/ 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?


I think all important services like LT should provide contingency plans that include what happens if payment systems are down or corrupted. This article highlights how people may well end up without money in their accounts:

“Banking malware ‘Luuuk’ stole €500,000 within a week – Computer Business Review –

Banking malware ‘Luuuk’ stole €500,000 within a week
by CBR Staff Writer| 26 June 2014
The malware also gathered the users’ logins and passwords and one-time passcodes.

About €500,000 has been stolen from accounts in an undisclosed large European bank in Italy and Turkey via a new banking Trojan campaign dubbed ‘Luuuk’, within a week during early 2014.

Security firm Kaspersky has identified more than 190 victims from whom the amount have been stolen with each bank account ranging between €1,700 and €39,000. …………..

I worked in the banking industry and I know full well that systems crash and what you are assured is secure is eventually proved to be not. A secondary payment system devoid of computers such as cash is eminently simple and pretty much incorruptible.

PaulE says:
6 July 2014

No, please no. I don’t want more complexity, more time on the internet, more passwords more, preplanning and preloading.

I carry cash and that does me just fine.

The best solution seems to be continue to accept cash but to encourage passengers to use alternative forms of payment. Those paying by cash can help avoid hold ups by having the right amount ready.

It’s usually more time-consuming to have the right amount (£2.40) ready than to obtain an Oystercard or use a debit or credit card, which will instead cost £1.45. There are overheads to operating a cash facility and I think this is an unnecessary overhead that everyone could do without.

Wavechange – or maybe if you pay by cash on the bus, no change given?

NFH – Though I don’t object to using cards I prefer providing some flexibility in our lives. Though I have no objection to using cards, I recognise that there are others who are not keen on doing so. I wonder if TFL have thought out how to deal with problems, such as those reported below by Victoria.

Malcolm – Offering no change might be better than rejecting passengers but it would be tough if you only had a £20 note. Perhaps the driver could issue a credit note for the balance.

And what form would the “credit note” take? An Oystercard – back to square one!

I will be interested to find out how TFL cope with problems when they start running a cashless service. We have seen the same arrogance and lack of planning when the banks planned to phase out cheques.

Come and watch. It started yesterday.

With so few people now paying by cash, the total cost of operating the infrastructure to accept cash payments would result in the average cost per cash-paying passenger increasing to a disproportionate amount, i.e. several times the £1.45 fare, maybe £5 or £10, which would be passed on, as it is now, to each cash-paying passenger. Therefore I don’t see why it is of benefit to anyone to continue operating this infrastructure. Why would someone choose to pay £5 or £10 by cash instead of £1.45 with an Oystercard or contactless payment card?

PGS says:
6 July 2014

All these alternative methods of payment are great – but I still have a problem with the absolute ban on cash. There is already a strong inducement to use an Oyster card as it’s much cheaper. But if you find yourself without a card (of whatever type) you’re effectively barred from what is supposed to be a PUBLIC transport service.

As someone who has had an Oyster card since it was first brought out, originally with auto top-up and now also with an annual travelcard loaded onto it, I feel that this could be a good idea, if all the foreseeable problems can be sorted out in advance. However, from my experience, TFL has very little foresight and will only deal with issues once the newspapers have reported on the number of commuters left stranded by this system.

I have had a number of problems over the years with my Oyster card and I find this one of the most difficult systems to try to sort out. The lack of knowledge of TFL staff and the appalling (and rude) customer service by the Call Centre staff is staggering.

Unfortunately, I have been unceremoniously and humiliatingly kicked off a bus on two separate occasions – once, apparently, because my oyster card was ‘broken’, although no-one could tell me why or how, and once because my auto top-up had failed. The first time I had to buy a separate train ticket and travel into central London to get to an Underground station to get this sorted out as no local train station was authorised to deal with it. The second time I had to re-activate my auto top-up once I had walked the five miles to get home.

Supposedly, commuters will be allowed one free journey. But I can’t see how this can be monitored. And what happens if a commuter needs to take a number of buses to get to their destination or to the nearest top-up machine or underground station to get this sorted.

