Fares & Ticketing Systems

Navigating through this website is easier with the navigator frame which should be to the left of this window. If it is not there then click here to turn it on! Alternatively there is a system map at the foot of this page.

More information about this website & why it was created can be found by visiting this website's "front" pages (link opens in a new window). .

Most images are "clickable" - run the mouse over them and if a "hand" appears then click & a larger version will open in a new window! .

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

These topics are on page 1

These topics are on this page

Page 3 . was created during the December 2016 update as a way of retaining much data that was removed from page 2.

Smart Card And Contactless RFID Ticketing

Many cities planetwide already have or are looking at introducing radio-frequency (RFID) contactless electronic high-tech smart card ticketing systems on their urban and in some cases inter-urban public transports. At first such electronic ticketing came in the form of smart cards that stored 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), however as technology progressed fares payment smart cards began to be supplanted by ordinary contactless bank cards (and other devices) plus other electronic ticketing solutions such as prepaid electronic tokens which are stored on mobile phones.

To make smart card ticketing more attractive to the general public the 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. When smart cards are used to pay for low-value shopping and other services there exists the possibility of creating a database which includes where the card holder likes to go shopping, the items they regularly purchase and more. As with supermarket loyalty cards this type of information often has a commercial value to data marketing businesses.

Frequently smart cards include personally identifiable data about the person using them. Even so-called anonymous smart cards are linked to individuals when a bank account is used to add monetary value to the e-purse. Recording this data has made it possible to create an electronic paper trail that includes details of a person's every movement, their regular travels, leisure travels, etc., this being data that can sometimes be of interest to the various security services - not just in dictatorial police state nations but also in so-called free democracies. In London the police use such data to contact possible witnesses who were near the scene of a serious crime.

For the sake of completeness, other ticketing solutions are also available, such as tickets which are purchased online and printed at home by the traveller(s) before the journey begins, however this page is primarily about transport operator smart cards plus contactless bank cards and devices.

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.

None of these RFID cards contain batteries. Instead, they use a built-in inductor to capture some of the radio-frequency interrogation signal emitted by the terminal which which they interact 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, thumb-sized 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

Irrespective of the payment method, electronic ticketing only creates electronic (ie: virtual / non physical) paper trails. Whilst this may be great for reducing paper consumption it is less appreciated by business travellers (and anyone else) who needs paper receipts to use as part of an expense claim.

Although it is usually possible to print out paper logs of recent journeys / other transactions made using electronic tickets, a new problem is that typically these logs detail every journey / transaction - 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 these journeys 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. It may be nothing more than he is 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 use two electronic (smart card, etc.,) payment devices, 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 and can sometimes be experienced in stores which add RFID chips to their products as an anti-theft measure. Whilst the RFID chips are supposed to be removed / deactivated when the goods are paid for, this is sometimes forgotten and as a result the anti-theft alarm is automatically activated when the person is leaving the store.
As is seen elsewhere on this page, RFID tags with a much greater reading range are already used for road vehicle pricing and access control. Who is to say that the road pricing system will not also read RFID chips on other devices, 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 usually need to tell the computer system where they are when they start their journeys and frequently also where they are when they finish their journeys. The process of "telling the computers" is accomplished by placing a smart card (or other contactless device) on an electronic touch-pad designed to communicate with with these cards / devices. The terminologies used for this process vary considerably, one example is to touch in at the start of the journey and touch out when it ends, other possibilities include replacing the word "touch" with "check", "tag" and "tap".

Sometimes there is a choice of routes which can be travelled, with them attracting different fares. On systems where there are card readers at stations the default option will usually be the faster and most expensive route. Passengers who followed a cheaper route will need to use additional route validator card readers located at interchange locations. These tell the computers that the journey was via the cheaper route. Life is more complicated when there is a choice of through trains or buses via several routes which do not require passengers to interchange during the journey - sometimes there is just no facility to tell the system that one travelled via a cheaper route! In cities where the card readers are inside the transports the system will automatically know the route that was followed.

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. 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. What it is assumed will be RFID readers (maybe a newer technology will replace these?) 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 issue of people forgetting to check out when alighting from a 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 they travelled 1st or 2nd class, if such is appropriate for the journey. Hopefully 'discount fares' transport operators will NOT use this technology to levy a fee for using an onboard toilet or smartphone charging socket.

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 do not welcome the person sitting behind them who is using a smartphone being 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 charged to them all - one is quite enough! 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 tolitarian and police state 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 or a RFID reader on the platform of a street-based tram stop, as the pedestrian would not welcome being charged for a journey that they are not making.

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, updated December 2016.

Higher Technology 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 prepaid season tickets and at railway stations they 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 some people see as a hassle in handling cash, small value coins, etc. Whilst fares are still frequently paid when boarding buses, 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. Trials by transport operators has found that electronic ticketing can reduce the boarding and fares payment duration at bus stops by as much as 75%!

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 urban railway stations, and the CiCo system now requires that this is also done on bus (and tram) 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 whilst you are distracted no-one else is going to try and snatch anything out of your hands (eg: smartphone, if this is being used as a fares payment device) 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 solution 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 ticket 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 checked-in/out at each 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 Technology 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 usually 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 without paying for travel through the intermediate zones. They were wrong for doing this but since the paper ticketing system only checked that the ticket was valid at the station of entry and exit they got away with it. But, when the new smart card ticketing was introduced the passengers found that as it noted their stations of departure and arrival and reconciled the permitted routes between these station pairs, the ticket gates no longer allowed them to exit the station - instead they had to seek assistance from the station staff who required that they pay for passing through both intermediate zones and upgrade their season ticket so that it would be valid for their entire journey!

Easier Fares Increases

Because paying fares electronically disassociates passengers from the monetary values actually being charged (how many passengers 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 - or the wrong fare charged - without passengers realising.

Smart Card Operator Cash Flow Bonanza

Note: This only applies to the use of e-purses which need loading with monetary value before travel

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 who are travelling on networks where there are graduated fares - which will be paid from a smart card e-purse - to either be required to a) make a financial deposit that is likely to be greater than their overall fare when starting the journey, with this being refunded (less the correct fare) when the journey ends or b) to be required to have a minimum amount of financial value (ie: money) stored in the e-purse. The only fair way of doing this is to include it as part of the check in/out process. This is necessary 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 to ensure 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 depending on their banking arrangements they could possibly use it to either earn some interest or offset interest charges on any loans incurred to fund investments.

Whilst in theory this money belongs to the passengers, the attitude taken by many 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 will help explain why when the CiCo system was first introduced in London the use of the e-purse was known as Pre Pay, although to help mask this aspect of the ticketing system it has since become known pay as you go (PAYG)

Pre Pay Oyster card reader
This June 2005 photograph clearly shows that at one time using the e-purse to pay transport fares in London was known as Pre Pay.

Passengers not checking in/out correctly also results in a different kind of 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 was delayed... 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 .

Why The Transport Operators Are Partly Blameworthy

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 just leave station ticket gates open, but actually switch them off, so that it becomes impossible to touch 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.

If they really wanted to reduce the number of times that passengers experience problems from failing to check out the transport operators (in Holland, and here in the UK) would not require passengers with prepaid season tickets and ride-at-will day tickets to use the card readers at open stations and when alighting from buses and trams. This comment does not apply to PAYG passengers on systems that charge graduated / distance based fares.

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.

Long-Term Data Storage!

Electronic travel records of people's movements using public transport (and, for that matter, RFID road tolling systems) is often stored for many years after the travel. Whilst the need to be able to refer back a few years is important (to help resolve any issues related to possibly incorrect charging) this is unlikely to be the only reason why such data is held.

