Transport for London passengers who use a contactless card will pay the same fare as Oyster users, meaning passengers who find their Oyster card has insufficient credit can complete their journey while paying the lowest available fare.
However the new ‘wave & pay’ system will be exempt from the daily fares cap meaning those using it throughout the day may pay more than an Oyster card user.
Users have been warned to separate their Oyster and contactless cards to ensure only one card is debited.
TfL originally promised the new system would be “up and running on all of London’s 8,000 buses in time for the 2012 Games” with a roll out on the Tube, DLR, Tram and London Overground expected before the end of the year.
That timetable was later revised to “mid-2012” on the bus network and “2013” for the Tube, London Overground and DLR networks.
In June, Mayor Boris Johnson announced a further delay, saying the system would not be introduced until TfL was confident it was “100 per cent robust”.
Announcing the scheme’s launch, Mayor Johnson, said: “Lots of us have had the frustrating experience of dashing to board a bus only to discover that our Oyster card has run out of credit.
“So the arrival of this latest technology is welcome news, meaning that with a simple touch of a contactless payment card, people can avoid having to scrabble for change and also still benefit from the Oyster fare discount.”
The London Assembly has previously sought assurances that new technologies will not disadvantage Londoners without access to any particular card type.
Caroline Pidgeon AM, Chair of the Assembly Transport Committee, today said: “Only time will tell if this ticketless technology will bring the convenience promised.
“As Wave and Pay is rolled out across services in London, the Assembly will be keeping a close eye on its impact to provide the best deal. We need to be assured by TfL that passengers will still be able to receive the cheapest fares on Oyster going forward.”
A 2011 Assembly report on ticketing noted that an estimated 1 in 5 Londoners do not have access to a bank card and would be unable to benefit if lower fares were offered only to account holders.