Thank you Victoria for the actual examples.

Looking back at all 56 comments so far, several grumps seem to have missed the key points as they vent their spleens:

1) Handling cash at all is vastly expensive. The less people use cash, the higher the burden of handling it is to the whole system, per cash-using passenger. It gets rather like those subsidized rural buses: if a bus service is withdrawn because of the cost, people have perfectly reasonable objections, all valid. But they miss the key point. A service near us was withdrawn three years ago, and the operator and council published a joint reply in the local paper, in answer to angry letters What it boiled down to was that EACH journey, costing £0.60 to £2.30 or free with a pass, was being subsidized by an average £86! The public was invited to suggest how that £86 per person per trip could be better used. One reader wrote back to suggest that all the passengers could be given free taxi rides at about £10 each on average, and the rest go to home help. But she also pointed out that such a free or cheap service would suddenly become vastly popular, far exceeding the subsidy budget! London Transport is facing such economics, and it’s a real mess to try to predict and sort out. The same will go for free public transport, paid by local taxes: such a service would quickly exceed the capacity of the system by far! Looking abroad (and at an old Sheffield experiment squashed by Thatcherite market economics), a flat rate £1 per journey system could work, with paper cards available in shops (30p to the shop per sale) and Oyster, etc. at a cheaper rate; or a timed card, giving you a period of use per ticket, starting on boarding, which expires after, say, 2 hours. I’ve seen each of these in use successfully.

2) The other key point is the time-waste caused by cash handling, issuing little chitties if you’re out of cash and card, and so on. Time wasted queuing, waiting, queuing again is a loss of both money and temper, both for the transport system and for each individual travelling.

So the obvious answer is to scrap all of these systems and go for the simplest: biometrics. EVERY person wanting to travel is uniquely identified, such as by fingerprint, retinal pattern, etc.; the data is held centrally, and you simply get scanned as you board and leave, checked against the database and debited accordingly. Scanning could take a couple of seconds, as I’ve seen it, and the electronics can sort it out as the bus or tram moves off, if someone doesn’t fit the profile or there’s a problem. Deposited money ran out? OK, no problem, come on board! WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!

I’m not recommending this, because I well know the arguments against it in our socialist but not Big Brother state. But I do suggest that it’s on the way!

Point 2
According to one article Cash Payments on buses amount to 1% ( 1 in 100) transactions.
Hardly a time waster !

It was a huge time waster. Every driver had to be issued with a float, account for it all at the end of their shift, then it all had to be counted up at individual garages, collected by courier services and banked. It probably cost more to administer that the amount collected which is why they’ve got rid of it.

Agree about the overheads, but the header article suggested that cash paying passengers had a significant impact on boarding times etc.

Peter Jones says:
7 July 2014

I had to scan through all of the previous posts and found nothing re civil liberties until we finally got to the key point in Davidinnotts last post.
One big step on the way to the totally monitored society. As more and more pressure comes on the scene to cajole the masses onto public transport an awful lot of tracking (number plate recognition, car and phone tracking, card payments etc) drops off the system if the “plebs” use cash on public transport. Falling back on cctv is still there but consumes lots of manpower when it needs to be scanned and the images are often poor.
Not so your contactless cards/travel cards etc they tell it like it is: you were here at such and such a place at such and such a time. After Snowden et al you don’t think so?

As for how well all these systems will deal with the very real customer problems that will arise my bet is it will be like all the other new methods of doing things we’ve seen in call centres, customer services from internet providers, utility services etc all of which have absolutely crap track records of giving real customer service or for that matter in helping to improve their organisations performance even when there are so called “ombudsmen/regulators” in place.

Reasons for introducing it? Forget the “make your journey more convenient” bit that’s just the throwaway sap to the customers. I’d bet on company convenience/bottom line improvements along with a synergistic bit allowing movement tracking.

