Electronic is better and cheaper. Or not?

Here is an intesting example of where the removal of paper is not better for the user. You would expect that that using an electronic card to replace a physical ticket would improve the lives of the user.

For example you may enjoy the following benefits:

  • No more standing in line at a ticket machine while your train is about to depart
  • You can change your mind about where to go without having to pay for a different ticket
  • Automatic top ups
  • The price of the trip should not be the same (at least) or lower

For most people I expect the last benefit would be the most important. However I experienced something while recently traveling on a Syntus train. A single trip can have different prices. Surprisingly the physical ticket is 0.26 Euro (almost 7%) cheaper than using the electronic card (OC-chipkaart). So when travelling on a Syntus train I will keep buying physical tickets as it is cheaper for me.

Even more surprising is that the two main websites in the Netherlands for domestic train travel provide different fares as the pictures above show.

Althought this example does not mean that you cannot have cheaper (and better) processes by using electronic tools, however there should always be a sanity check whether it makes sense to do it.

By having different prices the company there is a likelihood that the adoption of the electronic card will be less and therefore increases the costs as there are two ticket processes that need to be maintained. Luckily for the company there is no real competition within the Dutch railway system so customers are not likely to switch to a competitor.

Do you have examples of electronic processes that do not improve your life?

Note: It seems that travel using NS trains only does not result in a different fare depending on the type ticket you use.