Fares & Ticketing Systems

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Fares and Ticketing Systems are looked at on several pages. This is page 2.

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'Smart' Card and contactless RFID Ticketing.

Many cities planetwide have already or are looking at introducing radio-frequency (RFID) contactless smart card tickets which store either (or both) travel tickets - typically as electronic tokens - and cash value in the form of what is often called an electronic purse (or e-purse). To make these tickets more attractive to the general public their e-purse function is sometimes integrated with other services, such as purchases at coffee shops, paying for car parking, road usage tolls. This saves people from the (claimed) hassle of carrying loose change and small amounts of cash. Often these tickets would include personally identifiable data about the person using them, recording this data has made it possible to create an electronic paper trail that includes details of a person's every movement, where they like to go shopping, the items they regularly purchase and even their smallest financial transactions. This type of information has a commercial value to data marketing businesses and can sometimes also be of interest to the various security services - not just in dictatorial police state nations but also in so-called free democracies.

About Smart Cards.

The use of plastic cards as methods of payment is already well known, but until recently these cards have always required physical contact for the transaction to be completed. At one time this was by using a special mechanical device which copied an imprint of the numbers and other information that was embossed slightly proud of the plastic cards' surface to a multi-part carbon copy form, with monetary values, date of transactions and customer's signature being filled in using a pen. As time progressed the use of machine readable magnetic strips were introduced to plastic cards and even later the cards were equipped with an electronic 'chip' that has open electrodes on the top so that it can be read by specialist card reading terminals. RFID cards represent the next step in the use of plastic card payment systems as the transaction is enacted using radio waves / without physical contact. This explains the label contactless, although - so far - the cards still need to be located within an inch or so (about 3cm) of the card reader base station for the transaction to be successful.

As with smart cards with contacts, contactless smart cards do not contain a battery. Instead, they use a built-in inductor to capture some of the incident radio-frequency interrogation signal which is then converted into a form that can be used to power the card's electronics.

Typically transport smart cards are the same dimensions as pre-existing plastic credit / debit / charge cards, even though the active equipment within the card is usually so small that it could be contained in just about anything, including mobile telephones, key fobs, imitation keys which double-up as USB flash drives, soft toys, articles of clothing - or for those want it, subdermally, which means just under the skin (ie: inside the human body).

The receipt conundrum.

Electronic tickets only create electric (ie: virtual / non physical) paper trails, which is great for reducing paper consumption but less appreciated by business travellers (and anyone else) who needs paper receipts to use as part of expense claims. Although it is usually possible to print out paper logs of recent journeys / other transactions made using smart card tickets, a new problem has become apparent because typically these logs detail every journey / transaction, and for reasons of privacy and need to know some people do not want their employer to know their every movement. Such as when they visited a head hunter or made private journeys in the evening after work - even though such may not have cost the employer anything extra. In a domestic situation a wife might become very concerned about her husband's activities if she learns that he has been frequenting a certain locality without her knowing, when in fact he is just sourcing a secret wedding anniversary gift and would rather not be forced to explain his travels until the day itself. This could wreck marriages.

In London a solution used by some people is add to the cards's e-purse the amount known to represent the actual fare for the journeys being made and include the top-up receipt as part of the expenses submitted to the employer. This represents the best way to source a receipt that does not show individual journeys. Other people have two smart card tickets, one which is used for business travel and a second for personal / private use. This is inelegant, as it creates multiple other issues...

The latter scenario is already technically possible, as some stores add RFID chips to their products as anti-theft devices. These are supposed to be removed / deactivated when the goods are paid for, but when forgotten the mere act of carrying them out of the store is known to activate the anti-theft alarm. Similar technologies with an ever greater reading range are likely to be introduced for road vehicle pricing using RFID tags to trace every vehicle's movement. Who is to say that the road pricing system will not also read transport RFID cards, if only to gather data on who is passing through?

CiCo and BiBo.

At the present time most RFID systems follow the CiCo system, which means that passengers must check in at the start of the journey and check out when it ends.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the CiCo system is its reliance on error-prone humans to let it know the location where the journey started and ended, plus (if necessary) the route the passenger travelled. Route information is important when there are several possible routes with some offering cheaper fares. In short, despite using what are known as smart cards without accurate human input the CiCo system is in fact totally clueless and unable to function with any accuracy.

As technology advances it will eventually be possible to operate a fares system without any action on the part of the passenger. RFID readers will detect passengers and automatically read their cards, plus even (with interval checking) monitor the route they follow and automatically charge the cheapest fare. This is known as BiBo - be in - be out.

It will also be possible to combine these technologies, for instance having a physical check in when boarding buses but automated exit reads when alighting. This will make life simpler for passengers and in many ways better mimic how paper ticketing systems work. There are advantages in this, for instance it would solve the check out issue when alighting from the bus and reduce the likelihood of passengers without valid smart cards from abusing the system. Railway stations could also remain gated, to help restrict access to only fare paying passengers whilst the actual fare charged is based on remotely verifying the route the passenger travelled - and whether 1st or 2nd class, if such is appropriate for the journey.

The BiBo system will prevent fraud by bus passengers who check out before they reach their destination, although deactivating the card readers between bus stops and other measures can also help here.

How BiBo would work with smart cards that are kept in wire mesh wallets and purses which are supposed to prevent them from being read illicitly remains to be seen. After all, whilst the transport operator may need to be able to read the smart card, passengers will not welcome the person sitting behind them who is using a smartphone to be able to scan his/her locality, find and then copy (clone) the data on all the RFID compatible devices they find.

Also yet to be resolved is how BiBo will be able to choose which RFID signals they should interact with. Passengers often carry multiple RFID compatible devices - not just smart cards but also mobile telephones and perhaps key fobs, jewellery etc., which also include an RFID chip. Nobody would welcome the cost of the same journey being paid by them all! Maybe BiBo will be best suited to passengers with a payment account so that they have either paid in advance (ie: bought a season ticket) or have a (bank) account which is charged / billed for their travels at a later date. BiBo would be especially easy to implement in nations where the carrying of RFID personal identification is a legal requirement, as then the system could be programmed to only interact with these personal ID cards - and not any other RFID compatible devices.

It will also be necessary to ensure that the RFID device readers can tell the difference between a passenger and a pedestrian who just happens to be walking past a bus at a bus stop, as the latter would not welcome being charged for a journey that they are not making.

If BiBo technology was ever to be found viable and therefore adopted by transport systems en masse then it could revolutionise station design (again) - and at a time when some stations are still having electronic ticket gates installed, the possibly would arise of them all being rendered superfluous!

Although not detailed everytime all the systems detailed on this page use the CiCo system; BiBo is still an emerging technology. BiBo is also discussed near the end of this page.

Dateline: July 2013.

Higher tech ticketing changes the travelling experience.

For passengers who pay their transport fares at the time of travelling the advent of the CiCo system has completely revolutionised the process of paying fares. As long as there are sufficient funds in the e-purse they are able to emulate passengers with season tickets and at railway stations can avoid the ticket sales area and instead go directly to the ticket gates and the trains. Depending on the length of the queues to buy tickets this can save them a lot of time, as well as what many see as a hassle in handling cash, small value coins, etc. On the buses, whilst fares are still frequently paid when boarding the process of simply having the card read is infinitely faster and easier than that of handling cash, even if the passenger has the correct change.

So far so good.

It is what happens at the end of the journey which is not always so beneficial. Passengers are usually already used to passing through some sort of exit turnstile ticket check when leaving the railway system, and the CiCo system now requires that this is also done on bus services which charge distance based fares. This is new. Having to get the RFID smart card out a second time for the same journey and try to quickly exit a vehicle before the doors close and supervise young children / carry all your other baggage (as appropriate) and be streetwise to ensure that whist you are distracted no-one else is going to try and snatch anything out of your hands and if it is raining open your umbrella is a Herculaneum task that is not at all welcomed by passengers. In this respect the RFID ticketing system degrades the overall journey experience. The BiBo system has the potential to redress the disbenefits, but first the technology has to be made to work reliably.

Many passengers using prepaid season tickets have found that the changes have been even more extreme. The interaction with station ticket gates has generally been very positive, as the smart card can be read whilst still in the wallet / purse, which is infinitely better for passengers who previously used a paper ticketing system which featured magnetic stripe tickets that needed removing from purses and wallets and physically inserting into a slot in the ticket barrier.

It is at stations which are 'open' (ie: without either electronic ticket barriers / gates or staff checking everyone's tickets as they pass through) and on the buses (and trams) that passengers with season tickets find that the new technology degrades the journey experience. This is because many transport operators are using the introduction of smart card ticketing as an excuse to introduce the requirement that even season tickets must be read at the start and end of each and every journey, with penalties (of one type or another) being imposed for failing to do so - even though since the fare has already be paid so there is not usually any financial reason for requiring this. It is possible that this is done so as to help the transport planners monitor travel trends so that they can adjust future services to more closely match actual travel habits - if so then passengers should be being told this! Nevertheless, it is sub-optimal for the passenger and helps fuel paranoia on topics such as police-state style personal journey tracking.

What this means is that whereas season ticket holders used to be able to walk straight to / from the platform at their convenience - the only requirement being to actually have the ticket in their possession whilst travelling - they must now use the free standing card readers to check in/out. With buses season ticket holders usually needed to show their ticket to the bus driver as they boarded, but that was all. This still remains, albeit in modified form; however on buses which use graduated fare scales they too also now need to check out when alighting, again despite there being no financial reason for this..

Another way in which the overall travel experience can be degraded and buses made slower is that because it always remains the passenger's responsibility (liability / duty) to ensure that their card is properly read so as they pass the card readers some passengers will stop to visually verify that all is well. Whilst doing so other passengers may be delayed.

Higher tech ticketing enforces rules - rigidly!

The introduction of RFID ticketing is usually hailed by the transport operator as a way to introduce new conditions of carriage (ie: rules) which passengers must obey and another way to enforce ticketing rules which previously had not been enforced (or were widely disregarded) because they had been less easy to enforce. In most cases the net result is that some passengers end up paying more for their journeys - although sometimes this is actually the correct fare for their journey.

An example of this comes from London, where passengers using paper period tickets with magnetic stripes could travel from a station in zone 4 through zones 3 & 2 and back to another station in zone 4 whilst only paying fares for zones 3 & 4. They were wrong for doing this but since the paper ticketing system only checked that the ticket was valid at that station (ie: did not know their stations of origin or arrival, so could not work out the route followed), so therefore when passing through the ticket barriers their tickets were seen as valid and they got away with it. But, since the new RFID ticketing has been designed to note stations of departure, arrival and permitted routes between them, so these passengers found themselves no longer able to pass through the ticket barriers in the way they had previously done. They now have to pay the correct fare for their journey!

Easier Fares Increases.

Because paying with the e-purse disassociates passengers from the fares actually being charged (how many passenegrs always check the actual fare they have been charged when they swipe their card at the end of the journey?) so it is easier for fares to be raised without passengers realising.

Smart Card Operator Cash Flow Bonanza

As ever, new technologies create new ways in which fraudulent travel becomes possible. Transport operators meanwhile, need to stay one step ahead and find ways in which to both act fairly and to deter and prevent fraud.

To that end, it is usual for passengers using the e-purse to pay their fares and travelling on networks where there are graduated fares to be required to make a financial deposit when starting the journey, with this being refunded (less the correct fare) when the journey ends. The only fair way of doing this is to include it as part of the check in/out process. To make this possible it is also usually required to have a minimum amount of financial value (ie: money) stored in the e-purse, as otherwise some people would find it financially worthwhile to allow their smart cards to go into a negative balance and then never use that smart card again. Likewise, the amount of the deposit taken needs to be high enough so that it is always better to check-out and recover the deposit less the correct fare.

However meeting these requirements does mean that the smart card operator will benefit from a large sum of money that being held "on deposit" and could possibly even earn them some interest - which they can retain for themselves. Whilst in theory this money belongs to the passengers, the attitude taken by smart card operators is that since the passengers intend to spend it all paying transport fares so all that is happening is that the smart card operator is receiving payment in advance, for future travel. This is why when the CiCo system was first introduced in London the use of the e-purse was known as PrePay, although to help mask this aspect of the ticketing system it has since become known pay as you go (PAYG)

Passengers not checking in/out correctly also results in a different financial benefit for smart card operators. Especially when alighting from buses and trams and exiting 'open' railway stations passengers risk forgetting to check out, and the value of unrefunded deposits is providing the smart card companies a tidy cash bonus - its like winning an intermediate (ie: middle) prize on the lottery... easy money! In 2013 the Dutch found that about 2% of passengers do not check out after completing their journey, and in July some transport user groups launched an investigation to discover how much money transport companies are earning from these people.
Information sources:
http://www.thehagueonline.com/headlines/2013-07-03/inquiry-into-ov-chip-card-fair-costs/15645 .
http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2013/07/transport_user_groups_probe_co.php ..

The findings from the investigation were supposed to be published in June 2014 but in order to confirm the financial values with the various organisations concerned publication of the report has been delayed to August. However what was revealed was that as much as €22.9m is earned from what is called passenger error. A spokesperson from one transport operator said that whilst they would like to return funds to passengers they can only do so when the passengers contact them and ask for it back. One of the transport user groups said that part of the solution is to make it possible for passengers to check in/out just the once, even when the journey involves several railway companies and to create a straightforward nationwide procedure for requesting compensation after a problem occurs.
Information sources:
http://www.iamexpat.nl/read-and-discuss/expat-page/news/dutch-public-transport-firms-earn-big-forgetful-passengers .

It is not fair to blame passengers for always being at fault with failed card reads. Personal experience has found that sometimes card readers do not work correctly, and also that at quiet times (eg: late evenings) some train operators (especially in Britain) do not so much leave station ticket gates open, but actually switch them off, so that it becomes impossible to check out. Of course the deposit can usually be recouped, but it is usually a hassle, and not all people even know how to do this.

Many people see the retention of the deposit as representing some sort of penalty fare, however whilst it often feels like this it is not actually so.

Readers who arrived at this section from a link within the Dutch OV-Chipkaart section about Incomplete Transaction Charges can click this link to return to there.

As this illustration demonstrates, these smart card tickets can be read without physical contact. This can make life much easier as there is be no need to fumble and remove it from a wallet / purse.

This image has been sourced from S-VHS-C videotape and the larger clickable version is a little fuzzy.

click me for video Clicking the projector icon or this link will download a 9 second video clip named 'RFID-Ticket320.mpg' showing the action being described. .

See caption for picture information.
Contact-free electronic ticketing - a 'near field' RFID smart card being demonstrated at a public transport trade exhibition in the early 1990's.
See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Schematic of a generic RFID smart card.
Image & license: Wikipedia encyclopædia. Public Domain.
International generic pictogram symbol for contact-free electronic RFID devices, such as transport tickets and retail outlet payment systems.
Image: Wikipedia encyclopædia.
See caption for picture information. WW2 ID card poster.
Inside Dutch OV-chipkaart RFID chip card showing the chip and antenna.
Image & license: IIVQ = Tijmen Stam / Wikipedia encyclopædia.
CC BY-SA 2.5   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inside_of_RFID_chip.jpg
Many far-sighted thinking people have concerns about function creep and that once smart cards have become commonplace politicians and bureaucrats will start finding "other" uses for them - which will result in their transmuting into personal ID cards, such as are used at war time and by repressive political regimes where the leaders are in constant fear of the population.
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Hong Kong and Octopus.

Launched in 1997 the first location to widely adopt RFID contactless smart card ticketing was Hong Kong.

Here the system is marketed under the Octopus label, and although originally intended as just an upgrade on the Mass Transit Railway's (MTR) stored value ticketing system as described above it has grown in scope and usage so that in addition to being accepted on virtually all of Hong Kongs' public transports it has become a widely accepted payment and personal identification system which can be used at over 253 different commercial and other organisations including convenience stores, self service outlets (eg: vending machines) conferences and exhibitions, recreational facilities, as access control cards in residential / office buildings, for school administrative functions, to pay at parking meters / car parks, and more... What made it possible for a product intended to be used for paying transport fares to become used in so many other ways as well is that in 2000, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority granted a deposit-taking company license to the operator, removing previous restrictions that had prohibited it from generating more than 15% of its turnover from non-transport related functions.

The Octopus card is so named because it originally joined together payment systems for 8 types of transport, emulating the 8 legs of an octopus.

There are two main types of Octopus card (On-Loan and Sold), and two less common types (the Airport Express Tourist and the MTR Airport Staff). On-Loan cards are issued for usage in day-to-day functions, primarily being for fare payment in transport systems. There are four types of On-Loan cards, with the first three based on age and different amounts of fare concession, and each of them being a different colour. These are Child (pink), Adult (yellow), Elder (jade green), and Personalised (special design comprising of all other colours). Initially there was a blue student card too, but in 2005 these were withdrawn in favour of Personalised student cards. With the exception of the Personalised cards, On-Loan cards are anonymous and no identification is required for the purchase of these cards. If an owner loses an On-Loan card the stored value and card deposit are not refunded. Prices for the cards vary according to type, and include varying amounts of credit to enable immediate use.

The multi coloured Personalised card is available on registration. The name and, if desired, photograph of the holder are imprinted on the card. These can function automatically as a Child, Adult, or Elder card by recognising the cardholder's age stored on the card, hence accounting for different concessionary fares. Student status Personalised cards are available to full-time students in Hong Kong aged between 12 and 25. These cards are automatically issued to students who apply for student concessionary privileges. In addition to all the functions of ordinary cards, the Personalised variant can be used as a key card for access to residential and office buildings. If lost then Personalised Octopus cards should be reported as such to prevent unauthorised use and minimise any possible financial loss. In this way liability will only be for any loss arising from unauthorised use of the card within six hours after the loss report. The deposit plus financial value on the card (after six hours) are then refunded, less a HK$30 card cost and a HK$20 handling fee.

Visitors / tourists staying less than 14 days can buy a special Octopus card which includes the cost of using the airport express railway, 3 days of unlimited travel on MTR railways plus HK$50 cash stored value. These are not available at the vending machines - visitors will find it is cheaper and easier to purchase these at the special kiosk near the exit to the express railway. There are two variants, offering either one or two journeys on the airport express railway, with the latter journeys (only) being valid for 180 days from the date of purchase. Note that users may be required to produce an air ticket showing their arrival date in Hong Kong and passport to prove their visitor status. As with all Octopus cards these include the cost of a deposit which can be refunded when leaving Hong Kong - although many visitors like to retain their cards as a souvenir or for use during the next visit.

Sold Octopus cards are sponsored and branded souvenir cards which are frequently released by Octopus Cards Limited. These cards are sold at a premium, have limited or no initial stored value, and cannot be refunded, but they can otherwise be used as ordinary cards.

