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IT glitch brings rail ticket machines down in the UK

A failure related to a single software and systems supplier meant thousands of commuters in the UK were unable to buy tickets

Thousands of commuters across the UK were unable to buy tickets for their journeys from ticket machines on 22 June 2017 due to a software glitch, with Southern Rail, Great Northern and ScotRail among the train companies affected.

The problem only affected some machines using software and systems provided by German ticketing system manufacturer Scheidt & Bachmann, according to a statement from the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators.

“We’re sorry that some customers were inconvenienced by a technical fault which affected one supplier’s system. This meant that some train companies’ ticket machines – not all – could not authorise card payments,” said the Rail Delivery Group. “The problem was fixed before 9am this morning.”

The fact that problems from a single software supplier brought down entire systems for some operators demonstrates the complex interactions required to make ticket systems work.

Dave Anderson, digital performance expert at application performance management software company Dynatrace, said the glitch is an example of just how complex it is to make sure applications are working perfectly all the time.

“A single purchase transaction is likely to require multiple integrations between third-party software applications, and use 82 different types of technology. When one small part fails, the whole chain is broken and the customer is left standing there frustrated,” said Anderson.

He said some of the software applications in the chain include credit card processing, security checks and security certificate systems, as well as the core operating application that the user sees. He added that the technologies used includes things such as an operating system, Wi-Fi, JavaScript, servers, code and databases.

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