TfL opens public consultation on making London buses cashless

TfL opens public consultation on making London buses cashless

Transport for London has opened a public consultation on proposals to remove the option to pay by cash on all bus services in the capital in 2014.

TfL says that cash fares are expected to fall to less than one per cent of total bus journey's this year following the successful roll-out of contactless payment cards (CPC) on London's public transport services last year.

Currently around 23,000 trips per day are made using CPC, with around 1000 new users each day.

TfL says that savings of up to £24m per annum by 2019/20 will be expected due to reductions in the cost of handling cash over the network.

If people don't have enough credit on their pay-as-you-go Oyster card TfL is considering introducing a new feature that will allow passengers to make one more bus journey, helping them get home or to the nearest station or Oyster Ticket Stop. The negative balance on the card would be removed on the next successful top-up.

The consultation process will run until October this year, at which point the transport authority will submit its proposals to the Mayor of London for approval.

Comments: (6)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 29 August, 2013, 10:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I cant see this being a positive thing for tourists into London, many of which wont know of or understand Oyster, let alone have the desire to get a card, top it up etc etc.


I think the only way we can remove cash from public transport / public places in general is if we have a replacement thats available to all, even when travelling between countries. You could argue usign a contactless debit / credit card allows for that, but the cost to public transport would mean it would be far cheaper to stick with cash....


For the time being, this is a pipedream...

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 29 August, 2013, 11:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I doubt this will happen for two reasons

1) - we couldn't get rid of cheques even though so few of us use it.

2) - cash is a fail safe for those real emgerencies.  What if you have no money on your oyster card?  What if it's the last bus home?  Will TFL be happy to accept responsibility for people being stranded up town with little chance of getting home, but did have a fiver in their pocket.  Buses are still a very popular and cheap way of getting around town especially after all the trains and tubes have stopped.

Most people don't even reaslise their card is out of money or broken until they try to use it.... Therefore this will not happen for a very long time.

TFL need to slow down on this "contactless" idea.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 29 August, 2013, 11:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I disagree with the previous comments on this being “Too Early” tourists in London are encouraged to get an Oyster Card for travel, in fact a lot of the packages sold include an Oyster Card as part of the package.  The collection of cash is not a cheap option and the cost of acceptance on buses for contactless cards is minimal due to the volume TFL already does and with the volume expected once the entire underground starts to accept contactless card as well as Oyster in 2014.

I believe that with less than 1% of people paying with cash today it is precisely the right time to have this debate and remove cash from the buses.  


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 29 August, 2013, 14:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

There's a compelling story why to displace cash in this environment.  And it's entirely possible if there are credible alternatives.

1) Contactless bank cards or bank led digital wallet

2) A non "bank" solution like an oyster or wallet equivalent (that can be funded by cash if required or by those that don't have a compatible bank product

The speed benefit that has been evidenced in Oyster should be enough incentive for any busy londoner.  

  • Oyster allows 40 people per minute to pass through ticket gates, 15 more than with paper tickets, and also makes boarding a bus three times faster*

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 August, 2013, 17:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Contrary to my general belief that "zero cash day" is far, far away, "cashless TfL" might happen sooner rather than later since Oyster Card is not cashless for the sake of cashless and offers a few benefits that are not available with cash e.g. auto fare computation. Travelers to new cities struggle to calculate correct fares, especially where fare charts are not displayed in English, which is the case in many parts of Continental Europe. More in What I Liked Best About London Oyster Card on my personal blog.

When they hear about Oyster Card, it's one of the first things they buy after arriving in London. I agree that some more education might be required to spread the Oyster Card message around to travelers who reach London without passing Europe. It would also help if TfL resolved the friction around topup activation as I'd highlighted in my blog post.

Jayakumar Venkataraman
Jayakumar Venkataraman - Infosys Ltd - London 02 September, 2013, 12:471 like 1 like

I believe this is a great initiative and one that I feel will have good chance of success subject to ensuring that a passenger that gets on to the bus can actually complete the journey rather than be turned away just because the system is now cashless.

 However there are also other opportunities for TfL to take the lead and drive the move towards a "Cashless" society.  In this connection there are few points that TfL would need to consider

a. Oyster Reader does not work all the what does Bus driver do? - provide free ride or take the bus off circulation?

Clearly there is a need for contingency in the bus for such situations and thus may have implications depending on "what the alternative is" and this may add to the overall cost of the proposition

b. Not enough balance on the Oyster card though the passenger has adequate money available with him either as Cash or other means to pay ?

Should the buses carry an Oyster Top-up capability or allow the Oyster card to be overdrawn to enable the user to complete the journey.

While today TfL benefits from unclaimed cash balances on Oyster cards that are not being used by customers, the question is will the facility to overdraw may change that?

c. Unlike what some of the others seem to think, I feel this move would be a blessing to the tourists subject to TfL

- Making it easier for the Tourists to purchase / Top-up an Oyster

- Making it easier for them to cash it back at airports, International train / port terminals and such so that they don't leave behind balances on the Oyster card

d. Can TfL take the leadership to drive the "Cashless" agenda by widening the usage of Oyster cards for other needs and services - Cafes / bars / entertainment venues etc.

- For domestic users this will mean an extension and thus easier adoption of this at other places where they traditionally use cash currently

- For the visitors, it means they can get a single instrument for most of their spending needs as tourist while visiting London - such as at Cafes / bars / entertainment venues. This will save them the hassle of managing notes and coins.

 e. Finally in keeping with the mobile and digital trend, does the Oyster card need to be a physical plastic card or can it be introduced on a Digital wallet.

With the number of users who are used to the "Contactless and Cashless" means of payments, TfL probably has more ability to influence the move towards a cashless society than the banks

May be TfL must start to think of themselves as cashless payment enablers servicing the micro-payment needs of the customers than as just a enabler for the passengers to pay for their daily journeys.