two phases.
During 2003 and 2004, Connexxion tested the ticketing application. Then, once validated, we
introduced the fleet management until the acceptance of the system in 2007.
OV-chipkaart for Thales
As shown in the two previous sections, the requirements from one operator to another operator
were particularly different. For example, Thales has not designed and provided a single system
for the Netherlands, but eight different back offices, each of them having their specificity and
own characteristics but compliant to the SDOA.
This has had an important industrial impact. The
first challenge was to find enough resources in
order to fulfill our commitments and meet the
deadlines. The core expertise, for instance the
fare engine, had been identified and a new
organization put in place to serve this objectives.
Another challenge was to set up a complete test
facility in Thales’ facilities in the city of Brétignysur-orge, France (91).
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
Actually, the requirement in terms of system availability is very high, from 98% to 99.95%
depending on operators. Thus, we had to ensure that every use case and every piece of
software could be properly tested. For this, 1300 m 2 were dedicated to test and integration
platforms. This huge amount of space dedicated to testing ticketing is unique and Thales is
proud to propose this to its customers. It has been and is still used for several purposes:
internal development and integration, automated testing, factory acceptance tests, integration
with third party applications, replication of in-situ use cases, etc.
The testing facility has been completed with a real bus line around our site in Brétigny-surOrge. As mentioned earlier, it is very complex to test a bus system because the bus moves all
day. The installation of a new ticketing system shall not stop nor disturb the operations of the
bus operator and the mobility of the citizens. As a consequence, we decided to develop our own
bus line, with several stops around the buildings and a real depot system. All this connected to
the integration platform.
The truck, as shown above, can be configured with different bus architectures, Connexxion or
QBuzz and we could replicate use cases that were found in The Netherlands. It has been a
useful tool for the OV-chipkaart project and is now a powerful test device for our on-going
Implementing a ticketing system is a first step, but the story does not stop here. The OVchipkaart must be in operations for the next decade. Thales is fully aware of this and has not
only built a full solution for design, build, test a system, but also provides services for the full
life cycle of the system.
While the maintenance activities were started by Vialis as part of the EastWest consortium,
Thales wanted to offer an integrated solution to the transport operators. Thus, in 2010, Thales
took over the maintenance activities. Thales now features a 150+ staff for ticketing operators
in the Netherlands, providing their support to the daily operations of the OV-chipkaart.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
Coordination Contract & SDOA
The OV-chipkaart is unique. Any ticketing systems could pretend this. However, in the OVchipkaart case, it is the first time ever that the coordination of the different partners is
mandated to the industrial consortium. EastWest signed the Coordination Contract and thus
was responsible for coordinating the different operators, especially on interoperable aspects
and fare policy.
Coordination means also ensuring that the interoperability will not fail due to divergence of the
different players. Coordination means bringing enough support to anybody so that the different
operators can benefits of the mutual progress for a successful “Go Live” of the OV-chipkaart. In
addition, EastWest was responsible for writing the System Documentation Open Architecture
and mandated Thales to make it. This huge work has been performed in three major steps.
In 2004: Initialization & first version. Thales proposed a first draft to put in place the main
concepts and the associated vocabulary. Schematically, Thales defined the five levels of a
ticketing system as shown below.
Then, TLS selected the scope of interoperability. Schematically, these are the three main
interfaces for interoperability, the level 4 interface to the financial back office, the level 1/2
interface and the fare media layout. In more detail, we can list below the scope of the SDOA.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
Out of the scope
In the scope
Supervision and event
General design of the ticketing system
Maintenance and diagnosis features
L4 interface and L1/2 interface
Agent management
Downstream parameters, action list
Man Machine interfaces
Security mechanisms
Equipment housing
Ticketing Use cases
On-board architecture ie communication
between the bus computer and the validator
Fare media Layout
In 2005 and 2006, Thales and TLS performed amendments of the document following the pilot
experimentations and the roll out. In particular, the card layout & the description of the
interfaces were deeply detailed. All this process was concluded by the publication of the
document on the TLS web site.
