/ Money, Motoring, Technology

Are you ready for a cashless bus service?

London bendy bus

You’re already running late for work when the bus finally turns up later than it was due. The route is chock-a-block and then the person getting on in front of you fishes out the coppers to pay for their journey.

Sound familiar? Ok, so it’s a minor problem in the grand scheme of things, but this will soon be a complaint of the past in the capital.

From 6 July, all London buses will go completely cashless and passengers will only be able to ride using an Oyster, contactless payment card or certain prepaid tickets.

Transport for London says that removing cash fares will speed up boarding times and lead to faster journeys saying:

‘Customers will not only benefit from a quicker, cheaper and more convenient method of paying their bus fare; it will also enable us to save millions of pounds each year – which will be reinvested in further improvements to the capital’s transport network.’

London is your Oyster

It’s hard to imagine that the change will have a significant negative impact on the day-to-day life of commuters – Oyster cards are ubiquitous among the wallets and purses of the capital’s residents and, as the use of cash generally continues to dwindle, visitors and tourists will also be able to pay easily for their journeys with contactless cards.

Now it’s going to take a bit of adjusting – not everyone has a contactless payment card yet and visitors might not be as familiar with the Oyster scheme, and could face difficulties getting around the city.

Personally, the idea of a slicker, speedier bus network makes perfect sense and registering for auto Oyster top-up would ease those situations when you’re out of credit. Londoners, do you also welcome cash free buses?

And for those of you outside the capital, would you like to see the end of pounds and pence on transport in your region? Or do you find buses a convenient way to use up your loose change?

PGS says:
18 July 2014

This morning, while on a bus, I saw a young man with a heavy suitcase get on. He apologised to the driver for only having cash. The driver let him travel for free. This suggests they are willing to be flexible in certain cases.

The passenger in this instance was British, lucid, apparently competent and armed with mobile phone and Costa coffee. This suggests that even the most “together” of travellers can sometimes find themselves without a card. Old, young or disabled people are at even more of a disadvantage.

I remain convinced that an absolute ban on cash is an unarguably daft idea. It is interesting that so many contributors to this conversation take the opposite view. It’s a fait accompli now, so I suppose we’ll just have to put up with it.


One element missing from some contributions to this conversation is tolerance. “The passenger who had trouble describing their destination” and held up the bus. It happens. The passenger struggling to find the right money – it happens. It makes you late for work! – get away a bit earlier! No one is perfect – not even the regular traveller with an Oyster card – it may be hard to find. Why are we so rushed in our lives that we cannot accept the frailties and difficulties others face – elderly (a bit slow to find their purse), disabled (they may hold up your bus by struggling to get on), children, strangers. It is time we were more considerate and ran our lives accordingly – one day we will all be old and need to be tolerated.


Well said, Malcolm! But the corollary to that is that the very same people who are intolerant of other people causing them delays, expect tolerance to be shown to them when they themselves cause a hold-up. Such is the way of the world!

Max Wild says:
28 July 2014

Of course we should encourage tolerance but that is not the nub of the problem. Technological advances allow us to move away from expensive cash to more efficient electronic payments. This is nothing to do with tolerance.
In fact freeing the driver of the palaver of cash will allow more time for advice to those unfamiliar with the route etc..


Yes, Max. Most of us here are agreeing with that!

PGS says:
29 July 2014

Another eyewitness account of the practical side of not accepting cash. This morning a young man with a small boy got on a number 72 bus. The boy sat down while the man had a conversation with the driver. After a while the father called to the boy “We’ve got to get off – they won’t accept cash”. As the bus pulled off they were standing on the pavement looking worried. It is not clear how or if they ever managed to get to their destination.


No doubt the father and son would appreciate that this is all done for the sake of efficiency.

Maybe we should have barcodes tattooed on our forehead or have ourselves ‘chipped’ like dogs and cats so that we have means of electronic payment at all times.

Richard P Beauchamp says:
29 July 2014

No need for barcodes or chips to use the NHS.


Quite right, Richard. Instead you need personal registration with identity checks (birth certificate, passport, etc. and an affidavit from a GP) with at least two government agencies. Hospital treatment needs authorization from a GP except in emergency, and a full search of your person (possibly internally) may have to be provided. If I’m just getting onto a bus, I’d go for waving a card at the driver any day, even if I had to prove my creditworthiness to someone to get the card in the first place. Carry cash? Why bother, unless I was out with criminal intent and needed to be invisible?