back to article London Transport plans Oyster bypass

Transport for London plans to start accepting credit and debit cards at the turnstile, reducing Oyster's cut and removing the requirement for pre-paid tickets. Instead of charging an Oyster card with credit, and then using that credit to pay for buses, tubes and trains, Londoners will be able to pay instantly at the turnstile …


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  1. jonathanb Silver badge

    Would it work like this?

    You buy a travelcard using your credit card, and every time you wave that card at the barrier it recognises the number at lets you through.

  2. Dr Paul Taylor

    no way!

    No way does TfL get direct access to my bank card.

    The Oyster system is already set up to make it oh so easy to incur penalty charges.

    On the DLR, for example, there are no tickets gates, so if anything distracts your attention when entering or leaving it is easy to forget whether you're "touched in". The readers at the check-in points often fail to register, whilst their displays cannot be read in either rain or moderate sunlight. Some types of ticket machine can show whether you're "inside" or "outside" but the newest ones do not.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You can get a refund

      I use the DLR a lot (daily at the moment) and since I stay in zone 2 it's still cheaper for me to PAYG. I have fallen foul of not touching out properly several times for various different reason... however... I have always rung the customer service line and in every single case they have refunded me the penalty charge. It's inconvenient, I know, but you can get the money back.

      I occasionally even just check to see if I've had a recent penalty charge that I didnt realise and always manage to get refunded. It usually only takes 5 mins on the phone...

      I have even got the full amount back when I touched in and then decided not to travel just then since the phone rang and I went for a post work drink instead... hence the beer icon!

    2. Ian Yates


      I often fail to tap in or out on the DLR, so I know what you're complaint is, but the tap-points do beep (twice, I think) to tell you if it was successful in reading your card, so you don't need to read the screen.

      The one downside is if you don't know whether you're currently "in" or "out", as touching just reverses it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Contactless bank card?

    Nein danke.

    1. Mark 65

      Great idea

      I believe the whole point of the contactless bank card (they're introducing them in Oz for amounts less than $100) is that the losses from fraud are then covered by the nice customer whose money has be purloined rather than being a dreadful inconvenience for the banks/card providers. Of course it's advertised as "fast and easy" for the customer - a bit like a mugging.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh yes, much easier indeed.

    No system is perfect, so we build in safeguards. This wonderful plan very much sounds as if it instead removes safeguards by tightly coupling paying a fare to your bank account. That's tightly coupling an apparently hopelessly complex system with a system that's not only complex due to a myriad of regulations attached, but also because it depends for its security on the public not knowing exactly how broken the system is. That is, the main component of its security is measured in how much you're expected to trust the affable face of the worthy saying "it is secure, dear mr. customer, guaranteed honest".

    Add to that this stack of RFID hardware and software --need I mention "mifare"?-- that for el reg sports its very own trustworthy proponent in the form of bill ray, and you have two systems that are one hundred percent sure, reliably honest, security proven by nothing but the word of "the experts".

    Takers, anyone? I'm sure we all love to do business this way. It must be, for it is new, and therefore the future. Sir, can I have some more gratuitous RFID, please, sir?

  5. as2003

    I wonder...

    I wonder if they'll be displaying remaining balance when you beep in and out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And then there's this

      Why can't *the card itself* display that? RFID-powered OLED display, anyone? Instead of putting a rotating picture of your ugly mug on that, use it for something that's useful for the punter. Do we have to teach those "innovators" everything ourselves, or what? Sheesh!

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: And the there's this

        What Could Possibly Go Wrong there then?

        <Steals wallet>

        "Oooooo Jackpot!!!! This card says it's got 20 grand in remaining credit on it, time to get that Rolex."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: <Steals wallet>

          So for that reason you'd deny making the card transparent for punters, when crooks already can do much the same with the gear they'd have to have to suck the cards dry from within your wallet?

          I don't understand your logic there.

  6. Tom Chiverton 1 Silver badge

    Umm, no ?

    So, how much extra work will be generated for the police, as picking pockets becomes more lucrative ? Paying for something without being able to take part in the transaction (PIN, signature) is poor security...

    1. No, I will not fix your computer
      Black Helicopters

      Umm, yes ?

      So you have your stolen credit card with a proximity chip, you wave it through, not only [does|will] the CCTV hi-def take a snap of everybody swiping in and out, but the system knows exactly where you are and it's an enclosed environment with limited exits, most of which you have to swipe out of, to use a stolen card in this way would be really thick, as we slowly move to minority report-esque surveillance this is just another step, don't get me wrong, the no2id/no2rfid crowd are on the money, and I might sound paranoid, but the end-point is enevitable it's just how long we take to get there.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @No, I will not fix your computer

        "but the end-point is enevitable it's just how long we take to get there."