Civil liberty campaigners are concerned that since the travel records can be accessed by the police, judicial system, tax service, etc., these organisations will regard such data as veritable goldmines of possibly incriminating information, with (usually) innocent people being treated as guilty until proven otherwise. Who remembers the fine detail of their every financial transaction from two years ago - wher they went, what they bought, why, which till they paid at, which station ticket gate they used, etc?

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?

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.
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------
Return to top of page

EMV, NFC, Other Contactless Payment Devices

Changing technologies means that operator (or city) specific smart cards are being supplanted by EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard, Visa) contactless credit, charge and debit cards plus physical devices which have embedded RFID chips.

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, smart phones, watches, key fobs, wristbands and other devices in which there is a compatible NFC (Near Field Communications) RFID chip. Extending this to public transport means that passengers do not need to buy and use operator-specific smart cards.

NB: Only banking cards and devices which have a compatible RFID chip can be used for contactless payments - not all of these include this facility.

Acronyms And Terminologies

Included in the acronyms for contactless payment systems are:

  • RFID - radio frequency identification,
  • contactless - the communication (read and write) can be made close to but without physically touching the payment terminal,
  • EPoS - electronic point of sale, best understood as being the terminal / physical device where (or near where) payments are made,
  • EMV - EuroPay, MasterCard, Visa - the banks use various different marketing names for their wave and go payment technologies however they all meet the same technical standards for which EMV is a generic name.
  • NFC - near field communications - a short-range wireless transmitting technology which allows devices to establish radio communication with each other either when in close proximity or when touched together,
  • Wave and go - a generic marketing term that is easily understood by the general public for contactless EPoS technology where (depending on the standards being followed) the devices must either be touching each other or can be up to about 4" (about 10cm) apart. The purpose of wave and go is to replace cash for low value transactions and speed up purchases, as there is rarely a requirement to enter the four digit pin code ('pin' = personal identification number) in to a credit card terminal.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX these ) and ot purchase prepaid travel that is then sent as an electronic token to either a personalised account or -

A feature of some smart card systems is that they allow passengers to use anonymous smart cards which can be shared with family and friends, as long as only one person uses it at a time. This is still possible with fares systems that use identifiers, although it will perhaps best serve everyone if this is done on the basis of an anonymous e-purse PAYG account (which is linked to an anonymous identifier) being held on the central computer which checks available balance before the start of every journey. This is because it creates zero possibility for passengers to incur higher travel costs which are then dishonoured (due to "insufficient funds") when the charge is levied to a payment account.

Travel Now / Pay Later Accounts; No More E-Purse, Prepaid Season Tickets?

It is not normally possible to store any transport data on cards / devices when bank cards and other contactless devices are used when checking in/out. Instead these items act as an identifier to a central computer. Depending on what the transport operator / whoever controls the payments system wants, fares payments using identifiers could mean an end to the e-purse and possibly even prepaid season tickets. Instead the cost of travels will be charged to the passenger's nominated payment account (credit card / bank acount) on a periodic basis. Often this will be once daily.

Financial value might have to be added using cash, at stations or retailers, but this is no hardship.

Some passengers may be happy with the pay later accounts system, however other passengers may prefer prepaid tickets and PAYG systems whereby they buy their travel in advance of travelling. This is because paying before travelling helps them budget their personal finances more easily and frees them from concerns about funds not being accidentally spent elsewhere. This also gives passengers confidence that they will not suddenly find themselves being forced to pay expensive bank charges because the transport fares were either refused or resulted in their bank account experiencing an unplanned overdraft. Banks and other financial institutions benefit from fees levied on both payments which are r3fused and (unplanned) overdrafts.

You Are Expected To Have A Bank Account

Typically NFC and other electronic ticketing systems require that the passenger has a bank account. Of course many people do have bank accounts - but not everybody. Not everybody is even eligible to have a bank account - children and bankrupts being two examples. Therefore there will always be a need for alternative solutions - such as smart cards. These too could still be linked to centralised travel accounts and if anonymous would still be compatible with the system whereby it can be shared with family and friends, as long as only one person is using it at a time.

Other reasons why some people may not have bank accounts include that not everyone likes banks or trusts them to always act with integrity. In addition, just as some people see their being photographed without prior permission as being a violation of their personality rights there are people who follow a similar ethos with their personal finances and simply do not want the banking system to know too much about them - their net wealth, how they spend their money, their every financial transaction... Apart from these reasons, there are people who are very concerned about the financial status (liquidity) of the banks, which in many cases is not good, and they are also aware of recent laws in all European Community nations which require that a bank that is failing reassigns some of its customers' financial value (from savings and current accounts plus safety deposit boxes) to try and bolster its own situation (known as bail-ins) and they want to ensure their own financial safety.

The Personal Right To Not Be Recognised Is Well-Known In Photography
Extending The Same To Travel

In some countries people are very fussy on the issue of photography and personality rights and become extremly angry if a photograph is taken which includes them in an identifiable way. These people claim that they have a right to anonymity.

What few of them may realise is that the use if any electronic ticketing system which involves the use of personalised payment cards (of any type) effectively means that they are ceding their much vaunted right to anonymity.

The only way around this is to use anonymous smart cards (ie: which have not been registered to them) and only ever use cash when adding financial value. Life becomes more complicated with electronic payment systems that use individual travel accounts - the way around this is for transport operators to offer PAYG prepaid travel accounts. There is no technical reason why such would not be possible - that is, apart from 'human politics' and the desire of bureaucrats to be able to track people's every movement.

People who wish to remain anonymous should also note that most local and national governments ignore personality rights when CCTV surveillance (such as is found at stations, in the street, etc) is linked in with facial recognition softwares.

The Personal Right For Private Finances

The use of EMV, NFC and other wave and go contactless payment systems is an emerging technology and is looked at again, after London below.

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. Perhaps for such journeys the passengers will still need to purchase their tickets at a machine before travelling, with it being stored as an electronic token on their travel account and the act of using a platform card reader (with a payment / NFC card that is linked to that account) will be sufficient to trigger the use of the electric token. 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.

London's 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 £30.00 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.


Looking At Some Systems

Looking at smart card ticketing systems in a few towns and cities overseas.

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 in the Other Ticketing Systems section on Fares & Ticketing systems page 1, 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 250 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.

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 balance plus the maximum negative value is insufficient to settle the full cost of the transaction it will be automatically topped up using funds coming from a designated bank or credit card account. 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.


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.

Keeping Up To Date - Free Replacement Cards

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.

However not being compatible with international standards has become an issue, with Hong Kong becoming concerned that it is risking being seen as lagging or falling behind in the onward advancement of technology.

In August 2015 holders of personalised and anonymous first generation Octopus cards started being invited to replace them with new technology cards that are compatible with a transaction enquiry and online payment smartphone app, plus other new features. The replacement Octopus cards are free of charge.

Although the procedures vary depending on whether the card has been personalised or is anonymous. the actual transfer is carried at Octopus Service Points machines which are located at some MTR stations and shopping centres. These machines are used for various functions including checking available balance and obtaining the latest transaction records. Anonymous card holders receive their new card from the machine at the time of transfer. Personalised card holders will receive their new card after applying for it. The transfer process is done whilst the person waits and it includes transfering financial value and most (but not all) of the offers / services which the card user had added to their card. The process also includes cancelling and retaining the old cards.

In October 2015 an agreement was signed with fare collection technology supplier Scheidt & Bachmann to create a ticketing services partnership that offers fares payment systems to other urban areas. In addition this partnership will include updating the technologies used in Hong Kong so that if the people behind Octopus wish it then they could introduce new features such as fares payment using contactless bank cards, fares capping and best fare charging.

In December 2016 much Octopus information was removed from this page and instead can be found on Page 3 .

The English language pages of the Octopus website can be found here: http://www.octopus.com.hk/home/en/index.html ..

*Dating from 1996 the little-known Korean Upass is credited as actually being the first smart card system.

