Virgin Trains East Coast

At ECR we develop real-time MPoS (Mobile Point of Sale) solutions designed to equip businesses with a more effective way to serve their customers and give a greater level of transparency to their businesses operations.

Following successful projects with The Big Bus Company and Rail Gourmet, we recognised there was an opening to enhance the level of service customers receive whilst travelling by train. We also saw an opportunity to simplify the operation of the trolley catering service on offer to passengers.

In the age of global high-speed transportation the simple things are more important than ever, especially as passengers strive to gain more value and comfort from their journey. Create a good experience with perfect customer service and people will want more.

The development of our mobile handheld terminal on-board trains was driven by a demand from train operating companies for a service that enabled them to gain a more accurate view of their sales, so they could maximise their profitability. The ability to maintain control over revenue reporting and management was also a key requirement of the system.

The direct consequence of this is that no train should ever be overstocked or undersupplied, meaning less food and drink is wasted and fewer passengers are left unsatisfied, hungry or thirsty.



At the beginning of 2013, East Coast wanted to renew its ageing on-board EPoS system with a bespoke solution to enhance the catering service on its fleet of 46 trains. The prerequisite was for the system to be technologically advanced enough to handle mobile transactions, yet easy for crews to use day-to-day.

East Coast’s continuing commitment to providing great customer service meant it wanted to provide its 19 million annual passengers with a safe and easy payment option to purchase food and beverages and other items while on the move.


East Coast awarded the £1.8 million contract to the flexible and secure RailPoS system developed by ECR Retail Systems in March, 2013. The hand-held terminals and built-in software uniquely holds the dual capability of handling product sales, as well as Chip and PIN payments, all via the same unit.

RailPoS, which is certified as fully PCI compliant, has been extensively used within the UK, previously in partnership with RailGourmet.

The rollout of 140 handheld terminals and 60 tablets began in the summer and was completed in the last quarter of the year.


ECR’s system brings together industry-leading on-board payment software and cutting edge mobile technology. The fully mobile units can be used throughout the train and link to the outside world via on-board WiFi.

The hand-held terminals themselves are unique in that they include a fast and silent thermal printer which can be used to issue receipts to customers at the point of purchase. Its bar code scanner makes product entry fast and accurate.

Each train is stocked and its manifest loaded via a touch screen. Retail transactions are then logged on the system. This means all sales, stock, tender and operator information can be closely monitored in real-time and easily accessed by East Coast management whenever required.

The solution is supported by mounted tablets running identical software to the hand-held terminals used by the trolley catering service. These tablets are used to order and manage stock levels. This replaces the time-consuming batch code input system that was used previously.

The benefits of the system include:


  • Total visibility on each transaction allows East Coast to identify best selling items by journey and time of day.
  • No need for paperwork. Real-time replenishment prompts mean catering trolleys can operate for longer during each journey.
  • Profit maximisation through better management of stock
  • Enhances and improves the overall customer experience and levels of trust due to its compliance with current PCI regulations.
  • Staff can be deployed to certain routes to cope with additional demand.

Electronic transfer of data means less paperwork; data is more timely and accurate, enabling more detailed management that aids decision making. Data mining is carried out via a tailored ‘cube’ facility offering touch of a button reporting on seasonal, weekly and even single-journey sales information, providing stockists with as much up-to-date information as possible.

The on-board system is easy to use and intuitive, with screens designed by East Coast to reflect any changes to stock levels. With complete visibility of every transaction processed, East Coast can manage each route with up-to-date information, forecasting sales more effectively.


The purchase of the RailPoS solution from ECR Retail Systems was driven by a desire to dramatically overhaul their existing EPoS system with a more customer facing, mobile solution, which streamlined the sales and stock management process for on-board staff.

By mirroring the sales and stock ordering interfaces and providing access to mounted tablets running identical software, train managers can instantly monitor and track which products are being sold. This easily enables staff to order replenishments for dispatch at their destination terminus.  The system also allows staff to report back on and resolve any issues with stock deliveries quickly using a three colour coded system.

On-board team members have responded very positively to the new solution, hailing it as a huge step forward. Staff can now operate far more efficiently and provide an enviable and tailored level of customer service for each passenger on-board.