Students fix flawed OV-chipkaart system

When it comes to train travel, students know best. Today, students of the Technical University of Delft presented their ideas to make the electronic OV-chipkaart more user-friendly. 

Ever since the electronic OV-chipkaart was introduced in the Netherlands, train commuters have been complaining about the horrors of checking in and out, recharging their card and activating products.

Collaborating with researchers, a group of students at the Technical University of Delft worked on six projects to make the OV-chipkaart more user-friendly. Today, they presented their ideas.


Student Shen-Kao Cheng (25) developed an app that allows travelers to view their travel products, recharge their card, buy tickets and passes, and make sure that they’ve checked out. The app could also be used to check in and out with a mobile phone, possibly making the plastic OV-chipkaart no longer needed.

Another innovative idea sprung from 26-year-old Léon Groot Obbink, who noticed that hordes of people are trying to get through the entry gates at busy train stations during rush hour. To tackle this problem, Groot Obbink designed gates that work by a reversed mechanism: they are always open, and they close automatically if someone doesn’t check in or if someone doesn’t have enough credit on their card. “The gate now forms a barrier, while, as a public transport company, you want to invite travelers to come in – except for free-riders”, he told Dutch news broadcaster NOS.

New generation

Unfortunately, the ideas developed by Delft University offer no quick fix. Shen-Kao Cheng’s app, for example, can only be implemented if the current cards are replaced by new ones. The app is currently under review with public transport companies. If they decide to go ahead with it, perhaps a new generation of cards and gates will operate more smoothly. But for now, the OV-chipkaart will continue to cause irriation. Next time you’re cramming your way onto a busy train platform or you’re standing in line for the ticket machine, just remember that revolutions are slow.


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