The MTR Airport Staff Octopus card is for staff of Hong Kong International Airport and AsiaWorld-Expo, a convention centre close to the airport, for commuting at a reduced fare between the airport and MTR stations via the Airport Express. This card is available upon application via the company for which that a staff member works.

In addition to credit card sized cards, it is possible to buy various types of wrist & pocket watches, mobile phone covers, wristbands and key fobs which function as anonymous Octopus cards.

Using Octopus.

When travelling on the MTR network using an Octopus card many fares are often between 5% and 10% cheaper than ordinary fares paid in other ways. Plus bus services also often offer discounts or other special offers.

The maximum value which an Octopus e-purse can hold is HK$1,000. If the (financial) value on an Octopus is positive (ie. HK$0.1 or above) but insufficient to cover the full cost of the next transaction it is permitted to incur a negative value of up to HK$35, which will be re-covered when the card is reloaded. However an Octopus with zero or negative value cannot be used until it is reloaded. Once loaded the value is valid for up to three years. After that time the value can be reactivated when it is next reloaded.

There is also a frequent user loyalty scheme called Octopus Rewards.

With Octopus not only is it possible to spend money almost anywhere, but it is possible add value to the e-purse almost anywhere too - not only at MTR stations but also at establishments such as large-chain fast food establishments and local (neighbourhood) grocery stores. To make life even easier for Octopus users, some financial institutions offer automatic Octopus AAVS (Automatic Add Value Services) whereby a person can register their Octopus card number with the bank / financial institution and then whenever its financial value reaches zero, a negative balance or when its remaining plus the maximum negative value is insufficient to settle the full cost of the transaction it will be automatically topped up with HK$250 - with the funds coming from a designated bank account or credit card. Octopus e-purses can be automatically reloaded in this way once a day. Many participating credit card issuing banks or companies also give bonus points or cash rebates for AAVS transactions. Some financial institutions also offer this service for up to 3 other people aged 12 or above holding an Octopus card.

For the convenience of visitors from Hong Kong a few retailers in Shenzhen and Macau also accept Octopus, although it only possible to add value to Octopus cards within Hong Kong.

Cross-Border Octopus.

In 2012 it became possible to buy two different types of twin-currency Adult Octopus cards that can also be used in a range of cities in mainland China. These retain all the usual Octopus features, including AAVS and Octopus Rewards (albeit only on HKD purchases in Hong Kong) and also feature a separate Chinese currency (Reminbi - RMB) e-purse which can be topped up to a maximum of RMB1,000. All cards are sold anonymously and no personal information is stored on them. At present it is only possible to top-up the HKD e-purse within Hong Kong and the RMB e-purse within China. Future plans include merging the three cards - Octopus, Lingnan Pass and Shenzhen Tong - although before this can happen there are some unspecified technical issues which will need resolving.

  • A joint partnership between Octopus Cards Limited and Guangdong Lingnan Pass Company Limited has created the Sold Adult "Octopus - Lingnan Pass" which in addition to Hong Kong can be used in seventeen mainland China cities including Guangzhou, Foshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Shanwei, Huizhou, Maoming, Zhuhai, Jieyang, Heyuan, Yunfu, Shaoguan, Yangjiang, Zhanjiang, Zhongshan, Qingyuan and Chaozhou.
  • A joint partnership between Octopus Cards Limited and Shenzhentong Co., Ltd has created the Hu Tong Xing which can be used in wherever Octopus is accepted in Hong Kong and wherever Shenzhen Tong is accepted in Shenzhen.


Although electronic purse systems are generally very secure it is worth noting that when Octopus first started (in 1997) there was a smart university student who found a way to add-value to it "for free". Also, in February 2007 it was found that when customers added value to their cards at certain self-service add-value points located at MTR and KCR stations, their bank accounts would still be debited even if the transactions had been cancelled. A few months later (July) it was announced that following an investigation 15,270 instances of wrong transactions had been traced back to 2000, with over HK$3.7 million having been incorrectly deducted from people's bank accounts. Furthermore, it was added that there were possibly more instances of wrong transactions dating from before 2000 but as transaction data is only kept for seven years so it was impossible to be sure.

Dating from 1997 Octopus is so old that it predates all international standards regarding electronic smart cards. So therefore it does not comply with them. This represents a typical scenario for those who are amongst the first with something new. Whether this will prove to be a severe handicap in the longer term remains to be seen.

For more information visit the Octopus (English language) website at http://www.octopuscards.com/eng/index.htm ..

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Ticket machines at Wu Kai Sha Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) Station. The two machines on the left are Octopus "add-value machines".
Image & license: Alanmak / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 3.0
This Hong Kong light rail station features separate card readers for using when entering and leaving the system.

To make it easier to distinguish one from the other they are physically separated, have been logically angled for the direction in which the passenger would be walking at the start / end of a journey and are differently coloured - orange for 'in' (seen at the far end of the entrance walkway), green for 'out'..
Image & license: TUmuMATo / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 2.5

Elsewhere in Asia.

Many cities in Asia now also use smart cards on (some of) their public transports, indeed too many to mention them all. But two stand out as being of special interest.

Singapore, the city state which pioneered road pricing, has also made it possible to use the same smart cards to be used to pay road pricing and transport fares, as well as when shopping at many retail outlets. Plus there are prepaid smart card charge cards, mobile telephones with built-in smart card chips, and other features similar to those found in other Asian nations.

Like many cities, Singapore requires that all passengers have their smart cards read at both ends of their journeys, which for buses means both when boarding and alighting. Unofficial reports by a possibly disgruntled user placed on Wikipedia suggest that some bus passengers have been experiencing overcharging problems which are being attributed to card readers that sometimes take as long as five (5) seconds to activate when a bus stops at a bus stop, so that often passengers will have alighted from the bus thinking that because their smart cards were touching the card reader before they alighted so they are being charged the correct fare - when they are not. As with everywhere else, it always remains the passenger's responsibility (liability / duty) to ensure that their card is properly read.
Information source:

In June 2014 Singapore's EZ-Link and Taiwan's EasyCard Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a cross-border multi-functional contactless card. To be called Cross Border Combi Card this will allow people to pay for public transport, admission tickets, local attractions, and more. There will be separate e-purses to hold the two nation's currencies. The people most likely to benefit from this are tourists and business travellers. It will be 2015 (at least) before this contactless smartcard becomes available to the general public.

Public Transport, Road Toll Payment & ID Card Integration.

In Malaysia the Touch'n Go or TnG smart card which is primarily used to pay for road tolling includes an e-purse that can also be used to pay some public transport fares. In addition the e-purse can be used at some other locations, such as convenience and fast 'food' stores, leisure destinations and car parks, although the latter frequently pass on the commission fee onto card users, resulting in users paying 10% more. TnG usage can be viewed online, although it takes three days from date of transaction before the data shows up on a person's e-Statement. Fax records are often available more quickly. TnG cards can only be used to pay for adult transport fares. The are no versions for senior citizens, children, or handicapped.

Malaysia is noted for being the first nation where personal ID cards feature an integrated smart card. These cards, which are known as MyKad, were originally intended to have four functions, being:-

  • Identity card, including biometric information (fingerprints) and photograph,
  • Driving licence,
  • Internal Passport in Malaysia which is also accepted at several neighbouring countries - although a conventional passport is still required internationally,
  • Storage for health information.

However, four further applications were added before or during its initial release, although minimal publicity means that most of these functions are still not widely used:-

  • e-cash, (e-purse) intended for low value but high volume transactions,
  • ATM integration,
  • Touch 'n Go, the toll road and public transport payment system - which explains the relevance of MyKad to this page,
  • Digital certificate, commonly known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) - this is only supported by the 64Kb smart card version which was introduced in 2002

The extensible design of the card may be leading to functionality creep. Further applications envisaged by the government include:

  • Frequent travellers' card
  • A merge with the Payment Multi-Purpose Card ('PMPC'), giving the MyKad credit and debit card functions that will pave the way for other financial uses.

Readers may be interested to read that the MyKad ID cards also include information on race and religion (on the chip) with the name of at least one religion being printed in large letters (for easy identification) on the front of the card too. This helps (for instance) to identify a person's faith during the Ramadan fast, so that they can be prosecuted if caught eating and drinking when they should be fasting. As well as the holder's unique 12-digit personal identification number they also include a code for their place of birth - code No. 87 has been allocated to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In Malaysia it is a crime punishable by heavy fines and three years jail for a person to leave home without their ID card, and it is also crime for any official except those specially and explicitly authorised to confiscate or otherwise withhold a person's ID card. Security guards etc., may ask to see them but are legally required to return them immediately. Even friends or relatives hiding an ID card for a prank are committing an offence.

It is not for nothing that this page often refers to police states and how it should be a legal requirement for anonymous transport RFID smart cards to be available.

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RFID Tickets in Europe.

As in Asia there is an ever increasing number of European cities which accept smart cards on (some of) their public transports. For space reasons this page only looks in depth at one of them.

One of the first European cities to embrace RFID smart card ticketing was Moscow, which introduced them in the late 1990's. In 1999 they replaced the existing token-based fares system with magnetic stripe tickets and in 2006 it became possible to pay fares using plastic cards issued by various banks, with the charge being withdrawn from the owner's bank account at the end of the calendar month. In 2008 the magnetic stripe tickets were withdrawn, making Moscow the first transport system to operate solely using a contactless smart card fare collection system outside Asia. In 2010 it also became possible to pay transport fares using contactless NFC enabled mobile telephone sim cards. The Moscow metro charges flat fares which are like a simple entrance fee that remains the same no matter the distance travelled, with period and multi-ride tickets offering discounts on the single-ride charge.

Because of privacy concerns regarding public transport smart cards being used by the transport operators (and the authorities) to track the movement of individuals in Finland the Data Protection Ombudsman has prohibited the transport operator YTV from collecting such information, in spite of YTV's argument that the owner of the card has the right to get a list of journeys paid with the card.

RFID Tickets in Holland (The Netherlands)

Holland is one of several European countries where rather than being dedicated to a specific town / city or transport operator the RFID ticketing is nationwide. In this way the aim was for it to mimic* and (eventually) replace the pre-existing paper "Strippenkaart" (strip ticket) system which from 1980 until 2011 could be used for local journeys virtually anywhere nationwide. Known as the OV-chipkaart (Public Transport Chipcard) this smart card system is being run by a privately owned corporation as a self-financing business, which perhaps makes it more expensive and less beneficial than systems where city-specific cards are used.

* Whilst this was the desired outcome electronic incompatibilities between OV-chipkaart cards issued by different transport companies mean that the reality is sometimes different to what was planned - as detailed under the heading Problems, Significant Fares Hikes - Plus A Few Reductions! further down this page.

The introduction of the OV-chipkaart has now progressed to a stage whereby it has replaced all other types of ticketing in most major conurbations and can also be used on almost all services in most rural areas. However paper based ticketing is still available on some rural bus services - including one area where it had to make a hasty come-back after the introduction of the OV-chipkaart saw passenger numbers plummet by 20% (see below). The main Dutch railway operator (NS) phased out paper tickets (for journeys wholly within the Netherlands) in July 2014, although some passengers making international journeys to / from neighbouring countries may still be issued with paper tickets.

There are several types of OV-chipkaart.

The simplest version is the Disposable OV-chipkaart which is made out of cardboard and meant for one-time use only. Intended to replace paper tickets these are primarily aimed at people who rarely use Dutch public transport, (for instance) someone who boards an Amsterdam tram or arrives at a railway station and needs to buy a ticket for immediate use. Disposable cards are also intended for special purposes and one-off marketing promotions. Depending on location disposable cards are sold with a range of different pre-loaded travel 'tokens'. By way of example the list of options can include a single / return journey, a one-day regional pass, a one-day nationwide rail pass or a three-day pass to all public transports in one city. Some transport operators may also give them out free of charge during emergency situations and to help passengers travel via alternative routes when railway services have been suspended by engineering works. Single-use cards can only be used with the one (previously added) travel product and are not capable of e-purse transactions. After use they should be thrown away - although as with paper tickets some people may wish to retain them as receipts or souvenirs and transport ticket collectors will instantly recognise their future nostalgic and financial value - especially if they feature special and "limited edition" decorative designs / images. Especially when bought for railway journeys passengers are charged a €1 surcharge to cover the cost of production and handing (installing in ticket machines, etc).

The Anonymous OV-chipkaart is a semi-permanent re-usable smart card aimed at people who travel more frequently. In addition to travel 'tokens' it can also store an electronic purse. This type of OV-chipkaart is transferable (ie: can be shared between family members, friends, etc.,) - although only one person can use it at a time. However it cannot be used for discounted travel, monthly or annual season tickets. Anonymous OV-chipkaarts are sold at many locations at and near railway / bus stations, as well as transport operators customer service desks, tobacconist shops (Tabacs), newsagents, supermarkets, etc; and once some financial value has also been added to the e-purse are available for bus / tram / metro travel immediately. At some locations their price includes some e-purse value. To use on the railways anonymous cards usually need validating before the can be used, this process includes selecting whether the system should charge 1st or 2nd class fares. This can be changed at a later date at a NS ticket machine.

The Personal OV-chipkaart is dedicated to one person and includes a photograph and the date of birth of the holder. Because of this it can be used by a passenger who is entitled to cheaper or zero rate fares (eg: children aged between 4 and 11, students, senior citizens or holders of discount cards). This is also the only type of OV-chipkaart which can hold a monthly or annual season ticket, and can be stopped if lost or stolen. Another feature is that the electronic purse can be set to automatically top up its balance when it drops below a certain level. With these cards the keeping tabs of the holder's every movement becomes a realistic proposition. Originally Personalised cards were only easy to buy by people resident in Holland who had a Dutch bank account, however in December 2011 the possibility was introduced for residents of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg (BeDuLux) to also be able to buy them, paying with iDEAL (a Dutch payment system), PayPal and / or credit cards. However automatic top-ups of the e-purse are only possible via iDEAL.

The Business / Corporate OV-chipkaart which is supplied by employers to their staff, for the purpose of business travel so as to simplify paying for business travel expenses. These are sourced from one of the specialist business travel solutions companies, who charge the business directly for the travel incurred. The employer can also stipulate whether the travel can be 1st or 2nd class. These should not be used for private travel, and if passengers also have their own personal or anonymous cards then they must be careful to use the correct one at the correct time!

OV-chipkaarts always remain the property of Trans Link Systems (TLS), which is a company that was created by the five largest Dutch public transport companies to implement a single payment system for public transport within Holland. The public can either source OV-chipkaarts direct from TLS (from the website) or through the various private or municipal transport operators. In all cases however TLS only sell the right to use their products, and on the basis that at any time the card holder's right to use it can be revoked - which effectively means be denied the ability to travel on public transport (except with a disposable card). The individual organisation which sells the OV-chipkaart determines its price.

TLS have a public assistance telephone helpline but in the time honoured way it charges premium rates.

If an OV-chipkaart needs replacing, perhaps because of loss or theft, the organisation from which it was bought will decide how much to charge for the replacement. Generally the e-purse value on anonymous cards is not refundable, although since personal cards which have been lost or stolen can be blocked so the e-purse value can be protected and refunded. Defective cards are replaced for free, with credit being returned to your bank account without handling fees being charged and season tickets transferred to the replacement cards. It is for the public transport company who supplied the card to decide how you pay your transport fares whilst waiting for the replacement card. Sometimes cards which do not work are not defective - the reason could be too many journeys where you have not checked out or there is a negative balance which means that more money needs adding to the e-purse.

Anonymous and personal OV-chipkaarts can be returned and the value of the electronic purse refunded. However there may be minimum refund limits (eg: €5.00) and handling fees and depending on the value of the refund it may be repaid in cash or directly to a Dutch bank account. When returning an OV-chipkaart people should be grateful to receive the refund of the electronic purse and not expect too much else - such as the cost of the card to also be refunded.

Using cash to add value to the electronic purse is free, although there might be a fee if you are using a credit / debit / charge card - especially for low values. The various transport operators have different policies with respect of plastic card / cash acceptance. Some locations will only accept Maestro chip & pin debit cards and coins, others will also accept paper money and / or credit cards as well. Ordinary people are not paid interest on the value of the OV-chipkaart e-purse, although no doubt some organisation somewhere benefits from the large amounts of money involved.

Limited Life - Replacements Are Chargeable!

OV-chipkaarts need periodic replacing, which effectively means buying new cards. Anonymous cards expire after 4 - 5* years; personal cards are valid for 5 years. This timescale has been determinated by the expected thermal, electrical and mechanical 'durability' of the material from which the cards are made, when subjected to what has been determined as 'normal' day-to-day use. The cost of replacement cards will depend on the charge set by the transport provider through which it is bought. As yet it is too soon to be sure how things will 'pan out' and it remains to be seen whether people replacing life-expired cards will be offered the replacements for free / at discounted rates. Perhaps a lot will depend on how much fuss the Dutch people create when the present cards start expiring en masse. Anonymous cards cannot be renewed, but a refund of unused credit can be made, exactly how depends on the amount and what the transport provider wishes to do. The cost of the card is non-refundable.

*The reason for the slight timeframe difference is unknown, however this is what the website says!...

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
A six zone paper 'Strippenkaart' strip ticket which was valid throughout Holland for local journeys.
As I was travelling with another person the ticket was validated twice, with zones 5 and 6 remaining unused.

Following the nationwide rollout of the OV-chipkaart these paper tickets were withdrawn in November 2011.
Ticket validators on an Amsterdam tram, as seen during the transition period when both the paper and OV-chipkaart smart card ticketing are being used. The paper ticket validator is No.1 and smart card reader No.2. The latter needs to be by the doorway as passengers using smart cards are required to check out when they leave the tram - even day and season ticket holders, despite there being no financial justification for their needing to do this (after all, they have already paid their fare).
Image & license: Sg sg1 / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 3.0
To allow for fare rises, increased security features of the ticket printing, (etc) the Strippenkaart sometimes expired, being replaced by versions which feature slightly different wordings, colours etc. The ticket seen above dates from 1981 and fares were charged in Dutch Guilders / Florins. A more recent 15 zone Strippenkaart dating from the € 'Euro' currency era can be seen at the Wikipedia link below.

Using the OV-chipkaart.

As with other RFID transport smart cards the OV-chipkaart requires placing on (or very near) a specialist card reader at the start and end of all journeys. The Dutch call this checking in and checking out. Passengers with season (or other pay-once ride-at-will) tickets are also required to check in and check out at the start and end of every journey, which many will find a nuisance when passing through 'open' stations where there are no ticket gates and mere possession of a valid paper ticket used to suffice. Financial and other penalties have been introduced to force these passengers to check in/out - see below.

