back to article Tube bosses: 'Wireless tickets too slow, we think'

Transport for London's director of customer experience thinks wireless payments are still too slow for London's Tube, though he admits TfL hasn't tested them since 2009. Speaking at the Open Mobile Summit, TfL's Shashi Verma told the assembled that radio-based NFC payments were just too slow for the underground, but when …


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  1. Ye Gads

    So how is this going to make the tube better?

    We've already got paper tickets and Oyster cards. I'd prefer if they put the money into trying to stop the Jubilee line breaking down twice a week.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      If you could present a debit or credit card at the gate, or the mobile equivalent of one, it would save you having to buy a paper ticket or load up your Oyster, and save TFL the staff costs to process your transaction.

      1. Ye Gads


        Here's the issue. The gates are all about getting people through as fast as they can. Making them ticket machines as well will slow down the process considerably. People should have a ticket when they reach the gate.

        Just imagine trying to get to work via London Bridge (i've seen crowds by the Jubilee line entrance 10 deep on semi-regular intervals) when 4 of the terminals are taken up with tourists buying tickets for their family...

      2. Graham 25

        TFl staff don't process any transactions on most Oyster cards - you top up at a machine using a CC/DD or do it online. Instead of one CC transaction (charges apply) and them multiple Oystercards (no charges) we would have multiple CC charges. Try getting a CC transaction authorised in M&S on a busy saturday afternoon in Oxford Street and it takes seconds as a minimum, with maybe 20 or 30 tills going in the shop at a time. Then try it with Waterloo Station gates at rush hour and you have something like 20 people a second trying to get through all the gates. It simply does not stack up.

        There are absolutely no upsides to given TFL access to peoples CC's at ticket points.

        Don''t try and fix what isn't broken.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Graham 25

          "Don't try to fix what isn't broken."

          Is exactly what people said about Oyster cards, it's what they said when old style paper tickets were phased out and magstripe tickets were put in, it's what they said when ticket gates when in.

          I live in Reading, I no longer work in London, I don't need an oyster card for the very few times I go into London each year, but a paper ticket takes time to buy and is more expensive. If I could swipe my paywave card over an oyster reader and pay in 500ms with the correct ticket automatically sold to me, that would get me through the gates and into the underground far faster than all that tedious arsing about, working out which zone you're going to and which is the most appropriate ticket, then getting the correct change into the machine, no damn, I've not got the correct change, it'll have to be a note, or maybe a card...

          1. Deano2099

            Re: @Graham 25

            It sounds to me like you do need an Oyster card, actually.

        2. Richard 23

          But TFL gets stung on the Oyster transaction

          TFL have to pay for transactions through the Oyster app. Maybe their fault, but they got stitched up on the Oyster contract.

  2. teapot9999
    Thumb Down

    director of customer experience - really?

    The big surprise is that they have a 'director of customer experience' - obviously he has never used the underground where the customer experience is awful from beginning to end

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: director of customer experience - really?

      The worst part of the customer experience is the other customers.

    2. dotdavid

      Re: director of customer experience - really?

      Hey they never said it was a good experience...

      Or maybe he just experiences a lot of customers.

    3. Chris_Maresca

      Re: director of customer experience - really?

      Compare to what? No underground? Beijing? New York? Paris?

      What is your point of reference? Because, compared to other public transport systems, it works OK.

  3. Tiny Iota

    What about travel cards?

    So for those of us with travel cards who will still need an Oyster, what will happen if a contactless bank card is stored near the Oyster in a holder or wallet, as a lot of people do? Will the system know to only use the Oyster and not the bank card?

    1. JediHomer

      Re: What about travel cards?

      That's why I store my Oyster in a separate wallet, I've just come back from Australia where they have something similar to the Oyster card called Myki. Stored them both in the same wallet and the machine complains that there are more than one cards, so you then have to stand there and take the appropriate card out...

    2. Mike Pellatt

      Re: What about travel cards?

      And, on a similar topic, what about those of us who have Network Gold Cards ("annual season tickets in the former Network SouthEast area") "loaded" onto our Oyster Cards. This gives the Gold Card discount automatically on qualifying (off-peak) LU journeys. HTF will that be implemented with Pret-style payment ??

  4. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    There are other ways to pay...

    Mobile phone credit can be used. This gets around the requirement to own a credit card (lots of teens use public transport, own mobile phones, but do not have credit cards).

    The major downside is that the transaction time for this is currently too long for transport, but it would be possible to do a "top up my fare card with my mobile credit" system instead of a direct bill per tap.

  5. ElNumbre

    Response time of Passengers

    Although I'm not a native of London (travelling into the big village a couple of times a year) it does amaze me how many people do not have their oyster cards or tickets ready when they get to the gate, and proceed to dither around in their pockets/wallets/handbags for ages for their 'ticket to go'. Its usually greater than 300ms.

    I don't know how to solve that though, other than having a device which detects lack of movement for say 1.5 seconds and releases these people through a trap door into a bear pit.

