“The growth in acceptance of contactless payments cards (CPCs) on buses continues apace. More than four million bus journeys in London have now been paid for using a contactless debit, credit or charge card. Usage has risen steadily, as more customers save money by paying the Oyster single fare rather than the cash fare. Nearly 180,000 trips are now made each week using CPCs. More than 15,000 cards are used each weekday, of which about 1,000 are being used for the first time.”
A day before Sir Peter’s report went online, TfL provided me with the latest CPC/Wave & Pay usage figures, including the number of daily journeys and new cards seen on the system up until September 17th.
Here’s the figures for the most recent month:
Between September 11th-17th, 8,201 new cards were used on the system but the number of Wave & Pay cards used per day and fares bought with them rose by just 370 and 560 respectively during the same period.
So although around 1,000 new cards are being seen each day, they’re not regularly being used after that first trip.
I use my Wave & Pay card sporadically when I’ve forgotten or can’t be bothered to top up my Oyster Card. These figures suggest that’s it pretty much what everyone else is doing too.
The challenge for TfL is converting people like me into regular users and convincing us to drop our Oyster entirely. The introduction of weekly capping should help with that.
According to the spreadsheet TfL sent me, between December 13th 2012 and September 17th 2013 there were 4,084,568 Wave & Pay journeys. This may sound impressive, but it’s far below TfL’s original expectations:
Contactless fares were meant to be introduced very late into the 2011/12 financial year but finally came in last December.
Because the scheme’s been running almost a full year, the 4m figure needs to be compared to the 302m million second year expectations and not the 2011/12 figure shown in the table above.
Even allowing for the fact that the service is limited to bus journeys and not available on all modes as it should now be, the 4m journeys Sir Peter is keen to sell to board members as a roaring success look less than impressive – in the tail end of 2011/12 they expected to achieve at least 6m journeys but can’t yet be certain of reaching that figure in a full year.
Sir Peter’s report says “Customers are comfortable using this form of payment”, but while they may be comfortable, they’re hardly rushing to adopt it.
Is there a link between these low usage levels and TfL’s decision not to prosecute fare dodgers in possession of a Wave & Pay card?
And why are TfL board members once again being given the relentless good news treatment and not being briefed that usage is well journeys below predictions?
This article was amended on November 11th to clarify the comparison with the original business case.