Passengers using the electronic purse to pay fares as they travel ("pay as you go" - PAYG) would have had to validate paper tickets anyway, so especially at the start of the journey they will just do it in a different way. As before, failing to check in will result in being seen as someone who wanted to avoid paying the fare. PAYG passengers will also have to get used to a different style of fares calculation (see below) and checking out at the end of their journey. Because e-purse journeys are priced using an initial boarding fee so failing to check out can work out somewhat expensive - see below.

If it is not possible to check out because of a technical fault with all the card readers then users can obtain a refund of the boarding fee from the public transport company.

Distance-based Fares. Bye Bye Free Travel Periods. Bye Bye Zonal Calculations.

The paper-based strippenkaart charged fares based on zonal regions, with passengers cancelling the required number of zones from the paper ticket plus one extra. They then had a time limit to complete their journey during which they could travel freely within the zones. So it was like buying a ride-at-will ticket valid for set period of time.

The e-purse ticketing system uses a very different fare scale which is based upon distance travelled plus a fixed basic rate. Every journey is chargeable and the freedom to travel within a fixed time limit is no longer allowed. The basic rate is the same nationwide but the rate per kilometre is set by local governments in mutual agreement with public transport companies. Passengers who need to interchange to complete their journey must check out and then check in on every transport they use, and providing this is done within 35 minutes they are not supposed to be charged a further basic fare. This time period might be too short in some areas, especially in rural areas if the bus to which a person is transferring only runs hourly.

There is also a boarding fee which varies depending on the transport provider. Typically in urban areas this is €4.00. The Dutch mainline railway varies its boarding fee depending on whether the passenger has subscribed to any of its discounted (or free) travel plans, and other factors. The highest boarding fee is €20.00, although it reserves the right to increase this for people who have a bad record for trying to cheat the system. Boarding fees are charged when the passenger checks in and then when they check out the boarding fee - less the actual cost of the journey - is reimbursed. People who forget to check out end up being charged the full boarding fee. To check in successfully an OV-chipkaart must have sufficient balance - at least €0.00 - in the e-purse - even if there is a valid travel product (like a season ticket) on the card. A card with a zero balance can only check in once as it will then go negative and the e-purse will need reloading before the card will successfully check in again.

Another aspect of the distance based fares system is that if a person is travelling from a bus (tram) stop served by several routes, with any of them being suitable for them to use to reach their destination but one of them following a different, more direct route than the others, then the fare for the journey will vary depending on which transport the passenger used. So, if the more direct route only operates Monday - Friday daytime, then passengers who travel in the evenings and at weekends will pay higher fares. The difference may only be a few Euro cents, but passengers dislike being financially penalised for things which are not even within their control.

For many people paying fares electronically with the e-purse means that they no longer need to work out how many zones they will be travelling through when validating the Strippenkaart paper ticket. At railway stations they can walk straight to the platform and forget about ticket office queues, etc. Especially younger people see this as the 21st century way to pay fares and are very happy with it.

As a general theme passengers are protected from double reads when checking in/out as card readers have time limits (which vary between the different transport companies) that prevent a card from being used twice in quick succession.

The e-purse aspect of the OV-chipkaart is still in its early days and the various public transport companies retain the right to apply different terms as time progresses. It is assumed that this would be done in agreement with local governments.

Incomplete Transaction Charge.

Whether using a season ticket or the e-purse passengers who fail to check in or check out incur an incomplete transaction on their card. Cards which incur 12 incomplete transactions in a fortnight are disabled. To get them restored requires a visit to the local transport operator's sales and information desks.

Many people wonder why passengers who have prepaid season tickets should need to check in/out at locations where there are no turnstiles - after all, since their fare is fully paid so they cannot be accused of trying to avoid paying the correct fare for their journey. Most likely this is to help the transport industry determine how many people travelled on each transport so that the correct percentage of the total fares income can be paid to the various transport providers, and also to help transport planners map general travel trends so that they can ensure that the services best meet the needs of the passengers.

Early indications suggest that 2% of passengers are failing to check out, which is providing the transport operators involved a tidy cash bonus - its like winning an intermediate (ie: middle) prize on the lottery... easy money! In July 2013 some transport user groups launched an investigation to discover how much money transport companies are earning from people who did not check out after completing their journey.

This topic is also raised at the top of the page under the headline of Smart Card Operator Cash Flow Bonanza in the generic section about smart card tickets and can be reached at this link. A clickable link has also been placed there which returns back to here.

Railways and the OV-chipkaart

The introduction the OV-chipkaart has taken railway ticketing to a brand new level which is much beyond what was allowed with the paper Strippenkaart. As with urban transports passengers (who do not have season tickets) no longer need to buy a ticket before travelling - as long as they check-in at the start of their journey and check-out when they arrive at their destination then the e-purse will pay their fare for them. It will automatically adjust the fare according to the time of the journey and take into account of any discounted or free travel plans to which the passenger has subscribed and loaded on to their OV-chipkaart.

There are several railway operators in Holland who charge different boarding fees and fare scales. Most of these comments refer to the national system - Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS)

Before use on the railways the OV-chipkaart may need activating. This depends on from where the OV-chipkaart was sourced and how it is used. Passengers who bought a OV-chipkaart with the intention of using the e-purse from an NS ticket machine or service desk only need to add monetary value. The card will then be ready to use. However if the OV-chipkaart was sourced from another public transport operator then it will need activating before it can be used on the railways. This is a one-time process which is accomplished in one of two ways. One option is to add monetary value at an NS ticket machine (or service desk) and also choosing whether they plan to travel first or second class. The other option is for OV-chipkaart cards which already have sufficient credit on their e-purse. This too requires a visit to an NS ticket machine or service desk, and selecting the option to a product called 'pre-paid travel with NS'.

With many stations being fully open (ie: they only have free-standing OV-chipkaart card readers) so the railways see the electronic tickets as only being legally valid when they have been checked in/out. Otherwise a €35 fine is payable.

Passengers are not supposed to check in for their journey more than 30 minutes in advance of its departure, if they do then they are allowed to use the 60 minute rule to check out and then check in again nearer the correct time. However it is permitted to check in early in order to avoid paying a second basic rate when interchanging between services.

If someone checks in but then decides to not travel then after 3 minutes (but no longer than 60 minutes) they can check out again at the same station without being charged. After 60 minutes the boarding fee is deducted from the card. This also makes it simple for people who are not travelling to visit retail outlets within the fares paid area, and also results in a free platform ticket for when meeting arriving passengers, etc.,

Passengers should always have checked out within 6 hours of checking in. The significance of this is that under normal circumstances no railway journey should take as long as this, and if someone has forgotten to check out after completing a journey they then have a grace period in which to do this. However, this rule is instantly negated once the OV-chipkaart is used again, for instance when catching the bus from the station to home, and the 6 hour period expires at the end of the day.

The introduction of electronic ticketing on the railways has seen many changes to the off-peak discounted fares that were offered to passengers. As a general theme the older schemes were replaced with passengers now being able to buy new reduced cost or even free travel products which are loaded on personalised OV-chipkaart cards and then will be automatically invoked when checking in/out. These offers include 40% reductions on off-peak fares, various offers which include free weekend travel in the package, and more. A side effect of this is that visitors from outside Holland are less likely to be able to benefit from these offers and discounts, this especially affects senior citizens from outside Holland who during the days of paper ticketing were able to purchase the discounted travel products.

However there is a partial work-around... passengers travelling with someone who has bought an off-peak discount travel product are allowed to add a "travel along discount" to any personal or anonymous OV-chipkaart at the NS ticket vending machines, and then their next journey will be at the reduced rate. For return journeys the "travel along discount" will need adding again before checking in.

Passengers who travel in the mornings and used to buy two tickets (known as split fares) so that the part of the journey which was outside the morning rush hour could be charged at an off-peak rate are now automatically charged the cheaper fare for the portion of the journey that was during the off-peak hours.

Passengers are allowed to break their journey but only if the entire journey is completed in one day. Electronic ticketing systems will know if this rule is honoured or breached!

Return tickets, which used to be cheaper than two single tickets, are not available with fares paid with the smart card e-purse. It is claimed that single ticket fares were reduced so that return journey costs did not rise.

One other noteworthy change is that peak fares are now also charged in the evening rush hour period.

Passengers are still expected to check in/out when trains are replaced with buses, whether scheduled or otherwise. Sometimes there will be mobile card readers for this purpose.

Ticket Barriers & Station Access

Concurrent with the July 2014 full implementation of the electronic ticketing 90 stations which had previously been open became gated so that passengers are not be able to reach or leave the platforms without passing through a physical gate. Until this date many stations had gates which were permanently open.

At some locations this is causing much controversy because the stations may also be walking routes and / or may have catering and other retail outlets which will lose money if they cannot be accessed by non travellers. To make it easier for passengers to access these facilities it has been suggested that they could become fares NOT paid enclaves within the fares paid areas. This is possible because of the 60 minute rule which allows people to enter and leave the fares paid area within 60 minutes for free. This would also make it possible for passengers to avoid breaching the rule about not checking in more than 30 minutes in advance of their train. What happens with people who are not travelling and / or do not have an OV-chipkaart remains to be seen. It is assumed that passengers with e-tickets will be able to use the barcode scanner to enter and leave as required.


With NS having abolished normal paper tickets on 9th July 2014 passengers who simply do not need or want even an anonymous OV-chipkaart have the option of two other possible ticketing options. One of these is the disposable paper single-fare ticket, as detailed above. These tickets attract a €1 surcharge on ordinary fares to cover the cost of their production and handing (installing in ticket machines, etc). But for irregular passengers, visitors to Holland who simply do not need or want an OV-chipkaart so disposable tickets represent the easiest way to pay transport fares. This is probably the only way that someone can buy a ticket for someone else, especially if the ticket needs posting to them - such as a relative coming to visit from another town which may even be outside Holland.

The other possibility is the print-at-home e-ticket. These are typically chosen for longer distance travel and are also ideal for special promotion fares. e-tickets have to be purchased online in advance of travel and because they are personalised they are only valid if the passenger has both the e-ticket and valid proof of identity with them. These will be needed when tickets are checked by ticket inspectors. e-tickets are sold for travel on a specific day / date. They must be printed on A4 paper.

Passengers with e-tickets are not subject to the 30 minute rule that applies to users of the OV-chipkaart. At stations with closed ticket barriers passengers should use the bar code scanner to enter or leave the platform.

Although e-tickets can be bought from the Dutch Railways website this is only easy for people with Dutch bank accounts, as payment has to be made via iDEAL, which entails a direct transfer from a Dutch bank account. An alternative option is to buy them (as an international journey) from the website of the Belgian Railways as this accepts credit cards.

Free Platform Tickets

Especially for longer distance journeys non-passengers often like to walk right up to the train their friends / relatives are travelling on so as to be able to wave them goodbye or welcome them if at the destination station. The OV-chipkaart includes a platform ticket function whereby no charge is made when a person checks in and then between 3 and 60 minutes later checks out at the same station. If a person is longer than 60 minutes they are charged the boarding fee.

Anonymous Online Journey Receipts

Even users of anonymous OV-chipkaart cards are able to create an online account and print out journey data receipts which can be submitted to employers and even used on a tax return as travel expenses. All that is needed to create an account is a user name and password. Once the account has been activated the user can log in and from the list of journeys select which ones which they would like to be included in the printed receipt.

However, whilst no personal details are required the act of creating an account still requires that the person has a valid email address, and it is possible that the ip address of the computer where the online transaction is carried out is also recorded. Both of these leave electronic trails which can be used to identify someone and their location.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Ticket barriers / gates at a metro station in Amsterdam.
Seen in September 2006 they were open because at the time the OV-chipkaart ticketing system was not yet being used by passengers.
Note the yellow ticket validator - this is so that passengers using a paper 'Strippenkaart' can validate their ticket.
Concurrent with the introduction of the electronic ticketing has been the introduction of ticket gates at 90 Dutch mainline railway (NS) stations. This image shows Amsterdam Central station whilst the gates were being installed.
Image & license: Wikipedia encyclopædia. Public Domain.

Problems, Significant Fares Hikes - Plus A Few Reductions!

The implementation of the OV-chipkaart has been riddled with problems, and the cost of the project is proving to be massively more expensive than originally anticipated.

The Dutch people were promised that the introduction of the OV-chipkaart would not see fares rise - but in Amsterdam the former basic charge for travelling even a few stops on a tram soared from €1.45 (€1.60 if bought on the bus or tram) to €2.60. This is because the trams no longer sell single-journey tickets - instead passengers must buy a one-hour ride-at-will ticket which is a very different product. In addition, there are complaints about railway fares having increased because return tickets (which are cheaper than two single tickets) are not available for OV-chipkaart users.
Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2010/01/public_transport_prices_under.php. .

In August 2009 newspaper reports talked of 50% of the ticket machines breaking down on a daily basis.
Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2009/08/transport_smart_card_machines.php. .

Despite the intended multi-operator integration so many transport companies have developed their own system and fee structure that passengers are faced with a complex system of charges which costs them money. For example, people changing trains from the mainline NS Dutch railway to a privatised Veolia train have to pay a second basic fee because the two rail companies have different systems. The same applies to passengers using single tickets bought on Amsterdam's trams when changing to privatised Connexxion buses.
Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2009/11/labour_mps_complain_about_tran.php. .

It is reported that it is not possible to load several season tickets from different transport companies on the same OV-chipkaart card (eg: GVB Amsterdam urban travel and NS mainline trains) so that passengers need several OV-chipkaart cards.
Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2013/07/transport_user_groups_probe_co.php. .

There are also reports of wrong fares being charged when passengers check out, (to be pedantic, it is the wrong refund value of the boarding fee). When this occurs passengers can apply for a refund from the public transport company, however this can only be paid to a Dutch bank account.

There are also reports of problems caused by the card readers not being set to the correct time and even date, especially on trams and buses, so that passengers end up having their deposits retained.

The question of card readers being set to the wrong date and time can occur with paper ticketing systems too, especially those where passengers buy tickets which must be validated before use. This happened to me once, in Germany where the mechanical ticket validator stamped a time and date from a few days previous. I was saved from a serious problem because I noticed this and when I visited the customer service enquiry desk I was able to prove that I had not used the ticket on the stamped date. This was because the date I purchased the ticket was also printed on it - and it is not possible to validate a ticket a few days before it has even been bought! Normally tickets do not show the date of purchase, especially not when bought from ticket vending machines located close to bus and tram stops, but my ticket was bought from a touch screen machine located in a station ticket hall which sold a wide range of different tickets that were then printed at the time of purchase.

However it is not all bad news - under the distance based system some fares have come down, especially where a relatively short journey had previously crossed a zonal fares boundary so the journey used to cost the price of travelling in two rather than one zone.

These links will also be of interest, especially the reader's comments.
Information sources: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/06/dutch_rail_to_switch_to_smart.php .

In August 2013 a report claimed that since 2011, when the Strippenkaart was replaced by the OV-chipkaart, fares had risen very significantly, with the cost per kilometre rising by 47% in The Hague and 38% in Amsterdam. Nationwide the rise is about 8%. The disparity in increase percentages is because the OV-chipkaart makes it possible to set the kilometre charge ( with the Strippenkaart it was set nationally) and the higher prices are related to budget deficits in the big cities which have seen subsidies fall and increases in the percentage of overall transport costs that comes out of passenger farebox revenues.
Information sources: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2013/08/bus_and_tram_travel_is_much_mo.php .
http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/dutch-news/Bus-and-tram-travel-is-much-more-expensive_271230.html .

Socially-Exclusive Activation Routine Deters People From Travelling On Public Transport

People who have difficulty understanding present-day technologies and / or who do not use the Internet are finding themselves being disadvantaged because some activities (such as activating a personalised OV-chipkaart) must be done online. First a person must create an account at the OV-chipkaart website, then they need to make a 'purchase' from the webshop, with the item being bought called activate my chipcard. Then they must tell the system where they wish to 'collect' the activation, which will either be a ticketing machine or transport company service desk. The first blog linked below details one person's experience of trying to use their card on the railways, and having to activate it before being able to do so. They also complain that the confirmation email which they are supposed to have received within an hour actually took a day to arrive. The second blog linked below also talks of senior citizens finding the whole process to be so user unfriendly that they have given up using public transport. It is too difficult. The simple option of going to a customer service desk and having all this done for a person is not offered.
Information source: http://gray-um.com/tag/ov-chipkaart/ ..

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Amsterdam Duivendrecht station is one of several where the metro and mainline railway share the same 'fare paid' area and with the rise of smart card ticketing passengers using the street entrances must use the correct OV-chipkaart card readers for the transport they used. Two card readers side by side, one for the metro, the other for the mainline railways - this being something that has to be done this way because of the different value of the deposits taken when checking in. Woe betide passengers using the wrong card reader - this could result in an expensive mistake.

Image by Flickr user hilderik71. © Copyright hilderik71. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hilderik71/3925723119/ .
Reproduced here with permission, with grateful thanks.

Stations With Shared Fares Paid Areas.

Some railway stations have OV-chipkaart readers for more than one transport provider located in close proximity. Passengers must be careful to use the correct one!

In some conurbations the station's fares paid area is shared between a mainline railway and the urban metro. Especially where the metro and mainline railway benefit from cross-platform interchange passengers changing between trains MUST remember to check out on the correct card reader for the transport provider they just used and then check in for the transport provider they are about to use. If using the same card then this must be done in the correct order otherwise they will be financially penalised. (This must be done everywhere but its especially easy to forget do this when the trains share the same island platform) As of 2013 investigations are underway to work out how to make seamless through journeys possible, so that interchanging passengers will only need to check in/out at each end of their entire journey.

Passengers wanting to travel between two stations both of which are served by direct trains operated by two (or more) transport providers would think that it should be possible to take which ever train came first. Unfortunately this is not necessarily so. Instead they need to choose whose trains to travel on when they arrive at the station and then check-in using its card readers - and remember to use the correct card readers when they check out afterwards! This also applies to passengers travelling on the Amstelveen route where Amsterdam trams and metro provide a joint service - although here the card readers on the platform are for the metro whilst tram passengers must use the card readers inside the tram.

Long-term Data Storage!

Electronic travel records of people's movements using both public transport with the OV-chipkaart and private motoring distance-based user toll information are all being stored for seven (7) years. This will help with any issues related to possibly incorrect charging years after the event. However this is probably not the reason why such data is being held.

Civil liberty campaigners are concerned that because the travel records can be accessed by the police, judicial system, tax service, etc., so these organisations will find such data to be veritable goldmines of possibly incriminating information, with probably innocent people being seen as guilty until proven otherwise.

The official mantra may be that only criminals will have something to fear, but who wants a knock at the door at 5am in the morning because electronic records show that they just happened to be near the scene of a major crime?