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

So many cities in Asia also use smart cards on (some of) their public transports that there are too many to mention them all. When this page was first being created (circa 2005-10) two locations stood out as being of special interest. These were Singapore and Malaysia. The information below from them was not updated during the December 2016 page update.

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 claimed that some bus passengers experienced overcharging problems which they attributed to card readers that sometimes took too long (as many as five (5) seconds!) to activate when a bus arrives at a bus stop. As a result it often happeend that passengers would have alighted from the bus thinking that because their smart cards had touched the card reader before they alighted so they were being charged the correct fare - when they were not. As with everywhere else, even when they are not at fault it always remains the passenger's responsibility (liability / duty) to ensure that their card is properly read.
Information source:

This Singapore information was not changed during the December 2016 page update.

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, with the process of adding financial value to the e-purse also being possible anonymously.

This Malaysia information was not changed during the December 2016 page update.

Return to top of page

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

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)

The use of smart card ticketing in Holland is much further advanced than here in the UK so it may be of interest to explore their experiences.

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.

* 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 below.

Called the OV-chipkaart (Public Transport Chipcard) the Dutch transport smart card system is operated 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.

The name ‘OV-Chipkaart’ comes from the from Dutch words openbaar (public), vervoer (transport) and chipkaart (chip card).

OV-chipkaart cards 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.

Paper Tickets Not Completely Replaced

Recognising that sometimes passengers will not have an OV-chipkaart (eg: infrequent passengers and tourists) and also noting how in not everybody likes electronic ticketing, many areas still offer a limited range of paper tickets. Typically these are in the form of a single purpose paper (eg: day ticket) OV-chipkaart ticket which in the traditional away can be thrown away after use. Since these tickets still contain electronic chips they must still be checked-in/out at each end of the journey. To cover extra costs the railways levy an extra €1 on paper ticket fares. Some private bus companies reintroduced plain paper tickets (especially day tickets) that are restricted to just their own services as marketing ploys - because experience showed that some passengers prefer simple prepaid paper which cannot be blocked (deactivated) because they forgot to use a card reader!

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. Anonymous cards cannot be renewed, but a refund of unused credit can be made, exactly how depends on the amount and what the transport operator wishes to do. The cost of the card is non-refundable.

The text above was written in the early days of the OV-chipkaart system. By the time of this December 2016 page update many OV-chipkaart cards had started needing replacing; this topic is revisited further down this page.

*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, and other reasons, the Strippenkaart sometimes expired. When this happened they were replaced by versions which featured slightly different wordings, colours etc.

The Strippenkaart seen above-left dates from 1981 and fares were charged in Dutch Guilders / Florins. A more recent 15 zone Strippenkaart dating from the € 'Euro' currency era used to be visible at the Wikipedia link below but has now been deleted for copyright violation.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strippenkaart.jpg .

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 a set period of time.

The OV-Chipkaart's e-purse follows 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 rate. 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.

‡ Exceptions! when transferring between mainline trains by the same transport operator and urban metro trains operated by the same transport operator. This does NOT apply to buses or trams.
* Whilst this was the desired outcome electronic incompatibilities between different technologies used by different transport operators means that sometimes passengers are charged further boarding fees when interchanging between services operated by different transport operators.

There is also a boarding fee which varies depending on the transport operator. 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. Their 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 tram or bus stop that is 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 because the check in/out process is carried out inside the vehicle 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.

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 operators, 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.

Return to top of page

Railways And The OV-Chipkaart

The introduction the OV-chipkaart took 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) the railways regard OV-chipkaart 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. Visitors from a few neighbouring countries are allowed however to buy a personalised OV-chipkaart and subscribe to the discounted travel schemes.

In addition, 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 twice.

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. Return tickets are still available in the form of single purpose disposible OV-chipkaart tickets.

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.

Pre-Purchase Tickets Might Be Cheaper If Breaking A Journey

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!

If passengers are paying fares from the e-purse then depending on the length of the break of journey the electronic ticketing system might treat the passenger as if they are making two journeys and charge a second basic fare when the journey is restarted. However this does not apply when passengers buy a paper ticket. It is important to remember that disposible single-purpose OV-chipkaart tickets attract a €1 surcharge. It is also possible to load single journeys on OV-chipkaart smart cards tickets but what happens in this scenario remains unknown.

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.

The above was written in the mid 2000's. Since then however the situation seems to have changed...

For Cheaper Fares Passengers Advised To Use Two Chipcards!

In September 2016 changes were made to how discounts and free travel are applied to e-purse travel on the railways. This is done because there are some stations where passengers changing trains operated by the same railway company need to check-in/out at stations where the trains call at platforms in separate fares paid areas, and these passengers found that even though they started started their journey in off-peak hours they would be charged peak fares if their interchange was at a time when peak fares are charged.

This sounds very fair, however some passengers who commence their journey at times when peak fares are charged had discovered that the rest of their journey would be charged at off-peak fares if they broke their journey to check out and then check in again during off-peak hours.

The new system adjusts the 35 minute free interchange period to also ensure that passengers are always charged according to the time they first checked-in. Passengers who do not wish to wait the 35 minutes must either pay the peak fares or use another payment method - which could be a different OV-chipkaart card.
Information source: http://www.iamexpat.nl/read-and-discuss/expat-page/news/ns-adapted-rules-discount-outside-rush-hour-the-netherlands. .

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.


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. These tickets attract a €1 surcharge on ordinary fares to cover the cost of their production and handing (installing in ticket machines, etc). For irregular passengers such as visitors to Holland who simply do not need or want an OV-chipkaart, 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 of 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. The latter will need to be shown when the tickets are checked by ticket inspectors. e-tickets are sold for travel on a specific day / date and 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.

Ticket Barriers And Station Access

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

At some locations this has caused much controversy because the stations were also walking routes and / or have catering / other retail outlets which ceased being accessible to people who are on the wrong side of the ticket gates.

Ways around this include passengers paying their fares using an OV-chipkaart e-purse checking out and then checking in again within 35 minutes as this will ensure that they are not charged a second basic rate. As most Dutch people are expected to have an OV-chipkaart so non-passengers can use the same 60 minute platform ticket rule that allows them to enter stations at no charge. Intending passengers who are waiting for their train also need to be aware of the rule about not checking in more than 30 minutes in advance of their train. It is also possible to source a special station pass which will open ticket gates from NS.

All this does mean that some people who are not travelling on the trains, eg: overseas visitors, find themselves no longer able to access the facilities beyond the ticket gates.

Rotterdam Central station was gated at the start of May 2015 and in the first fortnight of the new system over 1,000 people were fined for ticketless travel. In addition there was an astonishing 70% increase in the number of ov-chipkaart card top-up transactions per day and 80% increase in the daily sales of paper tickets.

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 used on a tax return as proof of 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!

All services - not just the railways.

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, for example, 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 it was no longer possible to buy 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 were 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. .

The article linked above also includes the following text:

public transport charges will have to go up eventually because running the chip card system cost three times as much as issuing paper tickets.

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 earlier than my journey. 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 which were 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 fares had risen very significantly since the Strippenkaart was replaced by the OV-chipkaart in 2011, with the cost per kilometre rising by 47% in The Hague and 38% in Amsterdam. Nationwide the rise was about 8%. The disparity in increase percentages is because with the OV-chipkaart the kilometre charge is set locally (with the Strippenkaart it was set nationally) and the higher increases in the big cities were related to lower subsidies, budget deficits and a need to increase 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 ticket machine or transport company service desk.

The 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. The blogger also complains that the confirmation email which they are supposed to have received within an hour actually took a day to arrive and expresses their dismay that the weekend return discounts that were offered on paper tickets were not made available to OV-chipkaart users.
Information source: http://gray-um.com/tag/ov-chipkaart/ .

