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London buses go live with NFC card payment options

13 Dec 2012
Concept image of a new model of the double decker red London bus

Londoners and visitors to the capital will be able to use their NFC-enabled bank cards from MasterCard, Visa and American Express to pay for London bus journeys from Thursday.

The service will mean those without an Oyster card or lacking enough credit on their cards can pay for their journey by swiping heir card instead and pay the same amount as a standard Oyster fare at £1.35 per journey.

The service is being used on London buses first to help people get used to the system but it should be live across the entire transport network by the end of 2013.

Mike Cowen, head of transit solution for Europe at MasterCard, which has been working with Transport for London (TfL) on the project since 2006 to ensure it would meet the unique requirements of the London transport network.

"The advent of contactless payments cards to enable tap and go transactions helped TfL see the opportunity that could be gained by letting people pay for journeys in this way, rather than needing credit or cash," he told V3.

"There's been a lot of consultation around the work and how it should work since then as a transit environment is unlikely retail market as the demands are very different: there are not many shops where you need to get 45 people per minute through a point of sale like a bus or Tube gate."

Buses are the first part of the network to receive the service as the cost structure is simpler than Tube journeys, with each journey costing the same amount regardless of distance.

However, in 2013 the ability to pay for Tube journeys and run weekly travel passes on bank cards will also be introduced.

This will revolve around setting a weekly cap equivalent to a weekly travel card and once journey costs have reached this amount the remaining journeys for that week would be free.

"Monthly or annual season tickets will likely work by letting users link their bank card to the purchase of the ticket, and then if they go beyond the zones specified for that purchase the additional journey costs are taken under the usual pay-as-you-go system," added Cowen.

The firm has been testing the system on buses in both test environments and live network routes since the summer. Cowan said the firm was confident it would be able to meet customer demand for the new service from the off.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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