    1. Captain Scarlet

      Re: Response time of Passengers

      I always get stuck in this queue, like at the supermarket if I go self service only to realise all the tills have people with shopping trolleys who have never used the machines before (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PUT STUFF STRAIGHT INTO A BAG ON THE SCALES).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Mike Flex

          Re: Response time of Passengers

          > The "I brought my own bags" function never works.

          And every brand of shop implements their borkedness differently so every new shop will have you queuing for the assistant to unlock the self-"service" till.

      2. Degenerate Scumbag

        Re: Response time of Passengers

        Your supermarket must have better self-service machines than my local Tesco. In my experience, bagging as you scan shifts the weight around too much, confusing the system and resulting in numerous "Unexpected item in bagging area" messages that require a member of staff to override before you can continue scanning. I changed to from "bag as you scan" to "scan, then bag" on the advice of a staff member and now I whizz through much quicker than most of the self-scan amateurs around me.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Response time of Passengers

      Oh come on be reasonable - there is no way the tube could get trapdoors working, they are still having difficulty with escalators.

  6. Dr Andrew A. Adams

    Works in Tokyo

    They've been paying by bonk here on mobies as well as the SUICA/PASMO cards since before 2007 (on my first trip here I was surprised to see someone talking on the phone go up to the ticket gate say something like "hold on a mo" (in Japanese) and bonk the phone). The train companies own the card payment companies, though (there were two incompatible systems running in early 2007 - one by the private companies one by the former monopoly). By March they'd sorted out cross-compatibility, though and you could use either card, including boking the phone. I think their problem is more the style of gate than the phone payment system. Shinjuku station is the world's busiest and Tokyo station one of the world's largest (and not far behind on number of passengers) and they work pretty well at the gates. Payment options include CC debit, mobile bill and pre-pay so far as I know (though I haven't looked into it in detail - a prepay card topped up once every few weeks is good enough for me).

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Works in Tokyo

      Yep, the entire SUICA setup does seem to work very well indeed. I've no idea why any other tech is even being considered elsewhere. And it's not just transport - load of shops, coffee stands, vending machines, etc. all use it.

      In other words it really is a near universal system for small purchases, just like the West wants NFC to be. Except it's already been working for 5 years.

  7. LinkOfHyrule

    Just make tube travel free and ask for people to donate what they think their journey was worth once they reach their destination! Could have a little collection box in the shape of Boris Johnston's head in which people can fling their change or bonk up against.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Number of the beast...

    Call me a Luddite < "LUDDITE", but paying for stuff with a mobile is not something I'll ever want to do.

    I've already got things like Tesco club cards and I know they are tracking my purchasing habits - which links right into where I live, my age and with the right partnerships involved, my income and all sorts of other areas of my life.

    I accept that, because heck, they DO save you money. But I'm wary of it - I don't scan my loyalty card for every purchase I make.

    When it comes to phones, I'm thinking, hold on, this little device in my hand can potentially hold so much personal data (which I entrust to mobile operators already), do I really want yet another third party involved - yet more tracking?

    I'm not one of the tin foil hat brigade - any ideas that Big Brother is watching me are usually dispelled by the sheer ineptitude of our government - but giving away too much trackable data to me starts to make the idea of Big Brother more possible.

    With an oyster card, I can be anonymous - pay with cold hard cash - untrackable for the most part (aside from all those CCTV cameras)

    Perhaps I am becoming a Luddite - I fear a time when anonymous paper money and coins are no longer legal tender. When every single purchase I make is tracked directly back to me.

    For now, as far as I'm concerned, Cash is King for items such as train tickets.

    My privacy is already potentially violated in so many areas of my life - and heck, Tuttle Buttle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Number of the beast...

      you're a luddite

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Number of the beast...

      "Tuttle Buttle"

      Queue the music!

      It will be interesting to see if they can make NFC work any better than things did in the film. Though by the sounds of it TfL have already seen the film and don't want to make it even a tiny bit real...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Works fine

    It works fine in Stockholm paying for tube tickets by mobile phone.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It'll make paperless statements more popular.

    If you make a journey on Oyster PayG involving a change through gatelines, you'll get an entry debit, (potential) exit credit, entry debit and (potential) exit credit...

    South Bermondsey [National Rail] Entry -£4.60

    London Bridge [National Rail] Exit £2.80

    London Bridge [London Underground] Entry -£2.80

    Walthamstow Central [London Underground] Exit £1.20

    Include a return journey and that's eight entries, do that five days a week and that would be 40 extra lines on your credit/debit card statement. The only way I can see that not happening is if TfL keep the transactions 'offline' and only send them to the card provider say an hour after the last transaction but A) would that lead to increase in fraud? B) would your statement (the system) be capaple of showing "09 June 2012 Oyster - South Bermondsey - Walthamstow Central £3.40" (so you can audit / check for correct payment) instead of "09 June 2012 Oyster £3.40"?

    1. Degenerate Scumbag

      Re: It'll make paperless statements more popular.

      More logical would be to do a pre-auth for the maximum daily charge (It's something like 15 or 20 quid) on the first bonk, then reconcile things and charge the actual amount owed at the end of the day.

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