It’s hard to imagine a world without a bank card. The first bank cards were issued in the 1950s and since then the UK has seen a progressive change from cash to card. So much so that in 2014, the face of retail changed forever as cashless payments overtook the use of notes and coins for the first time.
Following the successful launch of Oyster in 2003, it was clear that we would need to immediately start working on the next innovation. Following close in-house development and partnership with the wider banking industry, we trialled and launched contactless payments on London Buses in December 2012.
This proved so successful that the technology was quickly expanded to cover Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, and most National Rail services in London in September 2014.
Since introduced, more than 350 million journeys have now been made using this world-leading technology, accounting for 28 per cent of all pay as you go journeys on Tube and rail services. Nearly 25,000 new cards are used on the network every day, and just this week we have seen the ten millionth unique contactless card on the system – a phenomenal achievement in just 18 months.
Even more incredibly, the system is so advanced that these contactless cards have come from more than 80 different countries – all without the need for any registration or set-up.
Using contactless removes the need for customers to top-up, and fares are capped – with the best value contactless fares calculated automatically.
Along with providing customers with the best value fare on TfL services, and the vast majority of National Rail services, contactless payments provide ‘Monday to Sunday’ capping which automatically limits the cost of travel over this period to the price of a weekly travel card.
In addition, customers are now also using other methods of payment, such as mobile device ticketing technology. In the last six months of 2015, more than 3.2 million journeys were made using mobile devices. This is predicted to further increase throughout 2016 as more mobile devices come onto the market, along with other contactless technologies such as watches and wristbands with Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities are developed.
Despite this huge shift towards contactless payments, we mustn’t rest or stop innovating our ticketing system to ensure it continues to provide the best service to customers.
For more than 100 years, and even before then, London’s transport network has constantly been innovating ticket acceptance for travel.
From the Gibson bus ticket machine of the 1930s to magnetic strip tickets in the 1960s, each revolution has helped make travelling from A to B easier while offering customers the best value fare.
Plans are already underway to improve the auto-refund system to better identify where people have accidentally failed to touch out of the network. Doing so will deliver further immediate benefits to customers as well as reduce the need for people to phone our call centres.
With other transport authorities across the UK and the world now looking at this technology, it’s important that transport authorities remember that a simple, adaptive and considerate ticketing system needs to be central to any proposition if it is to be as widely accepted and successful as it has been in London.
Shashi Verma is TfL’s Director of Customer Experience.