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
In Holland there has been some criticism because of defective OV-chipkaart machines and readers, as seen here.
Image & license: Wikipedia encyclopædia. Public Domain.
As a general theme stations at ground level are only being equipped with free-standing card readers, such as seen here. Electronic ticket barriers were considered too dangerous, as they would encourage fare-dodgers to bypass them and access the platforms by walking on the tracks.
Image & license: Smiley.toerist / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 3.0

Passenger Numbers Plummet 20%! Paper Tickets Return - For Some!

It should be noted that in many parts of Holland there still remain some other ways to pay public transport fares, especially bus fares, as outside the big towns and cities some local bus companies still sell paper based tickets which are accepted on their own services only.

In the Dutch region of Limburg the switch to the RFID OV-chipkaart coincided with a 20% reduction in passenger numbers which was attributed to the public's dislike of the Big Brother police state RFID ticketing system and the way in which even passengers with prepaid day-tickets must check-in/out every time. In the end the previous paper-based day tickets were reintroduced.

Future Expansion - Travel Now / Pay Later Accounts, Bar Codes, 'Only' 75% Satisfaction

OV-chipkaart acceptance has also extended beyond public transports to car parking, bicycle and Green Wheels electric car hire (rental). In 2011 there were trials with the e-purse at other locations as well, and with permission having been granted by the financial regulators at the Netherlands Bank so it was planned that in autumn 2013 that OV-chipkaart acceptance would widen.

In March 2014 it was revealed that only 75% of passengers are happy using the OV-chipkaart, with reasons for dissatisfaction including difficulty checking out, forgetting to check out, difficulty with the way in which excess payments and refunds are handled and difficulty adding value to the e-purse. So in an attempt to make life easier for these passengers as well as create new ways for all passengers to pay their fares trials are to start in Rotterdam with travel accounts (where fares are collected from bank accounts on a monthly basis) and contactless bankcard acceptance. Initially these trails involve a small number of people, but if all goes well they will be available to virtually all passengers later in 2014. Also being discussed are other ways to pay for travel, such as using a barcode, with the suggestion that a theatre could include discounted travel in the overall entrance fee, with the passenger using a barcode that is printed on the admission ticket to pay their fare.

Information sources: http://www.nltimes.nl/2014/03/03/rotterdam-experiments-travel-account/ .
http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/dutch-news/Travel-now-pay-later-concept-tested-by-public-transport-smart-card-_286585.html .

Facial Recognition Cameras

Although not directly linked to ticketing, in 2011 Rotterdam trialed the use of facial recognition cameras for when passengers board trams. The idea was stated as being to alert the tram driver if someone who a court of law had banned from using public transport (perhaps for fares dodging or being violent to other passengers) was boarding the tram. However, as the comments section points out, the technology would be so easy to extend to photographing and attempting to identify everyone when they board a tram, bus, enter a railway station, etc., and / or when they check-in/out.

Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/09/facial_recognition_cameras_to.php .

The reader comments also make for interesting reading; indeed there will be some people who understand wider long-term trends and therefore see this as just another stepping stone to George Orwell's 1984.

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Europe-wide Compatibility - the 'IFM Project'.

The objective of the Interoperable Fare Management (IFM) Project is to provide travellers with shared types of contactless media throughout Europe. The project was launched in January 2008 and it is co-funded by the European Commission under the 7th Community Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and DG INFSO under the IST Programme, ICT for Transport.

In plain English the aim of the IFM project is seamless travel throughout Europe on a single smart card. In May 2010 an innovative international multi-application demonstration saw tickets from three national transport ticketing applications - British ITSO, French NaviGO and German Core Application (VDV-KA) - being loaded onto a card, proving that a single smart card can be used for travel on local public transport networks in different countries.

There is more information about the IFM Project on their website at http://www.ifm-project.eu/ ..

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Elsewhere globally the list of towns and cities using RFID smart card ticketing systems is increasing, especially in the more technically advanced nations, and already the list is too long to name them all. However what is happening in New Zealand may be of relevance to Britain - especially towns and cities where the same on-street competition between bus companies is to be found.

Wellington, New Zealand.

New Zealand operates a deregulated bus system where the bus companies compete against each other for passengers, much like Great Britain outside of London and Northern Ireland.

In Wellington the RFID ticket follows the nautical theme of Hong Kong and London (see below) and is known as Snapper.

Snapper's cards come in several variants and colours; Snapper Red is for adults and secondary school children and Snapper Green is for primary and intermediate school children. Children using a Snapper Green automatically receive child fare discounts on some bus services. Snapper Green can also be used to buy items from shops where Snapper is accepted, including some school tuck shops.

As well as normal credit card sized cards which are normally kept in wallets there are several variants which can be kept on keyrings or hung from lanyards and mobile phones. These include the Snapper Sprat which is an extra tough / robust small Snapper card and the Snapper USB which a user can also plug in to a computer's USB port to check their balance and top up using the special My Snapper computer software. Snapper USB is available in Windows and Applemac variants.

Other items also available from the Snapper shop include a tough Snapper Holder which features a ring that allows a credit card sized Snapper card to be attached to a key ring or lanyard without having to punch a hole in it, a Snapper branded Lanyard, and the Snapper Feeder which a user can plug in to a computer's USB port and in conjunction with the special My Snapper computer software top-up a Snapper's e-purse, and more. See below.

Snapper is also compatible with the NFC feature of some Android smartphones. This requires the free Snapper Mobile app which can be downloaded from Google Play. This app also includes a widget which can be placed on the smartphone's home screen and displays the Snapper balance, and if you have a travel pass then also how many days remain on it.

Some Snapper Mobile functions are only available on Touch2pay smartphones which have a Touch2Pay SIM from 2degrees and / or next generation Snapper cards which have a '+' symbol on the top right hand corner of the card.

Since iPads and iPhones are not NFC enabled Snapper Mobile is not available for Apple users.

Once a Snapper card has been purchased either funds need adding to its e-purse or some other type of travel ticket needs adding; then it is ready to use.

Feed Me, Feed Me, Feed Me Now!

With Snapper being named after a fish / a living being it is perhaps not surprising that adding monetary value is known as 'Feeding', although the term ' top up' is also used.

There are several ways to feed a Snapper.

  • Doing so at a Snapper agent or Snapper service centre costs 25 cents per top up. The fee covers the cost of the retailer providing the top up service and associated bank charges. Snapper agents can also check balances and some can even apply a travel pass to Snapper cards.

  • Doing so at a self-service Snapper kiosk using EFTPOS (debit card) is free and the minimum top up amount is 1 cent. Note however that the kiosks are a very rare breed - at the time of this update (July 2013) the website listed just four (4) kiosks in Wellington plus one in Auckland, in a girls school to which the public are not admitted.

  • Another option involves either using a Snapper USB or a Snapper Feeder USB dongle which plugs in to a computer and using the free software downloaded from the Snapper website. This software is available in Windows and Apple Macintosh but no longer Linux variants. When used it establishes a secure connection which is outside of web browsers (although of course an internet connection is still also required). Topping up online using a Snapper Feeder or Snapper USB and a credit card is free. Although the Snapper Feeder costs to buy a household would only need the one, no matter how many Snapper cards are held by the family members. Parents can update their children's Snapper cards in the evenings from home, rather than enduring the hassle of finding an open local shop during precious family time. Alternatively in the office a Snapper Feeder would facilitate work colleagues (one at a time) topping up their personal Snapper cards during tea breaks, etc. It is also possible to check balances and purchase a travel pass / apply it to a Snappercard.

  • Using an Android NFC enabled smartphone and the special app that is downloaded from the Google Play. In addition to topping up (without service charge) it is also possible to check e-purse balances, buy a travel pass, see the status of travel passes travel concessions.

The maximum monetary value which a Snapper can 'eat' is NZ$300.

Snapper's e-purse is accepted to pay fares on all trolleybus and some motorbus services within Wellington, at railway station ticket offices and at a growing list of retail establishments. Snapper can also be used to pay car parking charges, ferry and taxi fares, although there may be an electronic transaction fee which varies from taxi operator to taxi operator.

Passengers using Snapper must tag-on at the start of their journey and tag-off at the end. To indicate a successful tag or 'read' of the RFID smart card a green circle illuminates on the card reader and a beep is heard (two beeps for children and concessions) and at the same time the system automatically work outs the correct fare. On buses tagging-off can be done at either the front or the back of the vehicle.

Since June 2009 some bus companies have given a 20% discount on adult fares paid for using Snapper. One bus company also offers discounted transfers to other buses on its network. Passengers who do not tag-off do not receive any of these benefits and depending in bus company may be charged a full fare as if they rode the bus from one end of the route to the other end.

Snapper the whole family in one go!

When boarding a bus if the lead passenger advises the bus driver before tagging-on then one Snapper card can be used to pay for up to five passengers, who could be a mix of two adults and three children. But do remember to tag-off afterwards, otherwise no-one will benefit from any discounts and they may all end up being charged a full fare! It is only possible to Snapper multiple people in one transaction when all fares are paid for from the e-purse. In other words, a travel pass and e-purse cannot be used at the same time.

Snapper is a commercial product, controlled by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infratil (a major New Zealand business,) who also control NZ Bus, who own the former Stagecoach operations in New Zealand and have a near monopoly of the buses in Wellington - except in the suburbs of Mana and Newlands where an incompatible smart card system is used.

Registration of Snapper cards is optional. If done the benefits include online account access and transaction history, plus greater protection for a Snapper which swims free from its owner and becomes lost - or was stolen.


If there is insufficient money on a Snapper cards's e-purse when tagging-off, or a passenger fails to tag-off, or a passenger travels outside the area covered by a Snapper travel pass and an extension fare is charged which is greater the value stored on the e-purse, then something known as an 'IOU' is incurred.

IOU's are easy to resolve - just top up the e-purse, and then the next time the Snapper card is used to tag-on the IOU is repaid.

However travel passes will not work on Snapper cards which have an uncleared IOU.


Snapper was being rolled out in Auckland - already some shops accept it - and it was planned that during 2010 it will be available on NZ bus operated services too. However the choosing by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) of a different smart card system called Hop threw a spanner in the works. Compatibility issues have dogged plans to integrate the Snapper and Hop technologies and by July 2013 the future remain uncertain.

The ARTA is New Zealand's only regional transport authority and has the power to require their system to be accepted on buses in Auckland, as well as railways and ferries. Whether some buses will end up with two smart card readers, for two different systems, remains to be seen.

There is more information about Snapper on their website at http://www.snapper.co.nz/. .

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RFID Ticketing in Britain.

Smart card and RFID ticketing systems are being introduced in Britain too. For London with its regulated transport system it was relatively easy for TfL to enforce the use of smart card technology on the transports it directly controls, although getting the mainline railways to join in has proven to be more challenging. After all, why should they invest in something which they saw could actually disbenefit them financially and then was found to not even be compatible with what they are planning for themselves? The financial comment refers to the ability of the electronic ticketing to help determine modal usage in a far more accurate way than was previously possible, with that information then being used to accurately and fairly apportion the 'pot' of money created from sales of the Travelcard season tickets between the various private transport companies depending on how many people actually use each operator's transports, with this potentially resulting in some companies having their share of the 'pot' reduced, whilst others receive more.

Outside of London the deregulated nature of public transport and the fear of the Governments' Office of Fair Trading crying foul / claiming that a 'big business cartel' which is against the public's best interests might be being formed has made the creation of anything but operator-specific smart card systems very difficult. As it is, deregulation had allowed individual transport operators to all-but 'kill off' the former integrated paper ticketing systems in areas such as Tyne & Wear.

However in some areas the local governments have successfully introduced smart cards which several bus operators accept, even though the bus operators remain commercial competitors. For instance, in Cheshire, where the Cheshire Travelcard is administered by Cheshire County Council in partnership with participating bus companies. These are obtainable from the County Council by filling in an application form and supplying a passport type photograph. In addition to various season tickets these cards have an e-purse and many bus operators offer a discount when paying using the e-purse rather than cash. Every time a passenger pays a bus fare with the e-purse they are given a paper receipt which also shows the remaining balance. The RFID Cheshire Travelcard dates from 2002, since when it has been updated to become compliant with ITSO, as described below.

One significant drawback of the Cheshire Travelcard is the lack of an anonymous Travelcard.

Several bus companies have introduced their own smart card systems. One example of these was the Plymouth CityBus Freedom Card. This was a personalised card with the user's photograph, and could be used for both e-purse and period tickets. The bus company also used these cards to gather passenger details and bus-usage data, for the purpose of ensuring that their services meet passenger needs and travel patterns. This was in the small print - which frequently people do not bother to even look at.

The Plymouth CityBus Freedom Card was introduced in 2005 but in 2011 it was replaced with the ITSO compliant smart card operated by its parent company (the Go-Ahead group) which is called The Key. Unlike the Freedom Card, The Key does not use its e-purse, so it can only store pre-paid tickets (day / week / longer time period). An application form has to be completed to source a The Key smart card, however variants which do not have photographs can be shared with other people providing that they match its intended users (ie: adults can only use an adult smart card). Variants with photographs are fully personalised. The first The Key smart card is supplied free of charge whilst a £5 charge is levied to replace a lost or damaged card. Faulty The Key smart cards are replaced free of charge and Plymouth Citybus will also reimburse any reasonable travel costs incurred using their services over the period the card was unable to be used. Passengers need to retain all tickets as proof of expenditure.

Plymouth Citybus The Key smart cards are automatically cancelled after a year of inactivity. Replacement The Key smart cards will cost £5. Dayrider and Multi-trip travel credits are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase, but the clock is always reset when topping up and adding further travel credits to the smart card.

It is also possible to buy Plymouth Citybus bus tickets using an app that is installed on iPhone and Android devices. One of the terms and conditions of this facility is that if a passenger is unable to produce a valid ticket (for instance because of a flat battery or loss of mobile phone signal) then they must pay their fare another way and resolve the issue later. In Plymouth local shops displaying the Paypoint symbol also sell paper bus tickets.

The Key brand is owned and operated by the British public transport company Go-Ahead Group. It is available to customers on the majority of the deregulated bus services operated by Go-Ahead Group in towns and cities across England. In addition, the railway franchises which are also part of the Go-Ahead Group (Southern and London Midland) train operators have introduced The Key on their services as well. The other British transport conglomerates are also introducing their own RFID smart card ticketing systems on their services, however since the intended purpose of this page is for a broad overview using a few selected examples rather than detailed information on all systems so they are not detailed here.

Dating from 2000, Nottingham is credited with having Britain's first smart card ticket, and although renamed this still exists - and can be used on the trams too. One of the options includes a novel form of season ticket where passengers buy blocks of non-consecutive days of travel (3, 5, 10, 20, 100), so if a person works just a few days a week then they will receive some of the benefits of a season ticket. The savings range from 6% - 34% compared to paying cash fares, although the savings are even greater with normal period tickets. All types of easyrider Citycard are personalised with the user's name; many also have their photograph as well. Holders can also use their cards for some local council services, such as library rental, and free swimming. Students of the Nottingham Trent University (NTU) can also use their university ID cards on Nottingham City Transport and the NET tram. Students can also use their cards as an e-purse, and receive 10% off in NTU cafes. Included in the other bus companies which operate in Nottingham is Trent Barton Buses who have their own and incompatible Mango smart card. These are obtained by opening an account with the bus company. There is an £3 administration fee. Mango features an e-purse which offers its users a 25% discount on normal fares. There is a daily maximum charge of £8.00 if the Mango card is used before 9am or £5.00 if only used after 9am. Because fares are distance based (using GPS satellite data) so passengers must remember to touch off at the end of their journeys, or they will be charged as if they had travelled to all the way to the buses' destination. The minimum top-up amount is £10.00, with the e-purse holding up to £250. Mango cards can be shared with relatives and friends, although only one person can use it at a time. Mango Users must allow up to 24 hours for top-up data to reach their cards (when topping up from local shops it can be faster). Likewise journey data takes a day before it is visible online. Lost, stolen etc., cards are stopped at midnight on the day this is reported to the bus company, after which stored value can be transferred to the replacements (less £3 admin fee). Cards are valid for up to two years after their last use for travel. During this time they can be returned for the stored value to be refunded. After two years of non-use they expire and the stored value is lost.

Because the Government is in favour of electronic ticketing systems it decided to help 'kick-start' their introduction in the largest English conurbations, these being Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol. The chosen method was to invite the relevant Public Transport Executives / local governments to bid for a share in a Transport Investment Fund (TIF), which is a 'pot' of taxpayer's money that has been allocated to transport investment. Because of devolution it is for the Scottish, Welsh and N. Irish to make their own arrangements via their respective Parliaments / Assemblies.

However, the bidding process meant that precious funds would be spent without a guarantee of success. At a time when the nation's coffers are already beyond threadbare there are those who would rather different - less competitive - ways could have been found to decide how the funds were shared out, as bidding processes are expensive, requiring the services of highly paid consultants to write the bid... and as a result so already there is less money to actually get the ticketing system installed.

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One specification requirement that the Government wants to see adhered to is that all local systems are compatible with the integrated system also being rolled out on the railways. Then, at least in theory, there will be one e-ticket - which may be plastic card shaped, or carried on key fobs, or in USB flash drives, (in the right hand / subdermal?) etc... - that can be used nationwide.

ITSO: Smart Card Compatibility For The Entire Nation.

To ensure that all future RFID smart card ticketing systems here in Britain are compatible a technical standard known as ITSO has been created.

The acronym ITSO stands for Integrated Transport Smart card Organisation and is also the name for a non-profit membership organisation whose objectives are to develop and maintain the ITSO Specification.

ITSO was established as a result of discussions between various British Passenger Transport Authorities concerning the lack of standards for interoperable smart card ticketing. These discussions grew to include other authorities, transport operators and Government. Today ITSO membership covers the breadth of the transport arena including transport operators (both bus and train operating companies), suppliers to the industry, local authorities and public transport executives. Supported by the Department for Transport, ITSO has links with major transport industry organisations and established smart card schemes in the UK and overseas.

ITSO refers to the format of data held on the card. How it is used is a different matter. So, whilst in theory it should be possible to use one smart card ticket just about anywhere - especially in mainland Britain and possibly Northern Ireland too - experience with the multi-operator Dutch OV-chipkaart leaves a big unanswered question mark. Admittedly the Dutch are still rolling their system out - and such teething issues are always possible - nevertheless ITSO needs to be able to be at least as versatile and robust as paper ticketing systems (even if it does things in a different way), as well as cope with passengers travelling on split tickets who do not actually alight from the trains at intermediate stations, be compatible with open stations which are unstaffed for all or part of the day, stations where the ticket sales and smart card reader facilities might be deactivated during the quieter hours, and much more...

One of the first ITSO systems was the Yorcard pilot scheme which was used in South and West Yorkshire. It was commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) and a joint venture between South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (Metro). The pilot's aim is to gather information to inform the DfT's work on multi-modal smart cards. It operated on ten school bus services and seven regular bus services in Sheffield. It began in September 2007, was extended to some rail services in December 2008 and ended in October 2009.

