Londoners will be able to navigate the capital's transport system without cash within the next five years as the £192m Oyster smartcard travel system is rolled out, its developers claim.
Transport for London (TfL) this week extended the use of the card's prepay facility so that it can be used on the capital's 6,000 buses.
Passengers using the smartcard on the buses save 30 per cent on single journeys.
And later this year TranSys, the firm in charge of the Oyster card roll-out, will begin updating 1,000 of its ticketing machines to allow payment by chip and Pin cards.
"It's a process of continual improvement, but the ultimate aim is to make it a cashless transport system within five years," said TranSys financial director John Stout.
Because of subtle differences in the way travellers use tickets the prepay facility was not initially offered for bus travel, said Stout.
Tube passengers swipe their cards going in and out of stations. But bus users swipe their card just once, as they get on the bus.
This meant more time had to be spent tuning the payment system before the prepaid option could be offered.
In addition to the update of ticket readers on TfL's 6,000 buses, card readers have this week been handed to 1,500 conductors that still operate on TfL's fleet of Routemaster buses. The handheld card reader used by these conductors connects to the central ticketing network using Bluetooth technology.
By reducing the number of passengers that pay for tickets with cash, TfL intends to cut queues for travellers and improve efficiency.
At London's Victoria tube station, ticket machines need to be refilled with coins every 14 minutes during busy periods. TfL estimates that 7.4 million people a day travel on its network.
TranSys launched Oyster at the start of 2003, and now has 1.4 million cards in use.
The prepay facility is also now available on the Croydon tram network.
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