        And as long as people believe *that*, It is indeed inevitable.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Some other "Inevitables"

          The victory of communism. Not heard much since 1989

          Blood infection following surgery" (1920s, when Fleming was discovering Penicillin)

          Pain in surgery. 1840s.

          All "Inevitable"..

          Until they were not.

          The only thing I've found to be "inevitable" is the willingness of human beings to give up their rights to nearly anyone who convinces them they will be "safer" as a result *without* any proof.

  7. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge


    Well well, this should speed things up. I expect your average punter will master this as quickly as they've mastered the self-serve checkout, and we'll be just zipping through the turnstiles.

  8. Is it me?

    So if competition works then

    Oyster will reduce its charges to TfL to less than that of Credit/Debit transactions. The other thing is how will the system recognise multiple journeys and ensure the correct charge is applied.

    Then there's the what happens if the ticket barriers are open an the exit station, or not working.

    I'm not sure what the real consumer benefit here is, ok it'll mean you don't need an Oyster card, but it will mean you need a contactless credit card. Fine if the processing system notes your card and then notes your usage over a period and charges you at the end of a period, but charging and refunding just sounds bonkers to me, I'd have thought the credit card companies will be laughing if they can charge for both transactions.

    One can also bet that it's the consumer who will pay, not TfL and the banks, if councils are charging back card transactions to the consumer, why wouldn't TfL. When a organisations talk about reducing costs, they quite often mean transferring those costs to someone else.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    I live about 10 miles outside the city and I still have to use a nasty little piece of paper/plastic and push it through the turnstiles during my commute! This is 2010 FFS! National Express still seem to be running a train service in the 1940s, well the carriages smell like they haven't been cleaned since the 40's!

    NeX Oyster coverage ends just before the M25. WTF? How hard is it to put up some of those Oyster terminals and hook them back up to the network? I see the staff in my local station have no problem looking up BBC News and YouTube on the company PC, when I pass in the morning, so the internet has obviously arrived in the outer reaches of the NeX network!

    When they get all the transport companies in the South East to use an Oyster card type system then I'll listen, until then just take your clever ideas and bugger off!

    1. Nigel Whitfield.


      National Express may be a crappy train company, but at least their NXEA (East Anglia) franchise was one of the first to take Oyster PAYG at all, a couple of years before most of the rest of the National Rail services.

      The problem is that, largely, the rail companies were holding out for as much of the cost as possible to be shouldered by the Mayor of London, rather than having to see their precious shareholders out of pocket. The Chingford line (where I live) got Oyster pretty early one, though not beyond Walthamstow, I think.

      Many of the companies, especially south of the Thames, held out, and then BoJo rolled over and gave them pretty much everything they wanted, including the bonkers 'Oyster Extension Permit' which is essentially a way to guarantee as many people as possible get stung for penalty fares.

      From being a fairly straightforward system, it's now so completely bonkers that the fares (and some of the discounts) when using Oyster PAYG on National Rail services in London more or less depend on whether they started taking it under Ken or Boris.

      On a Ken-era service, five to ten year olds go free, on a Boris one they pay child rate; 16 to 18 years olds are adults on Boris services, and half price on Ken's.

  10. Kerberos


    I thought Tfl didn't own the Oyster trademark which is a part of the problem?

  11. Lord Lien


    Good idea in theory, I just don't like the idea of them taking a full ticket price then returning the money. Don't trust TFL as far as I could boot them when it comes to this kind of thing. Number of times the pre-pay on my Oyster has "vanished" & I have had to get it sorted.

  12. Fuzz

    Is that the end of scanning your wallet?

    I don't live in London buy when I'm unfortunate to have to visit I just touch my oyster card containing wallet on the reader as I pass through the turnstile.

    With this change I'm guessing I'll have to take the card out of my wallet to prevent the tube charging my debit card instead.

  13. leona 2

    I can see

    lots of claims for lost / stolen cards, when people find they've been used on the transport network, so it will not ask for a PIN or a Signature oh how so secure! I would not trust my card on this, at last with Oyster, if card gets stolen, you can replace it, and they can only get so far. But once someone has cloned your bank card, they could go round all month till you notice the payments on your statement, notify your bank, wait a life time for the system to cancel your card, of course the transports system will not be up to day, so will still allow the cad to be used, etc etc, err no I don't think so!

  14. A J Stiles

    Better idea

    Just make public transport free, and add the cost onto people's council tax. If people are using public transport in a different council's area, then their own council are getting paid for nothing, so it should all sort of even itself out eventually. Plus, now no money need be spent maintaining ticket machines, prosecuting fare-dodgers, nor working out how much to charge people for each possible journey.

    Free transport should also offset the perverse incentive to use cars which currently exists (you have to pay for the MOT, tax and insurance whether or not you are actually driving, so you might as well use your car and get your money's worth).

    1. mamsey

      no so...