A blog entitled Dutch public transport chip-card system flawed at introduction comprises a litany of gripes, including a dystopian tale of senior citizens who found the OV-chipkaart to be so user unfriendly that they gave up using public transport. It was just too difficult and the simple option of going to a customer service desk and having things done for them was not offered.
Information source: http://www.uselog.com/2010/01/dutch-public-transport-chip-card-system.html

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

As seen in the images above, some railway stations are served by several transport operators (companies) and therefore have OV-chipkaart readers for each operator located in close proximity. Passengers must be careful to use the correct one! This is done because the OV-chipkaart system is not capable of allowing seamless through journeys - especially not journeys which involve several transport operators who levy different value deposits.

Passengers wanting to travel between two stations which are served by direct trains operated by two (or more) transport operators 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 which trains (or trams) to travel on before they check-in (remembering to use the correct card readers) and then remember again to use the correct card readers when they check out afterwards! This also applies to passengers travelling on the shared lines in Amstelveen (near to Amsterdam) and Randstadrail E (The Hague-Rotterdam region) where trams and metro trains provide joint services, although at these stations the situation is less confusing because the card readers on the platform are for the metros whilst tram passengers must use the card readers inside the tram.

In 2019 the Amstelveen issue described above will be resolved in an extremely passenger unfriendly way - the metro service will be withdrawn and passengers who had enjoyed a one seat through service will be forced to interchange during their journey.

Passengers interchanging between trains from different railway operators at stations which have shared a fares paid area passengers MUST remember to check out on the correct card reader for the transport operator they just used and then check in using the card reader for the transport operator they are about to use. In addition, if using the same OV-chipkaart card then this must be done in the correct order - as otherwise the passenger will be financially penalised. This includes where the different railway operators (eg: metro and mainline railway) benefit from cross-platform interchange - and date from the days of paper ticketing when the design criteria was to create seamless journeys that make travelling easy. (This must be done everywhere but its especially easy to forget do this when the trains share the same island platform).

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

Future Expansion: '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 were conducted in Rotterdam with travel accounts (where fares are collected from bank accounts on a monthly basis) and contactless bankcard acceptance. Also being discussed were 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.

When OV-chipkaart Cards Need Renewing

When OV-chipkaart cards expire they must be replaced. Unlike in Hong Kong where Octopus cards are replaced at machines (for free!), in Holland the passengers must pay a hefty fee for their new cards.

Replacement personalised OV-chipkaart cards have to be applied for and will work as soon as they arrive. Most types of stored data, prepaid travel tickets etc., are transferred, plus (if enabled) the automatic e-purse top-up too. Refunds of funds on the e-purse of the old card is sent to the holder's nominated bank account. The card holder can then destroy the old card, if they wish. Cards must be renewed and funds recovered within one year of expiry.

Anonymous OV-chipkaart cards are not renewable. Users just buy a new one. To recover unspent e-purse funds users have to return their anonymous cards and provide bank account information for the refund. Note that doing this will break the anonymity of the card, which may or may not annoy the card holder. There is a requirement to speak Dutch if applying for a refund, as despite being a multicultural nation (just like the UK!) the multi-page document that needs filling-in is only available in the Dutch language.

Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/09/translink-makes-millions-from-unclaimed-ov-chipkaart-cash/ .

Dutch Ombudsman Rules OV-chipkaart Cards Should Be Free

In July 2015 the Dutch public transport ombudsman said that passengers should not be charged when renewing their OV-chipkaart cards when they expire. Instead the cost of renewal should be included in travel fares.

However this ruling has been ignored.

TLS say that cards need periodic replacement because the plastic starts to degrade and they break, plus the newer cards include the latest security technology.

Information source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/07/public-transport-smart-cards-should-be-free-says-ombudsman/. .

If Hong Kong can replace cards for free, and in an easy way, so why not Holland?

No Dutch Bank Account? When Card Expires You Lose Unspent Funds

This is because all refunds will only be sent to a Dutch bank account - and not everyone does have a bank account!

There is a global push by financial institutions and political leaders to encourage, cajole and coerce people who do not have bank accounts to have one and therefore only repaying unspent deposits to bank accounts can be seen as being part of the ruse to force Dutch residents people who do not want a bank account to get one.

Millions Earnt From Unclaimed Refunds

In an online newspaper article dated September 2015 it is said that so many people are not reclaiming unspent e-purse funds that TLS are raking in €millions from expired OV-chipkaart cards.

As someone says in the reader's comments, the bureaucratic reclaim processs acts a deterrant because there is a lengthy form to fill in which must then be posted to TLS. By the time this has been done it has cost more in time and postage than the amount to be reclaimed is worth. Especially if its only a small amount.

OV-chipkaart To Switch From Smart Card To ID-Based System
Travel Now / Pay Later Accounts - No More E-Purse - Prepaid Season Tickets?

In July 2016 it was announced that TLS are planning to morph the OV-chipkaart from a system where ticketing and journey information is held on smart cards in the form of electronic tokens and / or in an e-purse to one where this information is held in personal accounts on central (back office) computers. With this system card reads at stations / on buses, trams, etc., only act as triggers that tell the central computer that the person is commencing or ending a journey. The correct charge for the journey(s) is / are then calculated by the central computer and charged to the passenger's nominated payment account (credit card / bank acount) on a periodic basis - which typically will be once daily.

The solutions adopted for people who are not able to have bank accounts and people who prefer prepaid tickets remain to be seen. Some people prefer paying in advance of travel because this makes budgeting monthly expenses easier - there no chance of accidentally spending money in the bank account intended for paying transport fares on discretionary shopping.

This might mean an end to the e-purse and possibly even prepaid season tickets, Some passengers may prefer this system, however other passengers may prefer a system whereby they purchase prepaid travel (or e-purse value) using cash that is then sent as an electronic token to either a personalised account or an anonymous account that is linked to an anonymous identifier - there is no technical reason why such would not be possible - it would be 'human politics' which will decide what happens.

In December 2016 some OV-chipkaart information was removed from this page and instead can be found on Page 3 .

The English language pages of the OV-chipkaart website can be found here: http://www..html ..

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

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.

Although the IFM Project has ended more information about it can still be found online, albeit on a web page that is part of the Smart Ticketing Alliance (STA) website. The STA acts as a platform for cooperation and a coordinated approach for establishing ticketing interoperability for the Public Transport sector.

Links to STA and the IFM Project:
http://www.smart-ticketing.org .

Return to top of page
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------


Especially in the more technically advanced nations the number of towns and cities using RFID smart card ticketing systems has increased so much that there are already too many to name them all. So only one other example is looked at here. Passengers in Wellington benefit from a feature that very few other electronic ticketing systems offer - group travel paid for in one transaction on one card.

Wellington and Snapper

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.

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.

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.

In June 2009 some bus companies started giving passengers who used Snapper a 20% discount on adult fares. 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 on 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!

Perhaps a feature which would be welcomed elsewhere too?

If the lead passenger advises the bus driver when boarding a bus - and 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. 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.

In December 2016 much Snapper information was removed from this page and instead can be found on Page 3 .

The official website where people are invited to get hooked on Snapper can be found here: http://www.snapper.co.nz/. .

Return to top of page
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

RFID Ticketing In Great 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 did prove 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 largely stifled the creation of anything but operator-specific smart card systems, and whilst local governments have sometimes been able to create their own multi-operator alternatives the bus companies can not be forced to accept these tickets. An example of this which predates electronic ticketing comes from Tyne & Wear where bus deregulation allowed individual transport operators to all-but 'kill off' the former integrated paper ticketing system.

However even in the early days some local governments successfully introduced multi-operator smart card schemes. 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.

