Rail passengers throughout the UK will in future use cashless tickets, including smart cards, barcodes on mobile phones and radio frequency identification (RFID), says the government rail White Paper released yesterday.

Technology will play a crucial role in improving reliability and easing overcrowding on the rail infrastructure over the next 30 years.

In addition to smart ticketing options, the strategy says improved communication systems, a comprehensive database of asset information and intelligent railway infrastructure must be priorities for rail operators.

Network Rail is already developing plans for an intelligent infrastructure that will automatically alert staff to problems, ensuring better maintenance of the network.

Rail operators will be able to access the information in real time and predict and prevent maintenance failure rather than reactively finding and fixing faults.

Satellite communications could also help to provide accurate positioning of trains and improve voice and data communications for passengers on both trains and station, says the strategy.

The initiatives will be introduced over the next 30 years, with funding to be split between train operators, Network Rail and the Department for Transport.