Max Wild says:
7 July 2014

In Greater Manchester where cash is still allowed with variable prices dependent on distance the big annoyance to fellow passengers is the new passenger who does quite not know how to describe their destination and then struggles with the cash.
This is a major contributor to over long waits at bus stops which has to be inefficient.
The London system is obviously nearly there and I hope the Greater Manchester is watching carefully.

Oyster PAYG cards aren’t linked to individuals unless they register them. Anyway you don’t need to invent a cashless bus ticket system to track people when most already carry a monitoring device in their pockets sending GPS/WPS data back to base every few seconds.

Movement tracking would be a valuable resource to the system’s planners, to everyone’s benefit. And the people tracked can be anonymous – just tracking individual cards would be fine. I do hope that LT are already doing this; if not, they’re missing a valuable resource.

If personal tracking might be cutting into people’s civil liberty, there is provision to separate the main records system from the debiting one; then, only special authorization would enable any person to link the movements to an individual. And as Nick says, most of the UK population is already trackable, by choosing to use a mobile phone.

Decades of experience have make me think that, while may people don’t like the idea of their identity and movements being known, it’s not a problem for most of us if there’s a useful benefit in lieu: it’s the criminals and other dodgy people like intelligence operatives who need to hide! The British Civil Liberty movement seem, I think, to be protesting too much: they want to reserve the right to break the law without being discovered, and if this makes life easier for criminals, spies and terrorists, then fine: a few robberies and deaths are a price worth paying for the right to protest illegally and not be caught! Do correct me if this is a misunderstanding.

PGS says:
7 July 2014

The Daily Mirror are running a poll on whether it is a good idea to ban money on buses – see here: .http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/london-buses-no-longer-accepting-3819822
So far 87% are against the ban, and 13% for it.

In fact Oyster isn’t much use for movement tracking on the buses. It will tell you where people got on but of course doesn’t know where they got off again.

The issue with any sort of personal data collection is what is done with the data. You might have “nothing to hide” today but that could change over time. Millions of people found that out at very great cost in 1930s Europe.

Bazjay says:
7 July 2014

Pleasantly surprised at the number of comments here already, considering Which? normally ignores buses and their users altogether (now the ice has been broken, how about future articles on (a) the high level of fares and whether that makes sense in social and urban planning terms, and (b) the gradual but relentless loss of rural services?).

Just about all aspects of the London decision have already been fully discussed so I can be brief. I can certainly see the sense in going cashless and on balance believe it’s the right decision. Like others I do worry a bit, though, about visitors and other occasional travellers. It’s my understanding (though as an oldie with a Freedom Pass I haven’t needed to check it out) that bus stops in Central London have for some years been equipped with machines issuing single journey tickets, so you can buy one before you get on the bus. This system ought to be brought back if it’s been allowed to lapse, and in any case extended to a number of key stops outside the central area.

I share your views Bazjay. I feel that Which? is so metrocentric that if the whole of East Anglia had adopted cashless ticketing it would not have got a mention. Obviously, London is the economic powerhouse of the UK and tends to take the lead on technological developments because the economies of scale are favourable, but, like you, I think it would be helpful to look at the other side of the coin, as it were. We don’t yet have a Lobster card so I can reassure any Londoners who are thinking of coming to Norfolk that they can still enjoy a wonderful ride in friendly company on a comfortable bus or coach, paid for with real money, and without the constant interruption of the stuttering digital announcements. The driver doesn’t have to sit in a plastic enclosure and will sing out the destinations if requested. It is an unwritten rule for every passenger to thank the driver personally on alighting. Rumours that for an extra sixpence the driver will put your luggage on the roof-rack are probably fanciful.

Thanks for that comment, John. Let’s get off the point a little, to a system which would be best OUTSIDE the big cities, and great for deeply rural areas:

Norfolk (or our rural Notts) buses would be no problem to support if more people used them! I grew up in Birmingham a loooong time ago, when inner suburban bus routes had a bus into town every five minutes, outer suburbs every ten-fifteen and the villages mostly every hour. And the buses were generally well over half full – all of them. Outside peak, all the other buses were in the garage. But in those days, only one in twenty owned a car, people worked and shopped nearer home, walking was usual and cycles ruled the roads.