Some significant drawbacks of the Cheshire Travelcard is the need to apply (this is meant to be a method of paying transport fares - not a personal ID card) and the lack of anonymous Travelcards so that passengers can travel and top-up the e-purse without leaving a paper trail detailing their every movement. However it would be unfair to just single out Cheshire for these faults, as they also apply to most of the other smart cards schemes detailed here.

Bradford: Where Smart Cards Came With BusMiles To Encourage Customer Loyalty

In the early days of smart card ticketing a customer loyalty scheme for regular passengers was operated in the city of Bradford, West Yorkshire. Here 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.

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

There is more information about the former BusMiles scheme on Page 3 . .

Dating from 2000, Nottingham is credited with having Britain's first smart card ticket scheme. At that time it was named BusCard but since then it has been rebranded as EasyRider and then easyrider Citycard. This smart card is a ticketing product of the former municipal bus company Nottingham City Transport (NCT). Included in the ticketing range that is compatible with the easyrider Citycard are period tickets, an e-purse which when used to pay bus travel charges lower fares than that standard cash fares and a novel form of season ticket where passengers can buy blocks of non-consecutive days of travel (3, 5, 10, 20, 100) so that even people who work just a few days a week can still receive some of the many benefits of a prepaid season ticket. 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.

One of the other bus companies which operates in Nottingham is Trent Barton who have their own and incompatible Mango smart card. These feature an e-purse which offers its users a 15% discount on normal fares and daily caps on total travel expenditure per day. 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. Mango cards can be shared with relatives and friends, although only one person can use them at a time. Mango users must allow up to 24 hours for top-up data to reach their cards however if they are short of credit it is also possible to top-up on the bus (minimum amount £10 and then in £5 multiples) but there is a 50 pence fee for doing this. Topping up is free if done via an online account or auto top-up. 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 a replacement card (less £3 admin fee). Mango users also benefit from special offers in addition to cheaper bus travel, such as at the cinema.

When this web page was first written it was also noted that Mango cards are valid for up to two years after their last use for travel, during which time they can be returned for the stored value to be refunded. However after two years of non-use they expire and the stored value is lost. This information was not found during the December 2016 page update.

Government's "Anti-Cartel" Rules Destroy Integrated Transport

In 2004 Nottingham opened the first stage of its NET (Nottingham Express Transit) tramway. Since NCT was a partner in the company which operated NCT the easyrider smart card was accepted as one of the ticketing solutions that could be used to pay fares on the trams. However, in 2011 as part of the financial package for building stage 2 of the trams a rival consortia won the rights to the tramway and as a result the link between NCT and NET was severed, which affected the joint ticketing arrangements and saw the easyrider Citycard having to be withdrawn from the trams. This destruction of an integrated multi-modal ticketing system resulted in a significant drop in the number of passengers travelling on the trams.

But there is a twist to these events, because the consortium for the new operating company includes the owner of Trent Barton Buses and therefore it had to be referred to, and approved by, the Government's Office of Fair Trading. Nowadays (December 2016) it is possible to pay tram fares using Mango cards, however competition rules expressly prohibit passengers from being able to benefit from a single maximum charge fares 'cap' which combines the value of both tram and bus fares.

There is also a multi-modal Nottingham City Council (ie: local government) smart card which was called Kangaroo but since 2016 had been known as Robin Hood. The PAYG e-purse version is accepted on some bus services and the trams whilst the season ticket version can be used on all of these plus some other bus services and for local travel on railway services operated by East Midlands Trains. Especially for multi-modal travel the fares paid using this smart card are higher than the caps charged by the individual transport companies.

Nottinghamn's Robin Hood was part funded through the Central (Westminster) Government's Smart Cities Partnership which was set up in October 2013 to speed up delivery of smart ticketing in England’s large urban areas. This partnership comprises the Department For Transport (DfT) the Passenger Transport Executives / major cities (Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham and Manchester) and bus operators. Its purpose was to help improve urban travel with smart ticketing being one of the features.

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.

It could be questioned whether a bidding process can be a good way to improve public transport. This is because 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. Bidding processes are expensive, requiring the services of highly paid consultants to write the bid... and as a result it also reduced the amount of money available to actually get the ticketing system installed.

Another of the British urban bus companies which introduced their own smart card system was Plymouth CityBus whose Freedom Card was a personalised card with the user's photograph that 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.

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. .

When this page was first written it was also noted that: local shops displaying the Paypoint symbol also sold paper bus tickets; Plymouth Citybus The Key smart cards are automatically cancelled after a year of inactivity; and that Dayrider and Multi-trip travel credits are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase, with the clock always being reset when topping up and adding further travel credits to the smart card. None of this information was found on their website during the December 2016 page update.

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 operated by companies owned by the Go-Ahead Group (eg: Southern and London Midland) have introduced The Key on their services as well.

The other British transport conglomerates have also adopted smart card ticketing solutions on many of their bus 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.

Is The E-Purse Right For InterCity Railway Travel?
Single Use Smart Cards, Print-At-Home Tickets & 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.

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 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 Dutch ticketing computers were advertised as having been 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 OV-chipkaart card.

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) that British passengers making journeys which combine prepaid ticket tokens and e-purse loaded on ITSO smart cards (or on their travel account at a central computer) will be able to emulate the situation in London where passengers who touch in/out at both ends of the journey will be able to combine prepaid season etc., tickets and the e-purse in the one seamless journey.

When The E-Purse Makes Life Difficult

At the present time (December 2016) there remains an incompatibility on one-seat split ticket journeys on through trains that extend out of London to locations which do not have card readers when for part of the journey the fare is being paid using an Oyster card e-purse, and the rest of the journey is being paid for using using a different ticketing solution. This is because 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 is iniquitous that the only way passengers can avoid being financially penalised is by alighting from the first train at the boundary station and touching in/out (depending on direction of travel) before catching the next train. It is understood that this situation is only allowed because the London Oyster ticketing operator is not an ATOC member so therefore ATOC 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 touching-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!

However if one of those tickets loaded on the smartcard is only valid on a nominated train at a nominated time then it should not matter if the passenger does not use the card reader, as the ticket will expire irrespective of whether the passenger used the card reader - or not. This is already the situation with advance-purchase paper tickets.

Smart Card Compatible Introduction Forced Upon Railway Operators

Because some of the passenger train operating companies (TOC) had a preferance for different technologies and were reluctant to invest in smart card ticketing the Government had to force some of them to make their ticketing systems smart card compliant. This was done by including a requirement to introduce smart card ticketing as part of the TOC franchise renewal process.

To help make this financially palatable in January 2016 the UK Cards Association (UKCA), which represents the card payment industry, received funding from the Rail Delivery Group to develop a framework that would allow the migration of pre-purchased paper ticketing to smart cards, contactless bank cards, mobile phones, wearables and other devices. This will also include longer distance journeys and season tickets.

In addition to the railway industry the five major British bus companies have signed up this project which they are hoping will be ready to use by 2022.

Several types of fare payments are envisaged:

  • Single Pay As You Go will be for simple single journeys where the fare is known before the journey begins as an alternative to paying cash.
  • Aggregated Pay As You Go will be for multiple journeys on the same day where the cost of the travels is aggregated and charged (less any applicable discounts) to a payment card at a back office overnight.
  • Pre-Purchase will allow travel fares bought in advance of travel to be treated as an electronic token that is stored as a 'ticket in the cloud' and associated with a contactless card / device which can be used as a form of identity (or proof of purchase) when the passeger is travelling.

Hurdles to be faced include defining inter-company operating proceedures, how financial riskas and responsibilities are apportioned and operating proceedures at times and locations when there is no network connection - which of course will prevent immediate verification of the passenger's payment cards / devices.

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------
More information to come, getmethere, pop, The Key...
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------


More information to come, getmethere, pop, The Key...
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

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, carried as a wearable, 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 central Government. Today ITSO membership covers the breadth of the transport arena including 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.