At the present time (July 2013) ITSO compatible ticketing is slowly being rolled out in a few areas, such as in Cheshire, and on the 'free travel' local transport passes given to senior citizens. As time progresses the rollout may overtake the information on this page, although periodic attempts will be made to keep up to date.

Nationwide e-purse?

What would be beneficial for many people would be if they could use the financial value of the e-purse anywhere nationwide. This would truly make for a useful travel product that could be used nationwide.

Only Personalised Cards?

It seems that most implementations of ITSO compatible smart cards require the card to be personalised, often also with a photograph. Whilst this is understandable for passengers who benefit from concessionary fares there is no reason why there should not be anonymous adult cards which can be shared by friends and family members. These exist and work well in London and in Holland - why not for the UK as well?

There is an ITSO website at http://www.itso.org.uk/ ..

The one major British smart card ticketing system which does not conform to ITSO standards is the London Oyster system. This is because it was developed and launched 'too soon'. This is unfortunate, but represents a typical scenario for those who are amongst the first with something new (as with Hong Kongs' Octopus, as detailed above). In September 2010 the Department for Transport confirmed that it has been making payments to Transport for London so that Oyster smart card readers can be upgraded to accept the future national card. This implies that Oyster will almost certainly be retained for travel solely within London, whilst visitors from elsewhere in Britain will be able to use their national card. However whether both types of card offer identical ticketing choices (range of ticket features) and fares remains to be seen.

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It Is Important to Keep the Civil Liberty & Human Rights Advocates Happy.

The various Civil Liberty & Human Rights groups have expressed very strong concerns about the probability of big brother using electronic smart card ticketing systems to keep tabs on people. Their worries would be easily mitigated if there was a legal requirement for travellers to be given the option of impersonal smart card tickets which charge the same fares as the personalised variants but - like paper tickets - do not record the holders' identity.

For passengers using discounted travel schemes, such as the railcards offered to people aged 16-25 and over 60, a solution would be a requirement to follow present procedures and carry a separate authority card, with fares purchased at the discounted rate being electronically placed on both the smart card and 'behind the scenes' computers without any personal identifiable data.

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EMV, NFC, Other Contactless Payment Systems.

In addition to operator-specific smart cards some transport operators plan to allow passengers to pay travel fares using EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard, Visa) contactless RFID credit, charge and debit cards. NB: Only cards which have a RFID chip can be used for contactless payments - not all cards include this facility.

EMV payment systems are already well known at places such as coffee shops where low value purchases can be made using a credit / charge / debit plastic cards, mobile telephones and other devices in which there is a compatible NFC (Near Field Communications) chip. Extending this to public transport would mean that passengers do not need to carry any operator-specific smart cards.

Bank cards using the EMV protocol are already accepted to pay fares on most of London's buses and trains. Experience so far is that this facility is proving popular, especially for irregular passengers who did not have a London Oyster card, visitors to London who do not wish to obtain an Oyster card, and those who do have an Oyster card but had left it at home! It helps that passengers paying using an EMV card are charged the same fare as passengers paying with the Oyster card e-purse.

For the railways paying fares with EMV cards and other contactless NFC devices is perhaps more suited to low-ish value urban journeys than higher value InterCity journeys, especially since the latter would likely trigger the need for validation using a pin code - this being something that (as yet) is not possible at ticket gates. Of course it is possible that in time other ideas and solutions will be found to permit this.

The use of EMV, NFC and other wave and go contactless payment systems is very much an emerging technology and is looked at in greater detail below, after London.

Dateline: August 2013

Single Use Smart cards, Print-At-Home Tickets and e-tickets

Whilst local / urban ticketing is fairly well suited to smart card based e-purse solutions, some of our longer distance mainline railway operators have reservations as to whether this would represent their optimal way forward. In part this is because e-purses are unlikely to be compatible with the many discounted special offers which must be purchased in advance of travel. Whilst these tickets could perhaps be added as travel tokens to a smart card the concerns of the British railway companies are based around issues such as ease of passengers reading the data themselves and ensuring that they travel on the correct trains and - if they have fixed seat reservations - sit in the correct seats.

One solution would be to emulate the Dutch railways and provide passengers with single use smart cards that have the ticketing and seating information printed on them. However such tickets are likely to be more expensive to produce than the existing magnetic stripe tickets, and it is the aim of the transport operators to reduce costs - not increase them!

Other solutions include mobile telephone e-tickets and print at home tickets, as these still provide passengers with a written message detailing the specific train (plus reserved seat, if applicable) for which the passenger has bought a ticket. These ticketing solutions will require electronic ticket gates at stations to be specially adapted to be able to read them, although passengers with heavy luggage and passengers frightened of making a mistake (such as catching the wrong train) will be much happier avoiding cumbersome electronic gates and instead having their ticket checked by a real life human at the gateline.

Many passengers already buy tickets online and then collect them from a nominated station, and for passengers without home printers of the required quality or smartphones so this already proven viable solution offers many unbeatable benefits.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Having investigated the options some British passenger train operating companies have decided that smart cards are simply incapable of meeting all their needs.
In addition to existing paper ticketing systems two new alternative solutions which have also been found to be successful and liked by many passengers involve the use print-at-home and bar code (or QR code) on mobile telephone tickets. These images were taken at a row of automated ticket gates which includes several that have been modified to accept QR code tickets - as well as normal 'magnetic stripe' paper tickets - instead of smart cards.

For Technophobes

Whilst self-service ticketing systems can be very convenient for ordinary people and offers transport providers many financial benefits, it is important to remember that some passengers find machines confusing (this includes both self-service ticket vending machines at stations and computers) and will prefer to still use ticket purchase solutions which involve interacting with real-life humans. This could either be by means of a telephone call centre (with the tickets being posted to their home) or by visiting a railway station and buying from a real-life intelligent human (not android look-alike) located in a ticket office.

Customer Service Centres

Although this will apply to only a small percentage of ticketing transactions and journeys it is also important that there are robust customer service arrangements for when an issue does arise. Telephone call centres should not involve long waits on hold and should use normal geographic telephone numbers that can be included in free calling plans - and contact should also be available online, such as via Skype and equivalents. At busier stations it is reasonable to expect walk-in customer service facilities as well.

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Split Ticket Journeys

An issue which has already been identified in Holland is the question of what happens when a person travels with 'split' tickets. This is where a journey is paid for using several point-to-point paper tickets which are valid for part of the journey but when used 'back to back' allows a longer journey to be made at an overall fare that is cheaper than when just the one through ticket has been bought.

As previously detailed, the Dutch often bought split tickets because they began their journey in the morning at a time when full fares were being charged and bought several tickets so that they could take advantage of off-peak fares for the sections of their journey which were eligible for off-peak fares. As part of the switch away from buying point-to-point tickets prior to travelling to the e-purse pay as you go system where the correct fare is deducted at the end of the journey the ticketing computers were programmed to automatically charge a mix of peak / off-peak rates appropriately according to the time the journey started and ended. But this solution is only possible when the fare for the entire journey is being paid using the e-purse - or a combination of prepaid season ticket (that has been loaded onto that OV-chipkaart card) and the e-purse

Here in Britain ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) rules require that passengers using split tickets are allowed to stay on the train at boundary stations (where one ticket ends and the next starts) and of course when passengers have paper tickets in their wallets and purses so there is no problem. Print at home or mobile phone e-tickets are also compatible with this rule, and (it is hoped) the Dutch system will be emulated for through journeys paid for using an ITSO card's e-purse. It is also assumed that as in London it will be possible to combine season etc., tickets and the e-purse in the one journey, with the e-purse only be charged for part of the journey.

However, there is an incompatibility when for part of the journey the fare is being paid using the smart card e-purse, and the rest using a different ticketing solution or the e-purse on a different smart card, as e-purses always require passengers to check in/out at each end of that journey - which is not possible when a person is staying on the same train. It would be iniquitous to penalise such passengers for going into default by not alighting from the first train and checking in/out before catching the next train. This situation has already been reached for journeys that are partially in London (using the RFID Oyster system's e-purse) and partially outside London (using a mainline railway paper ticket), although it could be that because the London Oyster ticketing operator is not an ATOC member so therefore the rules do not apply to any tickets paid for using its ticketing 'products'.

Another issue which needs resolving is how the system will cope with passengers who have multiple tickets loaded on a smart card (for instance a local season ticket, tokens from a multi-ride carnet, some e-purse value and an open [ie: not train / date specific] InterCity railway ticket) as the system may not always be clever enough to know which ticket is being used for that journey. Most likely there will be a need to select the correct ticket when checking-in at the start of the journey. If so then woe betide anyone who arrives at the card reader with seconds to spare before the train departs!

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Bradford: Where Smart Cards came with BusMiles to encourage Customer Loyalty.

Some British privatised transport companies are also enthusiastic for smart card ticketing because it will facilitate the easy introduction of customer loyalty schemes for regular passengers. One city where such a scheme used to operate is Bradford, West Yorkshire, where the smart card was known as FirstCard and the promotion was marketed under the name (or brand) of BusMiles. The loyalty scheme offered 1 BusMile for every £1 the smart card's registered owner credits to it, with the registered owner being able to convert 100 BusMiles into £1 stored value.

The FirstCard was free to obtain, all that the transport company required were the user's name, address and date of birth. If obtained from the local transport authority travel shop then proof of identity was also required (a utility bill showing a name and address sufficed).

FirstCard holders also benefitted from discounted bus travel when purchasing an Annual, Monthly or Daily pass. Or they could use the e-purse feature as an easier way to pay bus fares. Despite being registered to one person it was permitted to share a FirstCard with friends and family, so that they could all take advantage of the value on the card.

If the registered holder decided to return the card then its stored value would be refunded less a 10% administration fee. Any remaining BusMiles were converted to stored value at the normal rate. For season tickets only remaining full calendar months could be refunded, with the value being calculated proportionally on the basis of the price of an annual travel pass. Again, there was a 10% handling fee.

A lost, stolen or defective FirstCard had to be reported by the registered owner; replacement FirstCards were issued after 3 full working days. Until then however all bus fares had to be paid for in the normal way and were not refundable. This was because the unauthorised use of the FirstCard could only be stopped at the time of issue of its replacement. BusMiles on a lost, damaged, stolen or unusable FirstCard could not be transferred to a replacement FirstCard. However, BusMiles existing on the original FirstCard on the date of issue of the replacement were converted into stored value (at the normal rate) and added to the replacement FirstCard.

After a decade of use the BusMiles scheme ended in April 2012, because the bus company was planning a new smart card / EMV system for all its services and the older system used incompatible technology.

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London's RFID Oyster - a valuable Pearl or worthless lump of Grit?

In London the electronic smart card tickets are marketed under the name (or brand) of Oyster.

Introduced in 2003, by 2013 the Oyster system was credited as having completely revolutionised the way in which passengers who did not have season tickets pay their fares, and it has been found that even people in rural areas well away from London often express a desire for a similar system to become available on their local bus and train services.

Oyster cards can be used with both standard season tickets and as an e-purse. Unlike Hong Kong the Oyster e-purse has very few uses apart from paying for travel. To increase flexibility it is possible to load Travelcard and / or BusPass season tickets and use the e-purse PAYG monetary value feature on a single Oyster card. When used the system will always look for the appropriate period ticket first, and only charge the e-purse if nothing else is available.

In London the term pay as you go (PAYG) is usually used for the e-purse feature where the correct fare is deducted as appropriate for the journey. Sometimes the older term PrePay is also used, but this seems to be slowly slipping out of favour, perhaps because it too accurately reminds users that they are effectively paying in advance. If an Adult Oyster card which has not been registered is only used for PAYG then it can be shared with friends and relatives - providing that only one person is using it at a time. The maximum e-purse amount that can be loaded on to an Oyster card is £90.

Oyster cards being used for weekly Travelcards and PAYG do not need registering, and providing that whenever adding extra monetary value to the PAYG e-purse the transaction is made using cash then they will be as anonymous as paper tickets. However, because plastic cards leave 'paper trails' anonymity will be lost if plastic cards are used for any transaction which involves an unregistered Oyster card. Unregistered Oyster cards will not be stopped or replaced if lost or stolen. This means that the e-purse value will be lost (used by someone else).

Oyster cards containing Travelcard season tickets of one month or longer need to be registered with the user's name. Registering a card will enable the user to view a list of recent journeys online and to use 'auto top-up' of the e-purse. It also allows lost or stolen Oyster cards to be stopped and facilitates a transfer of the tickets and / or e-purse to a new card. However these card can only be used by the owner.

Oyster cards for senior citizens, children and other users who are entitled to special rates must also be registered, and in many cases will include a photograph of the user too. Not all of these tickets allow the use of the e-purse - for instance, the 'Freedom Pass' given to senior citizens is already accepted throughout London so there should not be any need to use PAYG. More information is available in the publicity given to the people who are entitled to these tickets.

Oyster cards are extremely easy to purchase. There is no need to complete any paperwork, no questions are asked... all that matters is that you have a sufficient money to pay for the deposit. Within London over 3700 local shops (known as Oyster Ticket Stops) sell Oyster cards, as do Underground / London Overground railway stations, some DLR stations, the Internet, and other locations - which may just comprise a coin operated self-service vending machine. Self-service machines often include some PAYG e-purse value in the purchase price. Most of these locations will also add 'top-up' value - at stations there is a £5 minimum value if done at a ticket office and a 10p minimum value if done at a touch-screen ticket machine (the latter being the smallest / lowest value coin these machines accept). At one time passengers buying Travelcard season tickets would be given an Oyster card free of charge, however nowadays when obtained in London all passengers are charged a deposit of £5.00 (prior to January 2011 the deposit was £3.00) which is normally fully refunded if the card is returned - providing that the e-purse is not in debit - otherwise only the balance will be refunded.

For the convenience of visitors from outside of London, Oyster cards can also be bought on some aircraft and trains travelling towards London, at most of London's main airports, via the Oyster website (they will post overseas) and from travel agents in 25 countries planetwide. Sometimes these retailers charge a different fee than the usual amount. Visitor Oyster cards usually include some PAYG e-purse funds so can be used immediately. This is very convenient for passengers arriving from overseas at Heathrow and City airports, plus the St Pancras Eurostar terminal, as it means that they can ignore the often long queues in the ticket sales area and walk straight to the platforms.

Visitors to London who are interested in the transport systems may also find this website to be of interest. Although part of citytransport.info this page will open in a new window . london-railfan.info.

Depending on the amount (ideally 'very little') and how it was purchased e-purse values may be refunded in cash or by other ways, which may be by a cheque sent via the post (this may not be very useful for overseas visitors - although they could always retain the Oyster card for a future visit, or give it to a friend about to visit London). To avoid fraud (for instance: in case it was stolen) e-purse values added to an Oyster card which were paid for using credit / debit / charge plastic cards are never refunded in cash. Lost or stolen Oyster cards may attract a handling fee to replace.

Whilst Oyster cards can be used on virtually all rail services in London only some mainline railway stations sell them or offer the facility to 'top-up' (ie: add monetary value to the e-purse). In addition, some mainline railway stations still issue paper Travelcard season tickets and for longer durations may also require passengers to have photocards. Photocards require a passport photograph and have a serial number which to prevent other people using them is written on the paper season ticket.

Note that unlike many cities overseas, there are no additional or handling fees for a top-up whether paying by cash, automated systems from a bank account or using a plastic card. So if an Oyster Ticket Stop tries to charge a fee then this should not be paid and an official complaint should be made to the Oyster helpline.

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See caption for picture information. Above-left: A freestanding Oyster card reader at a station on London's Docklands Light Railway. Similar card readers are located at other locations where passengers might need to have their Oyster cards read. This image dates from the early days of the Oyster system.

Above-right: A pink "route validator" Oyster card reader which allows passengers making orbital journeys around London that do not go through the central Zone 1 to benefit from cheaper fares. These must be used by all passengers using PAYG and passengers who have season tickets which are not valid in zone 1.

Left: A 2015 view of a freestanding Oyster card reader - the text also refers to payments made using RFID contactless bank cards.

Touch In, Touch Out.

To use Oyster PAYG passengers must ensure that their ticket is electronically read by an Oyster card reader for every journey. This is known as touch in and touch out. It is the passenger's responsibility to ensure that it is read properly. The card reader will indicate whether this has been done - in general a green light or a ticket barrier which opens means that all is well. For PAYG users train journeys require a minimum amount of e-purse value to be on the card to start the journey - the amount will depend on the type of transport being used.

On the buses PAYG passengers must touch in when boarding at the start of every journey. For tram travel the card readers on the platform should be used prior to boarding the tram. This will deduct the correct amount of money, but will not allow the card to go into a negative balance. As these transports charge a flat fare there is no need (or facility) to touch out. Special conditions apply to tram users at Wimbledon station - see below.

When a passenger who is using PAYG touches in at the start of a railway journey a deposit (exact amount depends on where they are and which railway company controls the station) is deducted from the PAYG e-purse value on their Oyster card. When they touch out at the end of the journey, the deposit fee is refunded, minus the appropriate Oyster fare for the journey. Passengers who fail to touch in run the risk of being seen as travelling without a valid ticket, which can lead to a penalty fare being charged, or even their being taken to court for fares evasion.

Oyster card readers are to be found on buses, tram stop platforms, on DLR stations before the fares paid area, and combined as part of the ticket barriers at railway (and underground) stations. Where stations do not have ticket barriers they will have stand-alone card readers. Some interchange points between the mainline railways and the DLR / underground also have stand-alone card readers (ie; without barriers) which depending on ticket type and journey may need to be touched before interchanging - even if it means missing a connecting train (or tram). To ensure that they are charged the correct fare for their journey PAYG Oyster card users must also remember to touch in/out at stations where the ticket barriers are open.

Whilst passengers with weekly or longer season tickets are recommended to touch in/out at all times, including free-standing card readers and if a ticket gate is open, as a general theme they do NOT have to do so. An example of when touching is an absolute requirement is when travelling to / from stations in zones outside those covered by the season ticket and paying the balance using the stored PAYG value. This includes passengers making journeys which can follow several different routes through different fare zones and who are choosing to travel via a cheaper route - even though it may be slower - and who will be using the special pink 'route validator' card reader to tell the Oyster system that their journey followed a specific route. (See 'Different routes attract different fares' below).

Passengers with season tickets must have their Oyster card with that season ticket loaded on it in their possession at all times whilst travelling - accidentally leaving it behind (ie: at home) is not accepted as an excuse. If they do not then they are risking being treated as someone trying to avoid paying their fare.

Wimbledon Station.