      If you have a free transport system, especially something like the tube in that London, you'll just encourage the homeless to spend their days riding the U!

    2. mamsey

      not so...

      If you have a free transport system, especially something like the tube in that London, you'll just encourage the homeless to spend their days riding the U!

    3. Bill Fresher

      Please no

      Public transport in London is packed full of people as it is. Make it free and there'll be lots of people using it for one or two stops instead of walking... which'll make people unhealthier than they already are.

    4. Magnus_Pym

      Great idea...

      ... for places where public transport actually exists. I don't fancy paying a country wide average for the free use of one bus a day.

    5. Lottie
      Thumb Up

      Well you know...

      ... That's not a bad idea. I'm sure there would be bleating about how "I don't use it and so have to pay taxes for freeloaders", but hell, we all pay taxes for some service we don't use somewhere so it's swings and roundabouts really.

      Unfortunatly, there's no massive bonus incentive for the bigwigs by doing it this way so it'll never come to pass.

      Wicked idea though!

    6. No, I will not fix your computer

      Bad idea

      1. I rarely use public transport for my office journey (push bike), so I'd object to subsidising other people too lazy or too far away.

      2. MOT - road worthyness, one test a year, £55 for a car over 3 years old and that's if you pay full price, it's not a lot of money considering it's to make sure you're safe!

      3. Tax - mine is £20 a year for one car and £0 for the other, if you're paying £400 a year for tax then perhaps you should consider replacing it with something more socially responsible.

      4. Insurance - Seems expensive to me, but again I pay less than £200 so fuel and parking is my most noticeable cost but at 60mpg and less than 4000 miles a year that's less than £350 so my car ownership for the year is £600 + maintanance .

      Free public transport would be great, and being a bit of a socalist I probably would support it (even if I was out of pocket), but we can't expect everybody to agree, and lets face it, people won't want to give up their comfy fat smelly (on the outside) cars so thay they can be squashed into some overcrowded smelly (on the inside) public transport.

      It's a catch 22, public transport needs to be clean, efficient, on time, but these things cost, in the end you end up with the bare minimum service that people put up with for the maximum cost, but that's democratic capitalism for you, democratic socialism however.....

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Bad idea.

        "...if you're paying £400 a year for tax then perhaps you should consider replacing it with something more socially responsible."

        Gosh you really are just so much fucking holier than the rest of us, aren't you. I am humbled in your presence.

        Then again, maybe you're just a rich git who can afford to buy a new car every time the CO2 nazis get their knickers in a knot. In that case I'm not humbled, just jealous.

  15. Xpositor

    Just as worrying...

    They may operate it much like any other company that takes your card info before you have used their service, and reserves/blocks an amount that _they_ consider sufficient to cover your likely spend (think hotels). Once you've finished using the service, they then apply the actual charge and [are supposed to] release the reservation/block on your funds. Problem is, these companies reserve/block far too high an amount, and it never seems to clear at the point you actually pay them. So whilst you think you've got x amount of available credit/balance on your account, your bank/credit card won't actually let you use it (because of the hidden blocks).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No title req'd

    I, like a lot of people, have a lot of concerns about contact-less payment technology, unless there are huge constraints on how it can be used.

    The other big problem they face is how would this work if you have more than one card in your wallet? If you have to physically take the card out then the system is much worse than the oyster card system, especially as you'll have to hope that the cards in your wallet in your other hand doesn't pass within range of the reader...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Time to join the rest of Europe

    Nearly every other country in Europe manages to make their in - city railways work with a fixed fare regardless of distance.

    It is past time this was forced on Tfl, with the requirement that the fixed fare is to be set at the lowest standard fare not the highest.

    1. Nigel 11

      Isn't it bleeding obvious ...

      London transport is BIGGER than any other European city transport system! Even if you amputated the bits outside Zone 6, it's still something like 30 miles diameter.

      And in any case it would be nice to have the system rolled out further afield rather than hamstrung by a fixed fare. Don't they have things like Oyster in the Netherlands that are valid anywhere in the country for travel to anywhere else?

  18. Ben M

    El Reg should charge TfL

    El Reg should charge TfL for the great comments put up on this article. TfL is probably paying a fortune in consultancy fees, and I bet they don't identify nearly half the problems that the commentards have identified here.

  19. MinionZero

    @"contactless bank card"

    How long before over crowded London transport trains etc.. are used to get close enough to people to allow the more unscrupulous hardware hackers to read peoples contactless bank cards whilst the cards are still in their pockets.

    No way do I want a contactless bank card.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      What would that achieve? Even if the card could be read, to get any money off it, it has to be actively communicating with a chip and pin device. So you'd need one of them. Then you'd need a merchant account in order to have the money arrive somewhere. So you'd need one of them too.

