London buses are to be equipped with contactless card readers to enable commuters to pay for transit fares with a swipe of their debit or credit card.
"Transport for London expects that it will begin to accept debit and credit cards as direct payment media on buses from early 2012 and on the Underground around a year or so later," says London mayor Boris Johnson, confirming reports that first surfaced in October this year. "This would enable many visitors to London or occasional users to avoid the need to purchase an Oyster card, while still enjoying many of the benefits of pay-as-you-go."
A switch to bank cards, or mobile phones, has long been touted, with TfL floating the death of Oyster back in October 2008. Barclaycard launched a combined contactless Oyster travel and debit card, OnePulse, in 2007.
The move is designed to make travelling more convenient and save TfL money on the commission it currently has to pay Oyster operators every time one of the accounts is topped up.
TfL is also understood to be talking to counterparts in the US, Australia and Europe on harmonising systems, which would enable travellers from London to use their bank cards to travel on the Paris Metro or New York subway.
Transit issues have also moved up the agenda at the Cartes show in France, with Giesecke & Devrient, Infineon Technologies, Inside Secure and Oberthur Technologies announcing the launch of the Open Transport Alliance (OSTP), an international collective formed to develop new, interoperable transit fare collection systems.
The Alliance currently is developing the initial version of an open security standard - dubbed Cipurse - as well as documentation and reference implementations for cards, stickers, fobs, mobile phones and other consumer devices.
The idea is to create an open standard capable of enabling the public to use a single payment device - from standalone tickets to multi-application cards, microSD cards and NFC mobile phones - seamlessly across mulitple modes of transport in different locations, and across different regions and systems.