Last, in 2007, Thales organized the handover
to TLS and together prepared the certification
process until 2009. A test company was
mandated to develop the testbench and
perform the certifications of the different
parts. The certification process is described
The general principles are simple. Thales
develops the ticketing system from the
reference document. The test company
develops the SDOA tester from the same
document and then performs the tests. If the
test fails, Thales fixes the issue and comes to
the test again. If the test is OK, the
equipment is certified.
However, the story has been a little more complicated. Since every operator had specific
requirements, Thales had to perform the tests on each piece of equipment, multiplied by the
number of operators. A huge number of certification steps have been performed.
On the other hand, the testbench was not finalized when we started the first round of
certification. Some identified issues could either be due to development problems in the system
but also in the SDOA tester. They could also be due to difference of interpretation of the
reference document SDOA 3.1. This situation occurred several times and led to the refinement
of the overall certification process.
Finally, all Thales equipment were certified in 2009, quickly followed by other vendors
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
Benefits & Further steps
The interoperable fare collection management developed by Thales brings
many benefits. Amongst others, we can highlight here those which were
proven in the field.
Secure and
Metro and train operators in the Netherlands decided to close stations with
automated gates from Thales. Thanks to the contactless technology, life
cycle cost of such equipment can be better controlled. The immediate
effect is of course the reduction of the fraud and the security of the
transportation network. On the other hand, Thales new systems ensure
reliable transaction records, from the equipment on the field, through the
back offices, up to the central back office. From these records, the
revenue clearing and settlement down to the operators can be performed.
Less fraud and reliable revenue collection means secured business for the
Moving from the paper ticket to an electronic media gives a lot more
flexibility on the way to define and use the fare products. By introducing
automatic reload of the electronic purse while crossing a gate, or product
sales through a web server, passengers and operators get benefits.
Passengers avoid queuing at the station. It is less time wasted, more time
for his own travel. As a result, the ticketing becomes easy and the
transport attractive. Operators reduce the cash handling at the ticket
vending machines or the ticket office. This means a reduction of the
possible frauds and an improvement of their own productivity.
Thales, with its continuing leadership position maintained over the past
forty years, has built a comprehensive interoperability model in the SDOA.
In particular, the System Documentation Open Architecture has defined
the interoperability at the equipment level. One piece of equipment can be
replaced by another one if both are certified. For the last decade, a real
competitive market has appeared at the equipment level and transport
operators take now benefits of the best prices and the freedom of choice
for their vendor.
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story
The question is now: how to get even more benefits of such fare
collection system? There is still some room for improvement. As a
first example, we can mention the introduction of new media as a
means for transport. It could be a media replacing the existing
smart card, like the contactless bank card. More likely, it will be a
NFC-enabled phone emulating the existing OV-chipkaart. With his
own phone, the passenger will not only be able to validate and
open the automatic gates, but also get information about the real
time traffic conditions, next arrival time, etc.
from your
On the other hand, the operator can take benefits of the huge
amount of data already available in the system. Days after days,
transactions are recorded and stored. They carry precious
information about the passengers: how do they use the
transportation network? What are their behaviors while moving
from point A to point B? Data analytics by Thales combined with
simulation and optimization are amazing tools now available to
help operators and authorities. Extracting knowledge from hidden
data, here is the next challenge!
About Thales
Thales is a global technology leader for the defence & security and the aerospace & transport
markets. In 2011 the company generated revenues of €13 billion with 67,000 employees in 56
countries. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world
working with customers and local partners.
Within transportation activities, Thales has a large number of ticketing references and
especially the unique nationwide implementation in the Netherlands: the OV-chipkaart. Thales
has already won worldwide contracts, as in Auckland, Bangkok, Delhi, Denmark, France,
Mexico, Lisbon, South Africa and Taiwan.
More info about Revenue Collection Systems, please contact [email protected]
Fare Collection Management
The OV-chipkaart Story