Special requirements apply to tram passengers using Wimbledon station using PAYG or a BusPass. This is because the trams (which use the same fare scale as the buses) call at a platform inside a railway station where the trains all use railway fare scales. To ensure that the correct fare is charged tram passengers starting their journey from the street will therefore have to touch in twice - first to pass the ticket barrier (a process which registers an entry to the station) and then on the tram platform - a process which changes that station entry to a tram journey. Following these procedures will also ensure that PAYG fares capping is applied correctly, if applicable. Failing to follow this procedure will result in the passenger being charged the 'maximum cash fare' - this also applies to passengers who have an otherwise valid BusPass.

Tram passengers travelling TO Wimbledon using PAYG or a BusPass must remember to touch in at the start of their tram journey, because if they do not then when they touch out at Wimbledon to leave the station they will be treated as if they made a railway journey but did not touch in when starting that journey and charged the maximum (underground railway) cash fare.

PAYG users intending to interchange from the mainline railways or underground to the tram must touch out using the card readers on the platform of arrival and then register the tram fare by touching in on the tram card reader on the tram platform. PAYG users interchanging from tram to underground or mainline railway just need to touch in using card readers on the mainline railway or underground train's platforms.

BusPasses are not valid on the trains, so passengers using these should be using a different ticketing solution if interchanging to / from a railway service. If that is PAYG then they follow the PAYG procedures detailed above

The former system whereby all passengers using the Jubilee Line at Stratford had to pass through ticket gates dedicated to its platforms - even if they had just passed through a barrier to enter the station from the street or were interchanging from the Central Line or DLR is no more, as that gateline has been taken out of service and removed.

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Special arrangements apply for tram passengers using Wimbledon station - see small sized text above.


There is a twofold policy of enticements to encourage people to switch from paying in cash to Oyster.

  • Virtually all underground, DLR, bus & tram single tickets are cheaper if paid for electronically using the PAYG e-purse rather than by cash. The potential savings can be more than 50%! The aim is to speed up bus journeys and reduce ticket queues at station ticket offices. For this reason visitors from outside London may find that it is very financially advantageous to never pay cash - and instead either buy a BusPass, Travelcard or use Oyster PAYG.
  • There is a 'capped fares' policy whereby people who make multiple single fare journeys in one day and pay for them electronically using the PAYG e-purse will be not be charged a daily total that is greater than the cost of a paper one-day ride-at-will Travelcard. (Bus passengers have their fares capped at less than the cost of 4 bus fares). A 'day' is considered to be a 24 hour period between 4.30am and 4.30am the next morning. To take advantage of fares capping a traveller must ensure that they touch in/out when commencing and ending every railway journey and when starting every bus/tram journey - even if they have already reached the cap on that day. Otherwise (when travelling by train) they will be charged the maximum single fare (as described above) and the cost of the journey will not be included in the capping. This applies at all times - even if the ticket barriers are open, or if there are just card readers instead of ticket barriers. If touching in/out is not possible (for instance, if the power grid fails and nothing electronic works) then they must contact the Oyster helpline.

Time Based Fares.

The concept of different peak and off-peak fares is not new, and it is also used with Oyster PAYG. Peak fares are charged between 06:30 to 09:30 in the mornings and 16:00 to 19:00 (4pm to 7pm) in the evenings on Mondays to Fridays, except public holidays. At all other times the cheaper off peak fares are charged. Special arrangements apply at a few outer-suburban stations with the peak fare time ending slightly earlier - publicity should be available at the stations concerned. PAYG peak / off peak fares are determined by the time the passenger touches in. This means that if a passenger wishes to catch a train timed to leave a station after 9:30 (am) then they should not touch in before that time, or they will be charged the peak fare. Fares capping works with time based fares to always charge the lowest fares, so that if the total cost of a day's travel journeys is less than the peak cap then the system will charge separately for any journeys taken during peak hours, plus the off-peak cap. As from January 2011 passengers starting their journeys in the outer zones who travel by many (not all) of the rail services into London Zone 1 during the evening peak are charged off-peak fares. This reflects that they will usually be travelling against the main peak flow.

PAYG Benefits: Freedom from fixed ticketing.

The introduction of the Oyster system has led to a revolutionary change in fares and ticketing within London, significantly reducing the time it takes passengers boarding buses to pay their fares / have passes 'read' and reducing queues at station ticket offices.

PAYG means that many of the advantages of period tickets are now available to everyone - even infrequent travellers - who on arrival at railway stations just walk straight past the ticket sales area to the ticket barriers, where they touch in and then continue directly to the platforms.

The many ways to add PAYG value to the Oyster card e-purse has resulted in a significant reduction in numbers of people using staffed ticket office windows, although this does represent a double-edged sword in that it can result in staffed ticket office windows being closed with transport employees losing their jobs (or redeployed on other job functions). In March 2010 it was reported that...

  • Ticket office use is down 50% compared with five years previously - it is presumed that this refers to staffed ticket office windows / does not include self service machines.
  • Only about one in twenty (20) journeys start with a visit to the ticket office - although the information does not state whether this is staffed ticket offices only or includes using self-service ticket vending machines within the wider ticket sales area,
  • 80% of all journeys on the Underground are made using Oyster cards - although this data does not separate season ticket holders from other passengers - the significant issue being that the former already travelled without needing fresh tickets for each journey.
See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
At many suburban Underground stations the reduction in numbers of people using ticket offices ticket combined with a desire by the transport operator to save money has seen ticket offices being closed at quieter times of the day. However, for reasons of passenger safety in case of an emergency all stations which are below ground retain station staff in the CCTV operations control room. Their duties also include assisting passengers at the ticket barriers, should this be required. One new station which is 'above ground' has even been built with just ticket machines / without any facilities for a staffed ticket sales office.

Passengers who do not have Oyster cards and therefore need to purchase a paper ticket or who need to add PAYG value to their Oyster cards' e-purse can usually do this at the ticket machine - when they are working! (see image above - right).

To repeat: it cannot be understated just how significantly electronic RFID ticketing using e-purses has changed how people pay fares in London.

One of the most beneficial new features which the Oyster system has enabled is that rather than buy tickets which are only for pre-decided 'station-to-station' journeys (or only valid within a certain range of zones) passengers can now change their mind regarding their destination station whilst already travelling. This is because the system is able to determine the correct fare when a person leaves the network. Passengers with Travelcard season tickets on an Oyster card are now able to travel beyond the zones their season ticket covers and allow the PAYG e-purse to pay for the additional zones they just travelled through. Note that this is NOT allowed for passengers using any type of paper ticket.

PAYG Foibles: OSI, Time Limits, Auto-Complete.

At some interchange stations it is necessary to leave the station (ie: touch out at the exit barrier) and then enter a different nearby station (ie: touch in at the entrance barrier) to make the interchange. The official terminology for this is an Out Of Station Interchange (OSI), although it is rarely used publicly. The significance of the OSI is that the fares system will treat this as one seamless journey and charge PAYG passengers a through fare - rather than a new fare. This saves money! However, for the OSI feature to work passengers must make their interchange within a preset time limit, which varies from location to location depending on how far apart the stations are. Otherwise they will be charged a fare for new journey. An example of an OSI between two stations which are a short distance apart are Tower Gateway and Tower Hill DLR / Underground stations. Unfortunately there is no official publicity aimed at the general public detailing OSI time limits, however this unofficial web page (which will open in a new window) will be of related interest.
http://www.oyster-rail.org.uk/out-of-station-interchange-osi/ . An example of why passengers do need to know this information is detailed below.

Another type of OSI exists at the mainline railway termini (Liverpool Street, Paddington, Victoria, Waterloo and more...) where passengers switch between underground trains and those of the various mainline train operating companies. The time limits at these stations are usually much more generous when travelling away from the underground than towards the underground. This is because passengers travelling towards the underground are expected to want to continue their journey as quickly as possible whilst passengers travelling away from the underground may have to wait for their connecting train. An example of this could apply to passengers going to Hampton Court Palace and gardens, which is a very popular visitor attraction to the south west of London. Direct trains to here go from London Waterloo station and as the station is in zone 6 so Oyster PAYG represents an easy way to pay the fare. Because trains from Waterloo are every 30 minutes so the OSI time limit for passengers travelling away from London is long enough to allow for passengers who have just missed a train to catch the next train. But not the one after that! Nevertheless, passengers need to be aware that this exists and whilst waiting for their train not spend more than about 20 minutes at the platform coffee shop before touching in and passing through the ticket barrier.

All journeys using Oyster PAYG have time limits. This is linked to the day, time of day travelled and the number of zone boundaries crossed. Time limits are most generous at weekends when trains on some routes are less frequent. If a passenger exceeds the maximum journey time they are automatically charged for an unfinished journey, plus when they touch out potentially for un-started journey. Although not the official advice this does mean that passengers who exceed journey times are better off not touching out, if possible. In addition, the journey does not count towards 'fares capping'. This does mean that if there is disruption and journeys are delayed passengers may find themselves being charged maximum fares (which will feel like penalty fares, although technically they are not) to complete their journey and having to contact the Oyster helpline to resolve the issue - and get their money back.

If passengers arrive at a station and having touched in decide to leave the station without travelling (perhaps because there is a problem and services are disrupted) then providing they leave the station after 2 minutes and within 30 minutes they will only be charged the minimum fare from that station.

Entering a station's 'fare paid area' and then leaving it within 2 minutes incurs a maximum fare charge. However, if passengers re-enter the same station or any other station within 45 minutes the maximum fare will be refunded and a new journey started. BUT, the station touch out exit must be made at a ticket gate and NOT any other type of card reader and using a normal bus service (eg: to travel to a nearby alternative station) and paying the bus fare using the same Oyster card will break the link with the first entry / exit, resulting in the entry / exit charge staying on the Oyster card. The reason for this complex system is to discourage fares evasion.

PAYG Pitfall: Passengers Caught-Out as OSI and Time Limits Collide.

Where journey time limits and the OSI collide is what happens if a passenger breaks their journey for just a few minutes (for instance, to drop off some clothing at the dry cleaners) and then continues their journey. At normal stations the break in journey would be treated as the end of one journey and the start of a fresh journey. But not at an OSI, and from personal experience it has been found that this increases the likelihood of falling foul of the overall journey time limit. This almost resulted in yours truly becoming stranded 30+ miles (50km) away from home on the other side of London and with no way of paying to get home. This scenario does represent a 'bind' for electronic ticketing systems which are rarely clever enough to know whether someone leaving the fares paid area at an OSI is interchanging - or ending a journey. The boffins say that time limits are an essential aspect of electronic ticketing systems which use e-purses, but they did not exist with paper ticketing and this represents just one example where the less clever paper ticketing actually provides a more customer-friendly solution.

Perhaps what should happen in the situation where a journey involves an OSI and the total journey time exceeds the maximum journey time allowed, but the time taken for each section of the journey does not exceed the maximum allowed for that journey, then the system should charge for two complete journeys, rather than two incomplete journeys / maximum fares?

Incomplete Journey Auto Complete.

At exceptionally busy times (typically a major sporting event) to prevent a potentially dangerous crowd building up waiting to pass through the exit ticket gates something known as 'autocomplete' is invoked. This will allow passengers to not touch-out and working on the assumption that they going to make a return journey which starts at that station will use their touch-in to determine why their previous journey did not have a touch-out and automatically perform the touch-out for them. In this way the passenger is not charged for an incomplete journey. However, this system is not clever enough to cope with passengers who do not return via that station, perhaps because after the match someone gave them a lift (ride) home in a car.

Another type of auto-complete was introduced in summer 2011 as a result of much hostile criticism over the amount of money incomplete-journey maximum-charges were costing passengers. This benefits regular commuters who use PAYG but sometimes forget to touch-out (or are unable to touch-out - see below) at the end of a regular journey by looking at their regular journeys and assuming that if every day a person makes a return journey between station X and station Y, but once in a while does not touch-out at the end of one of these journeys, then 'the system' will perform the touch-out for them. This concessionary action is restricted to something like one transaction a month and only to failing to touch-out when ending a railway journey (DLR, Underground, mainline train) - it does NOT apply to failing to touch-in at the start of a journey.


The OEP Oyster Extension Permit system was introduced in January 2010. It was an electronic token which was placed on an Oyster card that would satisfy a travelling ticket inspector that although the passenger is travelling outside the validity of their season ticket they are not trying to evade their fare and that the extra cost would be collected from the PAYG e-purse value on their Oyster card at the end of their journey. Only journeys involving the mainline railways (National Rail) needed OEP's. However the OEP system was widely criticised for its complexity, user unfriendliness and requiring passengers to plan ahead with their travels. In March 2011 it was announced that because they were not well understood the OEP would be withdrawn, and this came to be in May 2011.

Glitches, Failed Reads, Court Case.

Oyster does suffer from a few glitches.

Sometimes the ticket gates / stand-alone card readers develop faults, and especially for PAYG users this can be a problem as despite the barriers opening (or standalone card reader appearing to register that a card has been touched) it can result in the ticketing system thinking that a person has failed to touch in/out at one end of their journey and therefore the maximum (penalty) fare is charged and daily fare capping suspended.

In summer 2008 a bus passenger was taken to court for fares evasion after roving ticket inspectors said that he had failed to touch in on a bus card reader. The passenger was adamant that he did, and that it made a noise when he did so (whether the 'correct' noise remains unknown). The court agreed with him and he won his case. In July 2008 there were two highly publicised system failures which resulted in station ticket gates being left open and PAYG passengers travelling for free on that day.

Whilst the onus is always on PAYG passengers to remember to touch in/out at each end of the journey, passengers sometimes allege that they did not do this because they had passed through a station where there were not enough (or any) station staff on duty and as a result the ticket gates had not only been left 'open' but had actually been switched off - so that touching in/out has no effect (in other words, it becomes impossible to touch in/out)! Of course in this scenario they are charged a maximum / penalty fare for an incomplete journey - which to resolve requires them to complain to the Oyster helpline. Apparently this is a fairly common scenario at suburban stations, especially at quiet times, for instance: evenings, with passengers returning home after working late or an evening out (socially) most frequently being affected.

An unexpected scenario which often leads to a failed touch in/out is that some passengers are 'too quick'. Living in a fast paced city in a perpetual state of 'hurry' sees passengers sometimes putting their card down on the reader at the same moment the person in front lifts his / hers off. Because the card reader is still reading the passenger in front's card so it does not read the next passenger's card. To prevent this 'doubling-up' the second passenger must wait until the person in front of them has started to walk through the ticket gate.

Nothing is infallible and very occasionally Oyster cards become corrupted and need replacing.

If an Oyster card fails to operate the user must pay cash (or use another Oyster card) and contact the helpline for advice what to do next. This can be done online, by letter post or by telephone. Note that the telephone helpline uses a telephone number where calls may be outside of the free calling plan operated by your telephone company. If this is so then it may be financially advantageous to visit the http://www.saynoto0870.com/ . website and search for the helplines' normal London telephone number. The search page can be found here... http://www.saynoto0870.com/search.php ..

A frequent topic for conversation on several London-based discussion lists are some of the problems people encounter when using the electronic ticketing system. It seems that many people do not bother complaining when things go 'go wrong', even though they may be entitled to a refund. This could be because the claims phone number is always very busy - so that it can take 15+ minutes of waiting to speak to a real person, and that once the financial cost of the person's time plus telephone call (or letter) have been bourne in mind, the cost and hassle of making contact deters people from doing so.

Different routes attract different fares.

Sometimes it is possible to make a journey via several different routes - some of which include through different fare zone combinations. Typically this means travelling around London and avoiding the central London fares zone (ie: zone 1) rather than through the centre of the city. The significance of this is that sometimes by choosing to travel via a different route a passenger can sometimes benefit from a cheaper journey.

However, the system has no way of knowing which route the passenger followed, and therefore which fare to charge. To resolve this passengers need to tell the ticketing system's computers by touching a pink coloured Oyster card reader at a designated station whilst en route. Otherwise the system will default to charging the fare for that journey on the basis that the passenger had travelled via a more expensive route. This issue applies to ALL passengers who are paying their fares using an Oyster card, no matter whether they are using PAYG or have a season ticket (Travelcard) which is valid for the zones travelled through via the cheaper route but not valid for the zone(s) travelled through when following the 'default' route. By way of example, if the season ticket is valid in zones 2-4 and the passenger has used the Overground to avoid zone 1 (NB: beware that Shoreditch High Street station is in zone 1).

Note that passengers using season tickets / Travelcards are automatically charged the excess fare when they touch out and the extra cost is deducted from the PAYG balance, if any is loaded. If the Oyster card does not have any (or enough) PAYG balance loaded on it then the season ticket / Travelcard will be blocked from further use until the amount due has been paid.

However there can still be complications, especially on services where through trains mean that passengers do not get the opportunity to touch the pink coloured route validating Oyster card reader (for instance, at Willesden Junction), and as the Oyster publicity advises, for some journey passengers are charged a zone 1 fare no matter which route they follow.

Of course none of these complications apply to passengers using paper ticketing solutions.

Where Oyster is Unwelcome.

As a general theme neither Oyster cards nor the ordinary ride-at-will paper Travelcards can be used on the following special railway services within London:-

At Heathrow Airport train journeys between the railway stations for terminals 123 and terminal 4 or terminal 5 are free of charge if using the Heathrow Express or Connect trains; but a fare must be paid if using the Piccadilly Line Underground trains.

There are also a few bus services which do not accept either Oyster cards nor the ordinary ride-at-will paper Travelcards, mostly this comment refers to sightseeing etc., bus services intended for tourists and the longer distance coaches from outside of London which call at a few bus stops in London too.

What Oyster Lacks.

Note that there is no Oyster version of the one day pay-once ride-at-will Travelcard. Instead passengers are required to use PAYG fares capping, which may be financially similar but is not the same in actual usage. PAYG suffers from OSI and journey time limits, plus of course failed reads which may not be the fault of the passenger but still results in them being treated as a potential miscreant. (Maximum fare / daily capping woes). Paper tickets give 100% freedom from all these woes, although it is true that they too are not infallible as sometimes the data in the magnetic stripe can be damaged / rendered unreadable and very occasionally station ticket gates do swallow them and a member of staff has to assist with their retrieval.

With a concern that over the coming years paper tickets will be phased out perhaps a solution here would be to offer a Dutch style one-day paper e-ticket? The most important aspect of this being the ability to pay once and then travel around London safe in the knowledge that providing one says within the permitted zones there simply cannot be a scenario where a passenger finds themself being held hostage to needing to pay more - or become unable to travel / stranded.

Some people have apparently opened up Oyster cards and transferred the RFID chip plus ariel to clothing, jewellery, etc. Whilst not actually a criminal offence this is not allowed and sanctions will be taken against people for doing this. That people are doing this however suggests that there is an un-met desire for different types of Oyster cards (ie: the physical device / this being a totally different topic than the types of product loaded on to the RFID chip inside the card), so that people do not have to carry credit card sized tickets. Possible reasons why a range of other types of Oyster card have not yet existed (in London) can be found under the "2012: EMV / NFC / Wave & Go Bank Cards To Usurp Oyster?" heading below.

