London has always led the way with urban transport ticketing.
For 150 years we have been issuing tickets but, in a modern urban transport environment, we need to think differently.
With 12 million journeys a day being made on public transport in London, time spent buying tickets only creates unnecessary hassle for our passengers in an already very busy environment.
This is why we brought in Oyster, which over the past 11 years has enabled people to tap and go. But with further innovation we need to do more to make journeys as easy for our customers as possible.
This is why we started the search for the next generation of ticketing technology even while we were still in the initial stages of Oyster in 2005. While much cheaper, easier and more efficient than regularly buying paper tickets, Oyster requires those who use it for ‘pay as you go’ travel to monitor and top-up their credit.
This is time that customers could spend doing other things. So why shouldn’t our customers have the option to be able to pay for their travel in the same way they pay for everything else – directly, with little fuss and in a smooth transaction process.
The appeal of contactless payments for transport was obvious – it eliminates the step of converting a customer’s money into ‘our money’ before they travel. To keep track of what they are paying, customers can check their travel history by registering online, the same as they would for Oyster.
We opted for a phased approach to the implementation of contactless payments to ensure it worked for our customers. London is one of the largest, busiest and most complex urban travel networks in the world so any improvements need to be planned meticulously to ensure that there is no possibility of disruption to customers’ journeys.
In December 2012 we launched contactless on London Buses for the initial phase and, starting in April 2014, we ran a pilot on the Tube and rail network. The success on buses and the pilot gave us confirmation that customers liked the convenience of contactless and that we should open it up as a choice for all in London on 16 September.
Delivering contactless payments needed the transport and payments industries to work together to create a new transaction model – a way for contactless cards to handle transport transactions.
Some of the rules around how contactless payment cards work in the retail environment, such as requiring a PIN to be entered after a set number of transactions, needed to be tweaked for it to be a viable payment method on the transport network.
The development of a new transaction model aligned the business processes from two different industries – transport and finance.
This has resulted in a model that will not only work on London’s transport network but on any other networks around the world. Transport authorities globally have been watching London with interest and, as always, we will share what we have learned with our colleagues around the world.
The early outcomes have been very positive. Over 100,000 contactless journeys have been made on London’s rail transport network so far. On buses, we recorded nearly 90,000 journeys yesterday, a new record.
We have also been monitoring ‘card clash’.
Customers are being automatically refunded when they may have accidentally touched more than one card on a reader and paid with a card they did not intend to use. The first day of contactless saw just over 1,700 instances of this against a pre-launch estimate of around 2000 – less than 0.1 per cent of the smartcard rail journeys made in London every day.
Some of our customers won’t have contactless payment cards or won’t want to use them while many others will continue to use their concessionary passes. That is why contactless will continue to operate alongside Oyster as an additional payment choice.
The next part of our plan to revolutionise ticketing concentrates on how we can bring the benefits and flexibility of contactless to the Oyster card, to ensure all customers benefit from the same convenience.
Contactless payment is just one of the ways in which we are trying to make travelling simpler and more convenient for our customers. There is much more to come on this in the future.
Shashi Verma, Director of Customer Experience, Transport for London