      Now the problem is that if you've got a chip and pin device, wireless enabled, and a merchant account, the bank knows who you are. You can't get away with money for longer than it takes someone to notice, then when your accounts are audited the bank have a nice word with the Police and you go to prison.

  20. Elmer Phud

    Just what is that clown up to now?

    I thought Boris was supposed to be Mayor of London not a bloody front for Barclays.

    Sometimes you get the feeling that he doesn't give a shit about London - just intent on getting rid of anything that the previous Mayor instigated or at least covering it with corporate crap.

    Oyster is wonderful, "I'm going out, has anyone got an Oyster card with any money on it?".

    I gave one of mine to a friend's son who was visiting from France. 'Just wave this at the barriers and don't forget to top it up'.

    1. Mark Burgum

      Re Oyster

      maybe great from your perspective, but i have an oyster card that i havnt used for two years for myself and my wife, both of which probably had a balance on them. the system is not designed for the likes of myself who dont go into london that often.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Not so bad...

        If yuo have a few quid, or even a lot more, sitting on an Oyster card, sure you can't spend it. But the discount that it gives you on some fares (though not all these days; thanks BoJo for shafting people with the daily price cap) is a lot more than you'd earn in interest from a bank.

  21. JaitcH

    Imagine the confusion if you protest a credit card charge - through the card issuer!

    Simple credit card complaints take months to sort out - for travel agents this is usually around - 4 months.

    The utter confusion that will arise if you direct your complaints about misreads and penalties if you protest a charge to your bank! They will be swamped.

    There is no need for TfL to re-invent anything, all they need do is to send some minion out to visit all the public transit systems in the Far East and they will soon discover the best, tried and tested with no development costs involved.

  22. Jim Morrow

    london is not the centre of the universe

    please explain how this "story" is relevant to anyone who lives outside the m25.

    so, london gets another rip-off payment (extortion) scheme for its overpriced, overcrowded, unreliable and filthy public transport system. yawn. perhaps el reg can do more "stories" like this which might well contain revelations about what bears do in the woods or the religion of the pope.

    1. Ed Cooper


      You do realise how many people live and/or work inside the M25 right?

  23. Dale 3

    Boris Bikes credit cards

    Aha, so that's why Boris' Cycle Hire scheme didn't adopt Oyster. I thought it was strange for them to do something else along with a (promised, but not yet delivered) credit card option. But it all makes sense if the direction they are going in is away from Oyster and toward credit cards directly.

    Of course this also probably means TfL will be issuing credit cards of their own eventually, in which case not only will they not be paying a fee off to Oyster but will instead be receiving a fee from merchants when people use their credit cards. Very nice little reversal of revenue flows there.

    As for privacy issues, you could always get a prepaid credit card for use exclusively on the tube. If they haven't outlawed them by then, in the name of Security.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Boris Bikes

      The reason that the Boris bikes don't use Oyster is that they require to be able to take a deposit that is claimed in the event that you knacker or loose one of the bikes. Currently you can't do this with Oyster, this is also why you've got to be a Londoner and tourists can't yet use them, although I believe they are working on this.

  24. AgeingBabyBoomer

    Frogmarched into the cashless society

    With a little help from 'free' enterprise. Clearly Boris must owe Barclays an awful lot for something.

    Don't expect that these contactless transactions won't provide a source of future rents for our cash-strapped banks.

    Mussolini would be proud.

  25. dreamingspire
    Thumb Up

    Not news, but useful confirmation

    This plan has been around for a while, but always as a plan. Lots of things have now slotted into place, in particular TfL now contracted just with Cubic, not with that consortium of Cubic and EDS/HP. So it looks as if we have endorsement of this plan, rather than a slower one, by TfL's Board - of course Cubic want to get a move on, now that they are believed to have the technology upgrade ready to go. But they do need to ensure that they don't fall foul of an Olympic embargo on upgrades too close to the Games.

    Why upgrade the buses first? Easier to do, doesn't need those negotiations with the TOCs, there is a belief that fare evasion on the buses is massive. Also the buses need to be able to verify the Freedom Pass cards and the bus passes from the English national scheme (ENCTS) - all those ENCTS and Freedom cards are ITSO compliant, about 10M of them, so that's yet another different process in the ticket equipment.

    As an aside, TfL have now bought the Oyster brand name.

    Mifare: yes, a lot of the ENCTS bus passes are Mifare Classic, some of them will be around for 4 or 5 years more. So we could see Oyster on Mifare Classic also being supported for the same period, but eventually there will be a cutoff announced (Oyster cards don't seem to have an expiry date).

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The cards aren't new

    Contactless cards have been around in the UK for a couple of years, though it's mainly Barclays that do them. There's a maximum of £15 per transaction, and then a cumulative maximum of something like £50 before you need to use a PIN to confirm the card's not stolen. You can already use them in sandwich shops and newsagents. Transport for London's not invented the card, just trying to spend less money making Oyster cards.

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