That there is a public desire for different ways to carry RFID tickets is proven by the fact that other places which use RFID ticketing systems offer alternatives alongside the basic credit card sized RFID cards. These include key fob style trinkets and other devices which can be hung from key rings, mobile telephones with embedded RFID chips and mobile telephone covers with integral RFID chip. Interested readers may like to follow the two links below and see the products that are available from the Octopus and Snapper online shops. Different systems use different alternatives, and of course over time product catalogues will vary. Note that these items are sold.
http://www.octopus.com.hk/get-your-octopus/choose-your-octopus/en/index.html .

Oyster On The 'Dog & Bone'

During winter 2007/8 trials involving 500 passengers, a mobile (cell) telephone company (and other partners) were conducted using mobile telephones which featured an Oyster compatible RFID chip. These proved to be very successful, with a reported 89% passengers involved in the trials saying that they would like to have this as a permanent feature and two-thirds also expressing an interest in their mobile telephone having credit card capabilities as well. By late 2008 media reports were suggesting that Oyster compatible mobile phones would 'soon' become available to anyone who wished to buy them, however by 2013 this was still yet to come to pass. Similarly featured mobile telephones are already available to people in some of the other countries which use RFID ticketing systems.

These telephones used what is known as an NFC chip. NFC is looked at further down this page.

'Dog & Bone' is Cockney rhyming slang for 'telephone'.
Additional information:
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23549348-mobile-phones-to-be-used-as-oyster-and-credit-cards.do .

Whats Best For Visitors To London?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as it largely depends on what the visitors intend to do when in London, how many are travelling, how they are coming here and for how long. These comments apply to all visitors, whether from elsewhere in Great Britain or overseas.

Visitors who just wish to see the sights and visit major tourist attractions are advised to investigate the 2for1 offer whereby 2 people can visit many major destinations for the price of 1. The only requirements are to download vouchers from the http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/faq.aspx#1 website . - which can be done before leaving home - and have the right type of 'mainline railway' (National Rail) ticket for travel to or within London. Paper one-day and longer Travelcards are acceptable, but only if bought from a 'mainline railway' ticket office or machine (ie NOT an Underground / Overground / DLR station, nor an Oyster Ticket Stop). These tickets feature an orange stripe at the top and bottom and although the wording will be different they look very similar to the platform ticket seen further up this page.

Other passengers may still prefer 'paper' Travelcards, or may prefer to use Oyster cards and PAYG (pay as you go). To avoid possible long waits at busy ticket offices at airports and Kings Cross St Pancras Underground station it is best to try to buy tickets in advance - some airlines and Eurostar sell visitor versions of the Oyster card which come with enough PAYG value pre-loaded to be used immediately on arrival in London. They may be priced slightly differently (and intended to be retained as a souvenir) but still represent excellent value for money - and possibly much saved time on arrival in London. Visitors with children may wish to source child photocards; this is permitted, even for visitors from overseas, and can be requested from the Oyster website.

Transport enthusiasts who wish to spend several days exploring London's transports may wish to investigate weekly / 7 day season tickets as they may work out cheaper than daily ride-at-will Travelcards. Especially if you wish to travel in the morning rush hour. Just be aware of the zones you wish to travel in and that you may need a free photocard which includes a passport type photograph..

Spectator Ticketing During 2012 Olympic Games.

All tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games included a free public transport ticket for that day. Initially it was thought that the ticket would come in the form of special one-day Oyster card, however in the end spectators were given a paper one-day Travelcard. Apparently this was seen as the easiest and most robust ticketing solution.
For more information follow this link:

Further Reading...

Visitors and anyone else who wishes to read more may also find these web sites to be of interest...
london-railfan.info .
http://www.londontoolkit.com/travel/lhr_underground.htm .
http://www.oyster-rail.org.uk .
http://www.oystercard.com (this is the 'official'Oyster website) ..

So, what do I do???

When work makes it a sensible choice I buy weekly or monthly ride-at-will Travelcards.

At other times I frequently use paper one-day Travelcard tickets in preference to Oyster PAYG with fares capping, as I see these as being safer. There is less to go wrong, at open stations there is no need to touch in/out and overall journey time limits do not apply.

However for simple station-to-station journeys where I might not spend enough money to justify a day ticket, then I use one of my unregistered Oyster cards in PAYG mode. If just travelling by bus I always use Oyster.

2012: EMV / NFC / Wave & Go Bank Cards To Usurp Oyster?

Acronyms and Terminologies.

Included in the acronyms for contactless payment systems are:

Oyster, ITSO and EMV are just some of the wave and go systems which use RFID 'chips'. Although they follow different technical standards they are all often seen as NFC variants.

Typically it is not possible to spend more than £20.00 in single retail wave and go transaction, and whilst most transactions will be approved without the need to enter a pin code, every so often security software in the contactless card will require that the next transaction is validated with the pin code. Although this is not supposed to happen when paying transport fares on a bus / at a station ticket barrier the pin will be needed if using the payment card at a ticket machine.

Go shopping - with Oyster and OnePulse!

In 2006 it was announced that a deal had been signed with a major British bank to create a new style of 'three-in-one' combined Oyster / general shopping contactless / credit card. The low value shopping contactless aspect of the card would be for purchases of less than £10, such as buying coffee or newspapers using wave and go technology which at that time was little used in the UK.

Trials using these cards began in December 2006 and were restricted to the Bank's own staff. By May 2007 the trials were judged to have been successful and later that year what were known as 'OnePulse' credit cards started being offered to the general public.

With OnePulse cards purchases made in credit card wave and go modes were billed to the holder's credit card account. The Oyster aspect was loaded on to the card separately and could comprise season ticket Travelcards and / or PAYG e-purse monetary value.

What is perhaps significant is that the Oyster e-purse was NOT used for general shopping, as in Hong Kong, New Zealand, etc. The reasons why Oyster did not become part of a wider universal payment system include:

§ Information Source: Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

As the last comment suggests, passengers would pay their fares using contactless credit / debit / charge cards issued by banks (or other RFID devices linked to their bank accounts), although there will still be solutions available for people (such as schoolchildren, visitors from overseas, senior citizens, the unemployed, the bankrupt etc., ) who may not have (British) bank accounts - and the many people who would see it as a violation of their human rights if they were to be forced to use a ticketing solution that facilitates their every movement being tracked and also potentially allowed open unfettered access to their bank accounts, even if transactions are limited to a maximum of £20 a time. In other words, there will always be passengers who prefer to use anonymous transport payment systems that charge exactly the same fares as all other systems.

One reason for Tf L's desire to hand over financial operations to the banks is that 14% of the value of ticket sales revenue is spent on running the Oyster system, which is seen as being too much. Since the banks already operate wireless payment systems in retail outlets (ie: shops) so it is thought that it will be cheaper to let the banks include transport fares within the overall scope of their financial services.

London Assembly

In November 2011 the democratically elected London Assembly expressed its concerns that the switch away from Oyster may end up disadvantaging anyone who wishes to continue using an Oyster card, and stating its desire for "guarantees that all passengers will continue to have access to the cheapest fares no matter what type of ticket they use".
Information source: http://www.busandcoach.com/newspage.aspx?id=6138&categoryid=0 ..

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Wave & Go Roll-Out Commences

Another Ticketing Revolution - Bank Credit, Debit & Charge Cards; Android & Apple Devices

OnePulse represented just the initial stage of a revolution in how people make small low-value purchases, especially coffee shops etc., in London's two financial districts (The City and Docklands). But it did not have a monopoly on the market, as other banking organisations also joined in the act with their own systems. The marketing names used by two well known international credit card consortia are payWave and PayPass. In addition, for people who wish to keep their plastic cards safely in their purses and wallets, a major British bank has introduced the self-adhesive PayTag that contains a RFID chip and is intended to be attached to devices such as mobile telephones. The same bank has also teamed up with a mobile telephone operator to allow people who use that telephone company and telephones fitted with integral RFID chips to make wave and go payments using their smartphones. This has been branded as Quick Tap, and to help users there is also an Android smartphone app which facilitates adding value to the e-purse, reading the remaining balance, seeing recent transactions, and more. It is even possible to set a requirement that a pin code be entered every time a purchase is made. If enacted this would be typed into the mobile device. Although Apple iPhones do not (yet) include RFID chips a (different) British bank is marketing an iPhone cover which includes a built-in RFID chip and together with an app from the Apple App Store this makes these compatible with wave and go terminals. This is marketed under the name of TouchPay.

At the present time this retail payments revolution is still very much unfolding, with many other large companies introducing their own retail payment systems. These may, or may not be compatible with EMV standards. Some will involve mobile wallets which are stored on smart phones / tablet computers or online. It is not intened to detail all the different marketing brand names here.

As yet there is no known transport operator which accepts payment by crypto-currency, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, etc.


In 2012 OnePulse was closed to new users, although existing users were still able to use their cards. Because they were separate products so the Oyster function remained operative even after the credit card expiry date had been passed.

Transport Fares - London's Buses First

It was hoped that it would be possible for passengers to pay their bus fares using wave and go technology by the time of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and on London's other transport modes by the end of 2012. However due to complexities with the technology this did not happen, and instead EMV bank cards in wave and go mode started being accepted (on buses only) in December 2012 (except the heritage Routemaster buses on [the then] routes 9h and 15h, as these use incompatible card readers).. This new way to pay fares instantly proved popular, especially with irregular passengers who do not have an Oyster card, visitors to London who do not wish to obtain an Oyster card, and those who do have an Oyster card but had left it at home! It is worth noting that the same fare was charged to passengers who used wave and go devices as passengers who paid with funds stored in the Oyster card e-purse - this being significantly lower than the cash fare which existed at that time.

As with Oyster cards passengers do not receive a receipt at the start of their journey and roving ticket inspector expect to see the wave and go device used to pay the bus fare when checking that all passengers have paid their fares.

Passengers using a OnePulse card found that only the Oyster function could be used to pay bus fares.

During the initial pilot stage all journeys paid for using wave and go contactless debit and credit cards were charged for, no matter how many journeys were made per day (ie: there was no fares capping after the 4th bus journey on that day). In addition, the usual free transfers between the dedicated feeder bus services and the Croydon trams did not apply for passengers using these cards to pay their fares.

In April 2013 it was reported that one million bus fares had been paid using wave and go bank cards, with 10,000 people taking as many as 16,000 rides per day and an estimated nearly 1,000 new contactless payment cards used each week. Comments on some online discussion groups suggest that there have been a few times when the fare was charged on boarding the bus but the cost was never deducted from the bank account, so the journey effectively ended up being free!
More information can be found here:

December 2013: First Year's EMV wave and go Bank Card Experience

A Tf L press release on the first anniversary of wave and go bank card acceptance on London's buses revealed that more than 6.5 million journeys had been made using an American Express, MasterCard or Visa Europe contactless payment card. In addition it said that usage continued to rise with an average of around 33,000 bus journeys a day being paid for using these debit, credit and charge cards, with around 1,300 new cards being used each day.

The full press release can be read at this link:

By summer 2014 it was stated that about 825,000 "customers" (sic) had made 17 million bus journeys using contactless payment cards.

In August 2014 subtle changes were made with respect of how the system operated. The messages on card readers changed from displaying that a fare had been charged to one that said that a fare had been paid using a contactless card and the cards' expiry date. Bus journeys no longer appeared on bank statements individually, instead their value was combined and shown as a single charge clearly referenced as being for travel / Tf L at the end of each day. Daily fares capping started being available (at the same rate as applied to Oyster cards) and a new Monday to Sunday weekly fares cap was introduced, so that passengers would not be charged more than the cost of a prepaid weekly Bus and Tram Pass. However(at that time) bank cards remained solely for buses travel - and not trams. It also became possible to create online accounts and register the chosen contactless plastic card. Roving ticket inspectors could now use their hand-held card readers to validate bank cards as having been accepted to pay fares.

Note that when several passengers are travelling together they must make individual payments using different wave and go devices that feature different RFID chips. In other words, you cannot pay two or more bus fares on the same bus with the same wave and go contactless payment device. The same will apply to train fares, once this feature has been enabled. Couples with joint accounts who have individual cards can use their personalised cards.

Child fares

As it is not possible to add discounts to these cards so child fares need to be paid using Oyster cards which carry the relevant electronic token.

Rejected Card Problems - which potentially could leave a passenger stranded

As ever some issues cropped up during the trials. Brand new cards, for instance, typically need a successful financial transactions which uses the chip and pin before the contactless feature is enabled. In addition, the occasional feature whereby cards require a PIN number to be entered into a keypad will also prevent a card from being used to pay transport fares. Whilst this will be easily resolved (by going shopping somewhere else!) it effectively leaves a passenger temporarily stranded, making it totally sub-optimal for transport use. Some rejected card issues however are simply because a card which is not compatible was used. This could be because the card was not contactless-enabled, or because it is from a card issuer whose products are not accepted to pay travel fares.

Overseas Passengers - Banks Impose Extra Charges!

Whilst many wave and go cards issued by overseas banks can be used to pay fares, passengers may find that there is a financial disadvantage in using their cards. This is because they will be charged the usual overseas transaction fees. To the banks transport fares are just another financial transaction on which they can charge a fat fee, just like any other purchase made when overseas.

Transport Fares - London's Railways Next

On 16th September 2014 what is referred to using the generic term contactless started being accepted to pay most rail fares in London (trams, trains). This is only for pay-as-you-go passengers who pay fares at the time of travel - and not for passengers who use season tickets. However, to encourage passengers who buy weekly season tickets which involve travel in Zone 1 to switch to the new payment technology a new a weekly fares cap was introduced. This works on the basis of the total value of all fares paid between Monday and the following Sunday being capped at a level that is no higher than the amount that would have been paid had a prepaid weekly season ticket been bought in advance of travel. Passengers whose journeys exclude Zone 1 or who usually buy weekly tickets that start on a different day other than Monday need to keep using their Oyster cards.

Whereas when wave and go technologies are used in retail shops the amount is deducted from bank accounts immediately, this is not possible with train travel as the final cost of the journey will only be known when the destination has been reached and the user touches-out. This is part of the reason why bank accounts are only charged once, at the end of the day. Longer term plans are that monthly and annual season tickets which are purchased online will be able to be sent to nominated EMV cards (or compatible NFC device), possibly usurping the use of existing Oyster cards. There is also a longer term possibility that the existing Oyster technology which dates from 2003 will be upgraded to become fully compliant with more recent NFC standards, and whilst the Oyster brand name is likely to be retained the present day Oyster cards (which use very different and incompatible technical standards) will cease to work.
More information can be found here:

To further encourage passengers to switch to the new payment system the promotional advertisements point out that there will no longer be need to spend time adding financial value to the e-purse on their Oyster card. Of course this will not count for much if the passenger already uses automatic top-up.

It is inevitable that some people will start train journeys with one wave and go device and end it with a different wave and go device. If so it is likely that they will end up being charged two maximum fares. It remains to be seen how this and other issues are resolved - whether through the present-day Oyster helpline or the helpline(s) operated by the financial services companies.

Although it is expected that the majority of passengers will happily use wave and go, not everyone will be happy to link their bank or credit card accounts to their travels in this way. Already there are some people who will only use the Oyster PAYG e-purse on Londons' buses, because they have had problems with failed card reads at railway stations and were not happy with how these were resolved, and the hassle factor of (sometimes) very long telephone waits on a phone number which was not even free to call. Although it is possible to resolve issues via other methods these are still seen as a hassle. Bus travel, with its simple flat fare, is seen differently.

(This section needs a tidy-up and a holistic review so that the information also follows a chronological order. Hopefully this will be achieved by Christmas 2015)

No e-purse! No-One Else Has Your Unspent Money

Because fares are charged to bank accounts on a daily basis the use of contactless cards does not involve a stored value e-purse. So, there is nothing to "top up". Passengers can retain all their own money in bank accounts which earn them interest - rather than helping to fund a transport operator's fares "pot" on which any interest accrued ends up with either the bank or the transport operator.

OnePulse Ends

OnePulse cards did not become part of the wider rollout of wave and go technology to the railways. This is because the OnePulse scheme completely closed on 30th June 2014, with all users having to transfer their Travelcards and / or PAYG e-purse monetary value to a normal Oyster card which, if required, they had to purchase (for £5) at the same time. All users who needed and were entitled to them also received new replacement Barclaycard credit cards, with a contactless function that was also enabled for public transport fares.

Too Slow!

One reason why only certain wave and go devices are officially accepted on London's transports is that transactions times using other NFC technical standards are too slow for use in London, where read speeds faster than 500 milliseconds are required.
For more information follow these links which open in new windows:
http://www.nfcnews.com/2012/05/31/nfc-too-slow-for-londons-tube-says-tfl .


One very important issue which passengers absolutely need to be aware of is that card readers are not selective; they will interact with just about any compatible wave and go smart card / bank card / NFC enabled device which enters into their field of communications. To prevent being charged more than once for the same journey passengers are not supposed to keep two (or more) wave and go compatible payment cards (etc.,) together in the same wallet / purse (card holder). To try and prevent multiple transactions the ticketing system uses an anti-collision software which is supposed to detect when two or more compatible wave and go devices have been presented simultaneously, and signal an issue rather than charge them. But if smart cards (etc.,) are kept on different sides of the card holder and it is 'waved' in front of the card reader instead of being placed on it, then it can - and has - happened (at least once) that one card and then the other are seen sequentially, with both being charged.

Similar happened when a major British retailer replaced its chip + pin credit card terminals with versions that included the NFC function; the act of inserting the card into the physical device brought the NFC chip into range for long enough for the NFC transaction to be initialised, and since the pin code was typed in for the physical chip + pin transaction so the end-result was the plastic card account being charged twice for the same transaction.

Acceptance Of Wave & Go Cards Issued Overseas.

Whilst the ability to use wave and go charge, credit and debit cards to pay transport fares is really aimed at people who live and work in London plus British visitors to London, it is possible that visitors from overseas will find that their cards will work as well. This is acceptable, although it is important that anyone who uses cards issued by overseas banks understands that their bank might also charge overseas transaction fees, currency conversion fees and / or other charges, handling fees etc.,

Restricted To Just Banks?

It is possible that especially in London wave and go ticketing will be restricted to just the British banks who provide the public with debit, charge and credit cards and possibly other licensed commercial entities for which the banks provide financial services. As detailed above, this might include tourists with NFC enabled credit, debit and charge cards that are compatible with the EMV protocol and based on the Visa or Mastercard / EuroPay brands.