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.

To Be Successful In The Eyes Of The Passengers ITSO Needs To Be...

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...

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. Although most systems use the e-purse in the type of PAYG mode which required passengers to have the card read at each end of the journey, it does not have to be done this way. Some systems still have the passengers tell the bus driver where they are going and only use the e-purse as a much faster way to pay fares at the time of boarding the bus. Will it happen?

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.

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

It Is Important To Respect Those Who Value Their Civil Liberties & Human Rights

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.

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

For Technophobes

Whilst self-service ticketing systems can be very convenient for ordinary people and offers transport operators 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.

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------
Return to top of page

The intent here is to reference many features which are London-specific. The generic smart card information can be read elsewhere on this page whilst much dated timeline / historical information can still be read on Page 3 ..

London's RFID Oyster - A Valuable Pearl Or Worthless Lump Of Grit?

London's Oyster system was introduced in 2003 and by 2013 had been credited as having completely revolutionised the way in which passengers who did not have season tickets pay their fares. Even people in rural areas well away from London have been known to express a desire for a similar system to become available on their local bus and train services.

Unlike Hong Kong the Oyster e-purse has very few uses apart from paying for travel.

Oyster cards can be used with both standard season tickets and as an e-purse, when used the system always looks for the appropriate period ticket first, and only charges 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 Pre Pay 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).

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.

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 operators also require passengers using Travelcard season tickets loaded on Oyster cards to have photocards. These are free to obtain - but require the applicant to supply a passport photograph.

Note that unlike many cities, 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.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
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 or where there are a choice of routes for their journey and they have chosen the route that charges the lowest fare.

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

Whilst passengers with weekly or longer pre-paid season tickets are recommended to touch in/out at all times, including at free-standing card readers at open stations 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 PAYG value that is stored in the e-purse. Another example is passengers who are 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 therefore will be using the special pink 'route validator' card reader to tell the Oyster system that their journey followed a specific route. (See "Same Endpoints But 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 caught passengers travelling without possession of their Oyster card could result in them being treated as suspected criminals trying to avoid paying a fare.

Wimbledon and Elmers End Stations
Where Passengers Must Choose The Correct Card Readers

Whilst in London railway passengers can use almost any station card reader no matter the type of service or train operator being used, there are two stations which come close to the Dutch situation whereby passengers must make a choice of card reader. These are Wimbledon and Elmers End. At both stations this topic applies to tram passengers 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. The reason why the procedures between these two stations are different is that Elmers End is an open station with only free-standing card readers whilst Wimbledon is a closed station with electronic ticket gates / barriers.

At Elmers End passengers starting a train journey must use the railway free-standing card readers whilst passengers starting a tram journey must use the tram free-standing card readers. Passengers who arrive by tram who are leaving the station should just leave the station in the normal way - as is usual with the trams they should not use a card reader at the end of their journey. Passengers arriving by tram who are departing by train need to use a railway card reader to start the train journey and ensure that they are charged the correct fare for their train journey. Passengers who arrived by train and are continuing their journey by tram can use a railway card reader to end their train journey but it is not absoloutely necessary as the act of using a tram card reader will automatically end the train journey and start the tram journey.

To ensure that the correct fare is charged at Wimbledon tram passengers starting their journey from the street will 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 platforms - 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' - in theory this also applies to passengers who have an otherwise valid BusPass, although it remains unknown exactly how this can be achieved if the passenger has a disposible paper one day BusPass which comes in a format that does not have an e-purse! Passengers with a magnetic stripe Bus Pass do not use RFID card readers at any time, although these will need to be used to pass the station ticket gates.

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 do not need to touch out because touching in on the tram card reader on the tram platforms will both end a railway journey and charge a tram fare. PAYG users interchanging from tram to underground or mainline railway only need to touch in using card readers on either the Thameslink mainline railway platform No.9 or underground platforms Nos.1-4. PAYG passengers who arrived here by tram but are leaving on SouthWest Trains platforms Nos. 5-8 must also touch in, but as SWT have not installed Oyster card readers on their platforms they must use those on either platform Nos. 9 or 1-4. NB: in all these instances PAYG passengers MUST use yellow Oyster card readers - and NOT the pink Oyster card readers.

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 need to follow the PAYG procedures detailed above

Passengers interchanging here who are using a mix of paper tickets and an Oyster card (in PAYG mode) to pay their fares for different portions of the entire journey need to touch in/out using the free standing Oyster card readers (which are on platforms Nos. 1-4 and 9) to start or end the PAYG portion of their journey, as appropriate. If unsure then perhaps the 'safest' solution (as far as fares payments are concerned) is to leave the fares paid area using the ticket or Oyster card they used when travelling TO Wimbledon and then re-enter the fares paid area with the ticket or Oyster card they intend to use for the next part of their journey.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
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.

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 saw 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.

Decide Where Going Whilst En-Route

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 & Journey Time Limits


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.

Journey Time Limits

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.

I did not want to go shopping so left my plastic cards at home and using cash placed the same amount of money in the e-purse as a paper ticket would cost. In the end the money intended for lunch had to be fed to the Oyster card, with me going hungry.

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.

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.

Too Quick

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.

Same Endpoints But 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 most expensive fare for that journey. 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.

Standard Class Only

Oyster cards cannot be used on journeys where the passenger is travelling first class. This only applies to the mainline railways as the London Underground no longer offers first class accommodation.

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 is something very different. 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 many miles from home. (Personal experience!)

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 needs a passport type photograph..

Spectator Ticketing During 2012 Olympic Games

To encourage attendees to use public transport all spectator tickets for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic 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!

Ticket Office Window Closures

2015 was marked by almost every staffed ticket office closing - only at stations which were managed but not owned by London Underground Limited did the staffed office remain open. Instead the ticket office staff were given small hand-held touch-screen computers and redeployed to the ticket sales area where they can help passengers use the machines. This has led to a reduction in types of tickets which can be sold at these stations (plus other 'downgrade' changes), and whilst these are primarily of the less common ticket types it still means that passengers are unable to buy the correct ticket before travelling.

These closures also affected passengers starting mainline railway (National Rail) journeys from stations owned by London Underground Ltd that are also served by mainline railway trains. This is despite the ticket machines at these stations being made able to offer a wider range of tickets commensurate with destinations served by the mainline trains. In some cases the passengers have even found themselves being unable to buy a ticket for their planned National Rail service prior to travelling. What they have to do is to buy a low value ticket and pay the rest either to a roving ticket inspector or at their interchange or destination stations.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Above Left: A passenger using a staffed
ticket office sales window.

Above Right: A 'death notice' saying when
the staffed sales windows will be closing.

Right: Four weeks later and there is no evidence
that there was ever a tickets sales windows here!
See caption for picture information.

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 used to buy paper one-day Travelcard (ODTC) tickets in preference to Oyster PAYG with fares capping, because I see paper tickets 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.

That way of paying fares started to change when the 2-6 and 2-9 ODTC were withdrawn, with passengers expected to use ODTC tickets that include zone 1 and were twice the price (£11.80 instead of £5.90!) As a result I started to travel less often, using Oyster PAYG and if at all possible I also reduced the number of individual journeys that I make on the day so that I could avoid reaching the fares cap. In short, with TfL being seen as becoming greedy, I became fiscally tight! This policy increased when the 1-4 cap was raised from below £8 to over £9 and nowadays I often catch a bus to a station in zone 3, simply because the lower fares cap represents better value for money.

However, for simple station-to-station journeys I have almost always used one of my unregistered Oyster cards in PAYG mode.
If just travelling by bus I always use Oyster. I rarely use the trams, as I live too far away.

EMV / NFC / Wave & Go Contactless To Usurp Oyster?

