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November 11 2011.

Southern Rail is to trial new smartcard technology - an alternative to paper tickets - making it easier and quicker for passengers to buy and use tickets.

Called 'the key', the new smartcard is reusable and can be recharged again and again with various types of ticket including seasons, singles and returns.

The trial will be at all stations on the line from Brighton to Seaford where work has started on installing the equipment required to support the smartcard system. 100 passengers will take part, reporting back on their experience of the system so that Southern can refine it before rolling it out elsewhere. The trial is due to start in September.

The key smartcard system will provide passengers with quicker and easier ticket purchase online or via ticket machines at Southern stations in a one touch transaction, and they will be able to store and manage different ticket products through their personal online account.

Put simply, the benefits of the key are:

• Simple - easier to use
• Save - smarter tickets, smarter fares
• Speedy - avoid the queues
• Safe - your tickets are protected

Southern's Development Director Alex Foulds said: "This is just the start. The key smartcard will evolve over time with many possibilities for the future. For example in time we will be able to tailor ticket products such as 'early bird' season tickets for those who travel earlier than the morning rush hour, or perhaps a carnet-style season ticket for less frequent travellers. There will also be opportunities for integrated travel tickets such as rail-bus tickets."

The trial will take place at the following stations: Brighton, London Road, Moulsecoomb, Falmer, Lewes, Southease, Newhaven Town, Newhaven Harbour, Bishopstone and Seaford.

The key is the brand used by Go-Ahead Group companies such as Brighton & Hove Buses which already operates smartcard tickets.

The key is based on ITSO (, a Government backed specification which is being used across the country's public transport for all future smartcard schemes. With all transport providers using the same ticketing system, integrated transport will be easier to promote with the potential for operators to link up and provide more multi-modal ticket products.