The reason for this restriction relates to who should be contacted if there is a problem, such as too much money having been taken from the e-purse after a journey. At present Tf L handle all queries in their call centre, but life would become very entangled if the global multiplicity of Mobile Wallet financial service providers (which includes mobile telephone companies, device manufacturers and global giants such as Google, PayPal, Amazon, etc.,) were all involved in London's transport fares and telling a customer that a specific issue is the responsibility and culpability of someone else...
For more information follow this link which opens in a new window:

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Wave and go payment systems could result in London's transport operators wanting to cease handling money - instead leaving this for the banks. This could result in all ticket selling facilities being removed from the stations. These closed ticket vending machines were seen just a few yards apart in the same ticket hall at Stratford station, London during the London 2012 Olympic games. London Underground machines to the left, National Rail / mainline railway machines to the right.

Promotions, Free Travel...

By autumn 2014 the banks and other companies which offer contactless services had started to entice passengers to use their products when paying transport fares. For instance, MasterCard ran a refund offer on Fridays 14th and 28th November 2014 which meant that anyone who used a MasterCard contactless card or device to pay their transport fares would receive their money back (within 28 days). The only limitations were in monetary value (£21.80) and that travel on the London River Bus & the Emirates Air Line cable car were excluded. It is probable that this offer was also run to create a database of users who could be contacted with further offers at later times.

Other promotions include banks and mobile telephone operators offering loyalty points, etc., if their NFC contactless payment products are used.

Season Tickets To be Sacrificed? PAYG / Weekly Billing For All?

An already known feature of the Oyster e-purse PrePay PAYG fares system is that there is a limit on the value of fares charged per calendar day. Once reached then as long as passengers continue to touch in/out and observe all other rules, such as journey time limits, etc., then for the rest of the day all travel is free of charge. As part of the shift to bank card payments the very simple pay-once travel-at-will weekly Travelcard season ticket is to be sacrificed and replaced with the very different weekly fares cap system that exposes passengers to all the hassles that come from journey time limits, failed card reads and an absolute need to touch-in/out every time. This is seen as being a retrograde move which replaces robust simplicity with complexity - simply because decision makers have the computing power to do so. The expression KISS (keep it simple and stupid) represents wisdom gained from the experience of many people who have learnt the hard way that often simplicity is better than technical wizardry. Whilst at the present time the plans seem to be to retain monthly and even perhaps longer period tickets, who is to say that "function creep" will not see these also sacrificed at a later date?

All this represents a slippery slide downhill towards the money grabbing ideas of the 1990's when some national politicians and transport planners (especially from the privatised railways) expressed a long-term desire to abolish London's pay-once / ride-at-will tickets and switch everybody to the stored value PAYG system with every individual journey being charged something. This would retain the multi-modal aspect of the Travelcard but by using the e-purse system it would enable a better fares take from those passengers who have the temerity to use their season tickets more frequently than twice a day, 5 days a week, travelling home / work / home. Effectively this would make travel considerably more expensive for these heavier users - and where possible end up in them switching to alternative means of transport. The switch from Oyster to EMV bank card payments would facilitate such a conversion very easily.

(To repeat, it is assumed that passengers would NOT welcome this change.)

Another concern is that an idea that already exists on the Moscow Metro would end up being emulated here, with monthly season tickets consisting of a carnet of 70 journey tokens and any extra journeys incurring extra fees. Of course this concept would be welcomed in London if it represented an extra ticketing option - especially by people who work several days a week and who would benefit from a part-time season ticket (eg: 16, 24, 32 journey tokens for 4 weeks @ 2, 3, 4 days a week) - but NOT as a replacement for season tickets as they currently exist.
For more information follow this link:

As someone who sometimes uses weekly tickets I will be looking for alternative solutions. Part of the issue here is that much of my employment comes from an employment agency which will reimburse the cost of travel, all that is required is proof of having bought a season ticket. Since PAYG lists every journey so this method of fares reimbursement will probably not be suitable - the employment agency (and the Tax office [HMRC]) will possibly ask questions about every journey and whether they were work-related, and as a result want to reduce the reimbursement. In addition, there are times when the proof of expenditure is required during the ticket's validity - with the new system it will not be possible to supply proof of travel in advance. Furthermore, personal experience after being caught out because of PAYG fares capping (and OSI interchanges) means that I simply do not want to use it. The hassle when Oyster cards being used in PAYG mode suddenly need extra funds adding through no fault of my own begs questions such as whether the system really is "fit for purpose?" - this being a phrase that is sometimes used by dissatisfied customers in a court of law when a product lets them down and they feel that it was because the product was not suitable / not fit for its intended purpose.

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Will Remote Reading Wave & Go BiBo NFC technology result in barrier-free Stations?

Although updated more recently, the rest of this page dates back to the era when Tony Blair was British Prime Minister. Whilst some of what is said has yet to come to pass it is understood that it is only because many of the required technologies are not yet mature enough. Remote reading of RFID chips located in passing vehicles to pay road user tolls is a known and proven viable technology which is slowly being introduced more widely. However usage on the roads is looked at on the Road Tolling page.

Many stores locate RFID chips in their products because it helps reduce theft. RFID chips are very small - about the size of a grain of rice - and easily hidden within packaging, etc. The anti-theft system works by locating RFID readers at the exit doorways so that any RFID tag which has not been deactivated at the till / checkout will be read as it is taken off the premises - and an alarm will sound. Obviously this technology has a wider 'read area' than that used for RFID / NFC wave and go contactless payment systems and in many ways sounds exactly like a simplified version of the BiBo be in - be out technology described near the start of this page. The question has to be asked is whether this technology will ever be migrated to transport fares payments too?

If it is then it could result in a reduction in the need for ticket barriers (gates), which would improve passenger flow at stations as all a passenger with a compatible enabled device would need do is walk normally - the system would detect them automatically and charge them for their journey accordingly. Admittedly a solution would then be needed to bar access to passengers without compatible NFC / RFID etc., devices ... unless that is it became mandatory for the RFID chips to be implanted in people - in which case people without such chips would become second class citizens who would unable to live in the high-technology society.

However, because of the much wider area in which it will be possible to read these wave and go devices this more advanced technology also poses risks for more advanced frauds: --
Could a thief with a 'grabber' listen-in whilst these devices are being read and perhaps clone them??
Could a thief with a 'grabber' listen-in whilst these devices are being read and perhaps empty any found e-purses??
Could criminals set up their own street-based (or shop entrance) smart card / NFC device readers to perform either of the actions described above?? They have already proven remarkable successful in doing this with 'magnetic stripe' cards being used at bank 'hole-in-the-wall' cash dispenser machines - and false 'PIN OK' messages when using 'chip & pin' plastic cards in some types of terminals.
Could a hacker use his/her smartphone to seek and read as many RFID compatible wave and go devices during a bus / tram / train journey that they can find??
If there was a 'major incident' crime would the police be able to trace ordinary innocent people and treat them as potential criminals just because the system knew they were there? Similar has already happened with innocent people being treated as possible criminals after police obtain email and mobile phone intercepts as authorised under the RIPA law or Oyster card travel data from Tf L. Similar will also apply to ITSO compatible smart cards throughout the rest of the UK as these are introduced.

These issues have already been raised elsewhere on this page:
*the possibility of someone with several RFID compatible wave and go devices having them all charged for the same journey;
*the possible solution of using a wire mesh wallet / purse or other specialist card holder that does not allow remote reads - requiring the wave and go card to be removed when it needs to be read by the ticketing system's computers at each end of the journey
(personal experience has found that an inexpensive paper wallet purchased from the ebay page of this company http://www.koruma.eu . was successful in performing this action).

Keeping Tabs On Our Whereabouts!

Another emerging technological use for RFID devices which can be interrogated remotely comes via our government's proposals for 'pay as you drive' road pricing and bridge / tunnel tolling based on RFID chips located on all motor vehicles which would be read by means of roadside RFID readers that have a 300 metre (yard) capability. It is conceivable that such readers would also be able to interrogate (ie: read) (but hopefully not charge!) all public transport and or other contactless wave and go RFID smart card / NFC devices (as well as the implantable RFID's which some people locate inside their bodies - see below), just so that the system can keep tabs on who is where... and when?

Would people really be happy to have their movements tracked 24/7/365 (366 in leap years!) in this way?

See caption for picture information.
Image & license: Larry D. Moore Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 3.0
See caption for picture information.
Image & license: Z22 / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 3.0
These images show RFID readers and antenna which broadcast signals to detect RFID cards and receive their reply signals. Their uses include the charging of road user fees / tolls and at gated communities where they open the gate to authorised vehicles only.

In all cases these interact with RFID devices which are several yards / metres from the readers, and if they can do this in ways which are successful enough to be used commercially then it remains within the realms of possibility that similar could be possible with other types of RFID chip - including even bank debit / credit cards and transport smart cards.

RFID 'Smart' Cards & 'Big Brother'.

As many people know, everything in life is connected. The topic of electronic ticketing systems which would also permit the continuous detection and tracking of a passengers' journey crosses over into many other aspects of life - creating new possibilities for improving our daily lives, as well as new dangers - and this section looks at some of these issues... Note that these comments are not intended to be judgmental - just to explore the possibilities.

Whilst high-tech RFID technologies offer many advantages which 'add value' (aka: make life easier & better) to the daily lives of ordinary people many far-sighted thinking people also see their widespread introduction as potentially posing significant dangers to personal liberties and hard-won much cherished freedoms. This is even possible in Britain - especially as their use would like be significantly increased without any democratic oversight once an 'emergency' situation as defined by the Civil Contingency legislation of 2004 has been declared. This legislation specifically facilitates suspending over 1000 years of freedoms, human rights, etc - giving the average person about as many rights as an unwilling resident of a Siberian Soviet Gulag or Nazi concentration camp.

In other words, RFID smart card ticketing systems might be being 'sold' to the mass population as a cheaper (& sometimes easier) way to pay transport fares and generally 'go shopping' but once the technology is in place its uses could easily be expanded to 'other' areas / uses... the 'functionality creep' in Malaysia as described above (link) points to what could very easily happen here - and if it happens slowly, over time, so hardly anyone will even notice - until its too late!

It does not help that so many smart card systems require passengers to register their cards with their names, addresses and dates of birth. Whilst e-purse users would expect their every check in/out transaction to be recorded (in case of query later - and on some locations so that they can check that the 'fares capping' worked) this can still be done with impersonal / unregistered cards - as in London. Meanwhile, there is no reason why users with pay once ride-at-will tickets should have any of their movements tracked. It would help placate passengers' concerns if there was an option for no more recording of a person's journey data than was the situation when travellers used paper (thin cardboard) tickets. NB: These comments apply to all electronic ticketing systems - where   ever   globally.

The concern is that whilst the these technologies are still being introduced and gaining public acceptance their use will remain very muted, and benign, but in time they will be merged and become de facto ID cards and people forced (by law) to carry them at all times, ultimately perhaps with street-based readers located "everywhere' so that the state can keep tabs on people's whereabouts 24/7/365 (366 in leap years!). Many British cities already have extensive CCTV (closed circuit television) surveillance systems - some of which are linked into computers running facial recognition software. It has also been known for CCTV operators to sell the footage they obtain to third parties, such as broadcast television companies, and whilst many people see some benefits, abuses are not unknown.

Some pundits (outside of the transport industry) have even suggested that somehow it would help with 'freedom' if everyone (at least, all of this planet's human population) had RFID chips inserted into their bodies - just under their skin (ie: subdermal RFID chipping - in the same way that cats and dogs are often implanted today) - as that way a person could never go out and forget to carry their 'papers'.

The promoters of subdermal RFID chipping suggest that there would be some very useful advantages - for instance if (in an emergency situation) a comatose person is brought into hospital it would very much assist the medical staff if they were able to interrogate the chip to immediately discover the unfortunate person's identity, whether they have health insurance and their medical records (blood group, whether Rh+ or Rh-, allergies, prescribed medications, etc). Otherwise the delay whilst this information is obtained could hamper treatment, and ultimately, their recovery. Many forgetful people might also find an advantage in being chipped as then they would never again set out on a journey but leave their travel tickets (and house keys!) at home. One very emotive argument which has been advocated for chipping everybody at birth is that when combined with a network of street-based chip readers it would make child abduction much harder.

If these ideas came into fruition we could end up with a 'chipped' population whose every movement would be monitored (by the State as well as an unknown number of possibly unscrupulous commercial organisations) at all times. Whether people would want big brother being able to keep tabs on them in this way is questionable, certainly however this technology would have been of use (to the public detriment) in totalitarian regimes such as 1930's Germany and the pre-1990's Soviet Union.

The reference to 1930's Germany and the pre-1990's is because they were both brutal totalitarian police states in which people had internal passports ('papers') and where the leaders lived in constant fear of others wanting to kill them, so they sometimes culled their subordinates and security services.

Nations where the leaders are liked and respected do not need such oppressive measures - as no-one has anything to fear.

Both dictatorial monster regimes are quoted because they encompass both left-wing and right-wing politics; its a way of showing a disdain for both extremist ends of the political wheel. Britain may not be a similar style of police state (at least not yet) where the innocent ordinary people live in fear of the 5am knock on the door and internment 're-education' camps, but with the paper trails which come from electronic ticketing systems detailing every journey it is already the case that the police seek to interview innocent people who just happened to be near a scene of a crime with a mindset that they could be guilty - unless it can be proven otherwise.

Today's Technology, Already Being Used.

By April 2005 implantable RFID chips had become commercially available from a company named VeriChip, which later became known as positiveidcorp. However sales of these were withdrawn in 2010 with reasons including the possibility of them inducing cancer and the ease with which the chips could be cloned.
More information can be found at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VeriChip .

This link leads to an article (from 2005, which is when this section was first written) about an American police chief who was so enthusiastic with the technology and its possibilities that he had himself implanted...
http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=22766. .

RFID chip implanted in hand. The left hand of Amal Graafsta (who has RFID chips in both hands) shortly after the implantation of a subdermal (ie: below the skin) RFID chip - which facilitates the opening of a front door without the need for physical keys.
Image & license: Amal Graafstra / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 2.0

More information and images can be found on the owner's website and Flickr pages at these links:
http://amal.net/ .

Evidence Suggesting That The Government Really Is Using Transport Ticketing Introduction
As A Backdoor Route For Personal ID Cards

A letter to the editor in the January 2014 issue of Today's Railways (UK) magazine by someone who was involved in a smartcard ticketing project (not in London) reveals that a design feature of the ITSO smart card specification was their including personally identifiable information (names and postcodes) in the data records of the Smartcards' registered owner in every transaction (ie: every journey). The letter writer suggests that this is a legal requirement, and that the data can be passed to the police (any officer, of any rank) by means of a simple request - which does not even need be in writing.

The writer adds that on learning of this information he and his colleagues stalled the project, although its promoters continue to spend much taxpayer's money in meetings designed to further the scheme.

This suggests that the transport industry is almost certainly being used as an unaware patsy by the British civil servants and politicians as part of a long-term plan for the backdoor imposition of personal ID cards on the British people and helps fuel suspicion that the British politicians and civil servants really are following an agenda which is indifferent to what is best for the British people and their free society.

Of course the majority of the people in the transport industry will not see how they are (or could be) being used. But obviously the person who wrote that letter to the magazine saw the dangers to British hard-won freedoms and the British way of life.

National leaders of the likes of Stalin and Hitler would have enthusiastically embraced ticketing technologies in this way, had such been possible in their era. But for a nation which is not a police state (at least not yet) and where the innocent ordinary people do not live in fear of the 5am knock on the door and 're-education' prison camps, such is simply unacceptable.

Another concern is that once we are all using smartcards and all our movements are being tracked then it will be easy to start imposing restrictions, such as in a total amount of allowed travel, the requirements to seek permission to travel to distant cities in advance (as was in Russia) etc., until we end up in a Hunger Games type of society. Maybe it will be a decade or so before this comes to pass, and it will happen slowly so that few realise each stepping-stone advancement until it is too late. We very nearly reached this stage after WW2 when the police were harassing road users etc., by stopping motorists solely to see their ID cards. Thankfully the correct freedom-enhancing solution was found - this being the abolition of the ID cards.

See caption for picture information. Click on George Orwell's ID card to visit the British campaigning site http://www.no2id.net . about Government proposals for ID cards and a national database of information (National Identity Register) on our every movements, financial transactions, medical records, convictions etc., for which transport orientated electronic ticketing systems are one of the routes by which the technology could be introduced, and honed.

Optimal Ticketing Solution

The optimal ticketing solution would include passengers having the legal right for anonymous tickets. This could be via paper tickets and / or unregistered anonymous smartcards which can have financial value added in a way that also maintains the anonymity (ie: by cash, as credit / debit cards leave paper trails which effectively break the anonymity of anonymous smartcards). This will block backdoor routes through which our much cherished and hard won freedoms could end up being compromised and then removed. This legal right also needs to include a clause requiring that anonymous users - whether their tickets are electronic or paper - are charged identical fares as everyone else. ie: NO discrimination.

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------
They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Benjamin Franklin, 1755 - and still as true today as when he said it.

Popular Culture - Future Portents

Popular culture often puts forward ideas which at the time are science fiction but a generation (or two) later become reality. In the 1930's there was space travel in rocket ships. In the 1960's - 1990's the space travel meme included people from other planets and small hand-held electronic devices which in many ways could be seen as being similar to the smart phone computers of the years since 2000. In the post 2000 era we've had films (movies in American English) such as Minority Report and The Hunger Games. Do these point to life in the 2020's, 2030's - and later?

Anyone who has seen the Minority Report will have noticed how everyone has to undergo a retina scan (eye scan) as they go about their daily lives. This includes when boarding a Washington subway train and entering a retail clothing store where the computer welcomes the main character (Tom Cruise) by name and asks about his previous purchase. In the film he is accused of a crime in advance of committing it and is jailed so that he becomes unable to commit that crime. However, he is helped to escape and as part of clearing his name he has to change his identity - which is achieved at a squalid, unhygienic back street clinic by changing his eyes. In the event when it becomes time for the crime to be committed it is found that someone did it, but if the event is watched from a specific point of view then it does indeed looks as if he did it.

The Hunger Games point to a future when the massed population has been culled, with the survivors having been herded into many large concentration camp style environments where people live in constant fear of their lives and the only advanced technologies are those used by the security services to watch over them. All the necessities of life are metered and restricted - so that people only just about get enough to eat. Meanwhile the leaders live a fantastic futuristic city with much advanced technology and where banquets feature so much food that people drink special liquids to vomit and make space in their stomachs for more food. Every year there are televised games in a jungle area where two people from each of the concentration camps (this frequently includes young children who have no chance of survival) are selected to fight and kill each other - so that only one person remains alive. This is broadcast live, and apart from anything else its purpose is to distract and keep the masses mentally occupied - so that they are less likely to start an uprising.

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