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, just like any other credit card transaction. The Oyster aspect was loaded on to the card separately and could comprise season ticket Travelcards and / or PAYG e-purse monetary value.

In effect therefore this was a combined contactless credit card and Oyster card in the one plastic card.

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 stated 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 ..

Return to top of page
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

Wave & Go Roll-Out Commences

Another Ticketing Revolution
Bank Credit & Debit Cards - Android & Apple Devices - Wearables

OnePulse represented just the initial stage of a revolution in how people made 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 (Visa) and PayPass (MasterCard).

In addition, for people who wish to keep their plastic cards safely in their purses and wallets, a major British bank introduced self-adhesive tags which contain a RFID chip and were intended to be attached to devices such as mobile telephones. Meanwhile, a different British bank sold an iPhone cover which included a built-in RFID chip and together with an app from the Apple App Store this made these compatible with wave and go terminals.

Especially in the UK where competition between transport operators fragments the transport system, not all transport operators have embraced smart cards. --> overflow

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.

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) contactless payments remained solely for bus travel - and not the 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. Couples with joint accounts who have individual cards can use their personalised cards.

Cash Fares No Longer Accepted On London's Buses

To reduce the time buses spend at bus stops and reduce operating costs since 6th July 2014 cash fares have not been accepted on London's buses. Instead passengers without Travelcard season tickets (of any type) must pay their fares using either monetary value stored in the e-purse on their Oyster smart cards or using another compatible electronic payment system, such as bank debit / credit contactless cards, smartphone apps, etc.

Visitors to London from overseas may find that whilst their contactless credit / debit cards / smartphone apps, etc., will also work when paying transport fares in London, their banks may levy very expensive overseas transaction fees and charges.

It was claimed that with about 0.7% of bus passengers paying fares using cash it was no longer being financial viable to accept their money, especially when the cost of handling the cash is also taken in to account. However when the ability to pay bus fares using cash was withdrawn there were still approximately 60,000 cash transactions being made on a daily basis.

When cash fares stopped being accepted there was a concern that many vulnerable people would suffer. This includes people with mental health problems and late night travellers who do not have the right type of electronic ticketing payment card in their possession at that moment in time and / or are in rural areas where there are no retail shops where cash value can be added to Oyster smart cards. For these scenarios bus drivers are advised to show discretion. The thinking is that whilst social reasons will suggest that the passenger cannot be left to walk it will be cheaper to provide free travel than accept fares paid in cash. Included in the reasons why some people chose to pay cash is that they had forgotten their plastic cards and that despite the fact that the fares charged were considerably higher when paid in cash many people going for a night out "clubbing" (dancing, drinking too much alcohol, etc.,) would purposely leave valuables (including all electronic gizmos and plastic cards) at home so as to avoid the possibility of theft.

Child Fares

As it is not possible to add discounts to these cards so child fares still need to be paid using Oyster cards which carry the relevant electronic token. Anyway, children do not normally have bank accounts.

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 was 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 they do they will end up being charged two maximum fares.

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 that is charged when boarding, is seen differently.

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 - bPay Takes Over

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. Instead all OnePulse users had to transfer their Travelcards and / or PAYG e-purse monetary value to a normal Oyster card which, if they did not already have, they had to buy (ie: pay the £5 deposit) at the same time. All users who needed and were entitled to them also received new replacement Barclaycard credit cards, these included a contactless capability that could also be used to pay public transport fares.

However Barclays are still a cutting edge proponent of contactless devices - which they market under the name Barclays bPay. These comprise a wristband, key fob, sticker which can be attached to devices such as mobile phones and loop which will fit some fitness devices and watch straps. These work in conjunction with the Android and Apple compatible bPay mobile apps - Windows Phone users have to use the bPay website.

Despite having to be bought and also having a fixed expiry date (after which they become mere ornaments), the people who use bPay devices are reported as having found that they make life a lot easier as there is no need to reach for the wallet everytime a payment is needed. The wristband has been found to be especially useful by people with restricted movement and arthritis. Owners do not even need Barclays accounts as they will pair with most major debit or credit cards that have a UK address. It is permitted to give them to children (over the age of 12) as an alternative to cash, although since children usually benefit from cheaper fares their used when paying public transport fares is somewhat limited.

Barclays have also collaborated with fashion clothing retailers who sell clothing and fashion accessories which include embedded bPay RFID chips.

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 both / all. 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 then 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 - Banks Impose Extra Charges!

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 will almost certainly also charge overseas transaction fees, handling fees, currency conversion fees and / or other charges, etc., 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.

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 (and local shops for topping up Oyster cards). This could result in all ticket selling facilities being removed from the stations.

The problem with this is not just that it leaves occaisional users and visitors from outside of London unable to travel but that many London Underground stations are also served by mainline railway (National Rail) trains and these passengers also need to be able to buy tickets for their journeys. 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 linked to a MasterCard account to pay their transport fares would receive their money back (within 28 days). The only limitations were in monetary value (a maximum of £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 have included banks and mobile telephone operators offering loyalty points, etc., if their NFC contactless payment products are used.

Contactless Fares Are Sometimes Cheaper Than Oyster

Because of the different way that fares are calculated, fares paid with contactless cards and devices are sometimes cheaper than when paid using an Oyster card.

This primarily applies to fares capping. An example of this is where a passenger travels in to Central London from am outer London zone and then makes multiple journeys in central London. Oyster will base the total amount charged upon the highest and lowest zone numbers visited in that day whilst contactless will use TfL’s best fare policy which will charge for a Z1 cap plus two extension fares to the outer zone.

Gatwick Airport: A Fares Mess!

Although passengers can use Oyster and contactless cards / devices to pay travel fares to Gatwick Airport they need to be careful because very often cheaper fares are available using different payment systems. Such as buying paper tickets in advance. Also note that at Victoria station the card readers at the platforms normally used by Gatwick Express trains (Nos. 13/14) will automatically charge the higher Gatwick Express fares, even though sometimes other trains use these platforms and Gatwick Express trains use other platforms. Using the ticket gates at these platforms also causes complications for passengers from other stations as the OSI link to other services will not work. Because of the different way that Oyster and contactless fares are charged it can happen that the contactless fare is higher than the Oyster fare. It depends on the time of the day, the route served and destination station.

Also note that there are very high e-purse minimum financial value requirements when touching in at these platforms at Victoria and at Gatwick Airport. The issue is that Oyster is being required to serve a much larger area than was originally expected and it barely copes with the larger range of fares that need to be charged. The two links below lead to two pages on a specialist indpendant website about using Oyster and contactless cards / devices to pay fares when travelling to and from Gatwick Airport.
http://www.oyster-rail.org.uk/2016/08/oyster-and-gatwick-the-truth/ .

Apple Pay and Android Pay Accepted

As from the days when they were first introduced in the UK, both Apple Pay (14th July 2015) and Android Pay (18th May 2016) have been accepted when paying most transport fares in London.

Users must first link their devices with a valid bank credit or debit card and then they are ready to go. The TfL back office fares payment system treats these two payment systems in similar ways to other contactless payment cards. Note that these are only accepted for travel when used at station ticket gates and other card readers - they cannot be used to buy tickets from self-service ticket vending machines.


Devices Matter!

Both Apple and Android systems mask the payment card from the vender, instead they transmit a device code. But that code is strictly for the physical device, not the card account to which it is linked. This means that if a person has an Apple iPhone and an Apple Watch they will have a different device code for each item. This is even though the passenger may link them both to the same payment card.

What this means is that to be charged the correct fares the same physical device must be used at all times. If an Apple iPhone is used at the start of the journey and an Apple Watch at the end of a journey then the passenger will be charged two maximum fares - one per device. This also means that if one device has a flat battery and therefore it will no longer work then the other device must not be used instead.

Android users who have NFC enabled smart watches need to ensure that their watch is compatible with the Android system before trying to use it to pay transport fares.

