What does the future hold for public transport ticketing?

Passengers in London have embraced the Oyster card, with more than 7.5 million cards in regular use.

Will Transport for London’s (TfL) plans for new forms of ticketing – including the use of contactless bank cards – prove as popular?

The London Assembly Transport Committee is reviewing TfL’s plans to make London the first city in the world where contactless payment is available on the entire transport network – starting with buses from spring next year.

The Committee will assess the benefits of using contactless bank cards to pay for travel, for both passengers and for TfL itself, which expects contactless cards to be easier and cheaper to manage than the Oyster system, though it will continue to operate both.

The risks associated with contactless cards will also be considered by the Committee.

Use of the cards in retail outlets that have introduced the system has so far been limited, with some commentators suggesting security concerns are holding people back from taking up the new payment option.

Other elements of TfL’s future ticketing programme including plans to allow ITSO compatible smartcards issued by other transport operators to be used on the Oyster system will form part of the review.

The Committee will also explore the use of mobile phones as tickets, which many transport operators in the UK and abroad are now looking at, as a future option for London.

Chair of the Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon AM, said:

“Transport for London has big plans for the future of ticketing in the capital, but any changes must be geared towards increasing convenience and value for passengers.

“Security is also an issue. The use of contactless bank cards will be seen as a step forward by some people, but others may be reluctant to flash their debit or credit card at a ticket gate.

“We will review the benefits and risks of TfL’s short and long-term ticketing plans to ensure they are right for London.”

The review will also look at plans for the development of the Oyster card system in the short-term, like rolling it out to the cycle hire scheme, and what the introduction of contactless bank card payment might mean for the Oyster card’s long-term future.

The Committee will also consider any other changes to ticketing that TfL could pursue to improve its service for passengers.

The Committee will gather written evidence and views in the lead up to a formal public hearing about the future of ticketing on 6 September 2011, and publish a full report in the winter.

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