Platform ticket

A platform ticket is a type of rail ticket issued by some railway systems, permitting the bearer to access the platforms of a railway station, but not to board and use any train services. It allows people to walk with their friends, associates and loved ones all the way to the passenger car at stations where the general public is not admitted to platforms. Trainspotters can also purchase platform tickets and enjoy their trainspotting hobbies.[1] They vary in type: some may only allow limited access and a sharply limited time of usage, while others may have totally free access to enter the platform area. During peak usage hours or rush hours, the platforms may only be available for passengers who intend to travel.

non-travel railway ticket
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Platform ticket issued at Kings Cross railway station, valid for one hour
A disused platform ticket issuing machine in Tanga, Tanzania

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Platform tickets emerged in the 19th century. At that time passenger coaches had no internal corridor, as they have today. In order to inspect tickets, conductors had to move along the outside of the train while it was in motion. Although trains moved much slower than today, there were numerous accidents. Therefore, railway operators began to check the tickets on the platform before passengers boarded the train. Passing these checkpoints required either a ticket for travel or the platform ticket, which was only valid for access to the platform. After railcars were changed, people and conductors could move from carriage to carriage so checking the tickets outside the train was no longer necessary. Most railway transport systems abolished this in the second half of the 20th century. As soon as there were no more checks, the platform ticket was unnecessary and generally was abandoned. However, as there are now automated ticket barriers, railfans and trainspotters buy these tickets to get past the barriers and onto the platform.[1]

Permit to escort departure passengers at Beijing West railway station

China Railways ceased to issue platform tickets from 2014.[2] At some major stations like Beijing West railway station, a person can still escort a passenger in need by applying for a permit with the escorter’s ID card.[3]

In Germany the Royal Prussian Railway was the first carrier to introduce ticket checks outside the trains in 1893. Other railways in Germany soon followed. Platform checks and tickets were done away with in East Germany in 1970 and in West Germany in 1974. In some local transportation networks, they lasted longer; the last one in which they still apply is public transportation in Hamburg, where platform tickets must be bought to access the platforms without a travel ticket. The price is 0.10 euros.

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