Yet To Come In The Future

Oyster Cards To Expire In 2018?

It is likely that in 2018 there will be very big changes to electronic ticketing in London.

This is expected to include how Oyster works, with the possibility of the e-purse being phased out and Oyster being mutated in to a type of contactless identifier for back office computers.

What seems almost certain is that ALL Oyster cards which use older less secure versions of the Mifare communications technology will be withdrawn. But maybe not the Oyster cards which use newer more secure Desfire communication technology. These can be identified by the blue box with a white letter D on their backs.

When it was introduced Oyster was sold to the public on the basis of a card that will never expire. However experience is proving that they do wear out and already it is not uncommon for failed Oyster cards to need replacing. This is usually done free of charge. What happens to passengers who have Visitor Oyster cards remains to be seen.

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

Daily fares capping is an already known feature of the Oyster e-purse Pre Pay PAYG fares system and officials repeatedly tell passengers that as long as they always use card readers at each end of their journey so nothing can go wrong. (The famous last words...!) Only a comparative few passengers know about how journey time (duration) limits and out-of-station interchanges can mess things up in ways that - despite the passenger having done nothing wrong - become financially painful.

Pay-once travel-at-will Travelcard season tickets are also well-known, for passengers who use them things such as journey time limits, out of station interchanges and forgetting to use card readers (when travelling within the zones of validity) rarely pose problems. After all, they have paid in advance and therefore are entitled to hassle-free travel.

However, as part of the shift to the back office system the pay-once travel-at-will weekly Travelcard season ticket is to be sacrificed and replaced with a weekly fares cap system. This exposes passengers to all the hassles that come from journey time limits, out of station interchange complexities, failed card reads and an absolute need to touch-in/out every time.

Another way in which the weekly fares cap is less flexible is that it only runs from Monday - Sunday whilst weekly Travelcard Season Tickets can start on any day of the week, eg: Thursday - Wednesday.

This is seen as being a retrograde move which replaces robust simplicity with complexity - simply because decision makers now 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 PAYG system with every individual journey being charged something. This would retain the multi-modal aspect of the Travelcard but would enable a better fares take from those passengers who have the temerity (sic) 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 the back office payment system would facilitate such a conversion very easily.

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

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. 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.

-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------
Important Note:
Although updated more recently, the rest of this page was written in 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.
-----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------         -----------------------

Will Remote Reading Wave & Go BiBo NFC Technology Result In Barrier-Free Stations?

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, transport smart cards and our other RFID devices.

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 likely 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 it is 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.

Benign When Being Introduced
But Then The Police State Function Creep Commences...

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 Smart Card Transport Ticketing
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 else did it, but if the crime is watched from a specific point of view then it does indeed look as if he did it.

The Hunger Games films point to a future when the massed population has been culled, with the survivors having been herded into 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.

Return to top of page

Easy access for all! About Railways Transport Integration - making it all mesh together as one seamless entity. Its high time we stopped polluting our cities - we have the technology, but not the willpower
The importance of well designed, functional stops and stations.
Site index
A look at bus transport. Roads
Welcome to this site. NB: this link opens in a new window.
The Fares & Ticketing Systems opening page.
Nostalgia, Heritage & Leisure.
What needs doing to entice people out of their cars - and how to fund it!
Road pricing, road-user charging, motorway / expressway tolling, cordon charging and urban 'congestion' charging.
Bus priority systems
Feeders for mainstream transports and specialist transports meeting different needs.
About light rail - modern trams and streetcars.
The importance of freight trains.
Specific examples of how tram stops fit in the street scene and that trams and parked vehicles can coexist!
The bus gets a stylish makeover.
Railway electrification. Ideas to make roads safer.
Often overlooked alternative transports
Traffic free pedestrian zones and transit malls.
Does speed kill - or is it only inappropriate speed that kills (too fast / slow)?
Different types of passenger train as defined by the type of service they provide.
Create urban green corridors.
Quiet, clean buses that won't give you lungful of noxious exhaust fumes. Vehicles need to go somewhere at journey's end.
Let traffic congestion make you the unwilling victim of the crime of time theft!
Where different types of guided transport operate over shared infrastructure.

Web citytransport.info

citytransportinfo is also here:

share this page with your friends!

E & OE.
© Copyright 2001-2016 Simon P Smiler and named image sources.
Privacy Policy

London's Three Fares Scales

Passengers not using a pay once / ride at will Travelcard are still able to pay for train journeys individually, although it is usually significantly less expensive to do so using the electronic Oyster and contactless card ticketing system (as described on Fares page 2 .) than by paying cash. Cash fares are not accepted on London's buses.

Unlike many cities in the developed world, London's buses and trains have very different fare systems, with the various railway networks being further sub-divided between those controlled by the local government body Transport for London (TfL) ie: the Underground, London Overground (some routes only) & the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the other railway services - which also includes some London Overground routes. NB: It is confusing but London Overground fares vary according to the route being travelled on!

London's railway system is split into 6 fares zones (plus a few more outside of London) and although for passengers using prepaid season tickets known as Travelcards the fares are harmonised within the zones - so that it does not matter which railway service a passenger uses, different fares are charged for individual single ticket journeys depending on whether a person is using railway services where TfL set the fares or a mainline railway train operating company (TOC) sets the fares. (Where the Underground and mainline railways serve the same transport corridors the fares are mostly harmonised with tickets being valid on any service; trams use a slightly modified bus fare scale - see below). In other words, passengers without prepaid day or season tickets travelling on the mainline railway are financially penalised because (as a general theme) they are charged different (typically higher) fares than if the journey had been possible on an Underground / Overground / DLR service. This applies even when exactly the same fares zones are being travelled through.

London's transport chiefs freely admit that rail fares are being pushed up much higher than bus fares in order to encourage modal shift out of private cars / away from overcrowded trains - and on to the buses. They also say that another reason for higher rail fares is that the train operators have to cover the infrastructure costs of the system - whereas buses use the public highway where local and national governments cover the infrastructure costs.

Fares for children vary depending on whether they are under 5, 6-10, 11-15 or 16+, travelling by bus, TfL controlled rail services or other rail services, how many children are travelling, whether with an adult, whether they have a special child photocard and specially enabled Oyster card, where they live (in London?) and even if they have misbehaved whilst on the public transport and had their child privileges withdrawn!

In sharp contrast to the railways, London's buses charge a simple flat fare, for (virtually) any journey, of any length, within zones 1-6. (Some journeys outside of the London local government / political area are charged differently). Because the buses treat London as just one large fare zone so bus passengers are permitted to use all Travelcards throughout London, irrespective of the advertised zone(s) of validity. On Croydon's Tramlink Travelcards are accepted only if they are valid in any one (or more) of railway zones 3,4,5 or 6, these being the zones through Tramlink services are operated.

Since September 2016 it has been possible to transfer to a second bus (or a tram) if this is required to complete an overall journey, although the second journey must commence within 60 minutes and passengers using the electronic Oyster smart cards must have a positive financial balance in "pay as you go" mode e-purse. This restriction applies even if they have a prepaid bus pass or Travelcard. In addition, after paying four bus fares all future journeys on that day are free. (Oyster is looked at in the Oyster Smart Card section on Fares page 2). .

There are also innovatively shaped light-bulb shaped pre-pay bus tickets which until September 2008 could be bought from local shops, travel information offices and underground stations. These were sold in 'books' of six at a price which was heavily discounted when compared to tickets bought at bus stop ticket machines or (where permitted) from the driver when boarding a bus. The individual tickets within each book could be given to family and friends, with each ticket being for one person to make one journey, without transfer. Despite no longer being available to buy these tickets are still accepted as a form of payment for bus fares (but not on the trams). Nowadays passengers are encouraged to use electronic ticketing systems.