Most people’s idea of car economics is to count only the fuel use when deciding on the cost of a journey. But that was never true – I keep close figures (for the VAT man) and my old car actually costs 42p an average mile to run, counting over the years and everything in, including depreciation. Fuel is 23p a mile. This makes a taxi for four people cheaper than the car and a half-full bus well under the fuel price. But rural buses are very rarely even a quarter full and taxis mostly carry one – and that’s expensive, so people who can go by car.

I’m looking forward, in rural areas, to a time when:

The buses are on main inter-town routes only;

Local minibuses and taxis (both officially, licensed private hire cars) run on demand using an online/app booking system like Uber’s (non- computer/smartphone users book from a terminal on the bus stop pole, maybe?), and the system routes the vehicles to all pick-up and drop-off places seamlessly, choosing optimum routes for each vehicle as parcels vans do now;

Drivers share their cars via a similar app;

and people walk and cycle a lot more.

Does that sound possible, everyone?

David, you highlight one of the problems. My car, too, costs around 40p a mile (it is old). even then, it is similar in cost to local public transport if I use it alone. The problem comes when you take the family out – when private transport is far cheaper. It is also far more convenient – direct to a destination and no lugging heavy shopping. So it is not a contest between private and public transport, but how you provide a service for people who have no access to a car. One way is to have a very restricted timetabled service – in rural areas say. And, as you suggest, a “collective” service run by private hire; take online and phone bookings and travel when enough bookings for similar journeys fill a taxi.or minibus.
Free transport will simply distort and overload public transport. Overloading could be reduced generally if we moved to staggered working hours. Time the obvious solutions were pursued instead of trying to use sticking plaster.

That’s what the difference is today, Malcolm. Cars (not counting depreciation) are far cheaper to use than ever before. In fact, if you have an old banger and ignore trivialities like tax and insurance, they’re VERY cheap (and renewables like tyres and spare parts are easily found on other people’s cars.) So even for those who don’t have a well-paying job, cars are often accessible Given this low cost,their door-to-door convenience is undeniable.

Free, door-to-door public transport is the pipe dream, I suppose, but we can get some way towards it by community co-operation. Sadly, that is NOT the spirit of our age. In our culture, me first, and taking what’s offered without any personal cost or responsibility, is regarded as a basic right. It’s always someone else’s job to both pay and make it happen. And it’s their fault, too, if anything in the service isn’t perfectly convenient, or if a mistake occurs, or if something breaks down.

Rant over.

David, I agree – we are all too quick to expect being looked after by “others” (usually the “authorities”). In other cultures the expectation is that families look after their own – perhaps we could do with more of that attitude here? We do have a problem with families being more widely dispersed than was the case when I was growing up, but then we had, I recall, much more of a sense of family responsibility for each other.

I agree with Malcolm that we need more flexibility in working hours to avoid congestion. We also need more people living near their place of work so that they can walk or cycle, which has obvious health benefits. We managed this before we had public transport and cars and could do it again if we put our minds to it.

Assuming that you are going to run a car and service it regularly, the running cost per mile is largely the cost of fuel and tyre wear. A modest annual mileage will not significantly affect depreciation. I recently returned from holiday, a return journey of 510 miles, and to fill up with diesel cost just £46.88 for two people with a lot of luggage. That’s less than 10p per mile in fuel. I don’t think it would have been practical or economic to make the journeys by public transport/taxi.

By far the biggest contributor to rush hour congestion is the wretched ‘school run’. I go past a secondary school some mornings where the road is often jammed solid with people dropping off hulking great teenagers. It is even worse if it’s raining. Its suburban catchment area is well served by buses and I doubt any of the kids live more than 10 minutes from a stop. The difference out of term time never fails to amaze me. I know there have been initiatives in the past to discourage some of these journeys but they always fizzle out. Time for another go?

nick, we could try starting school at 9:30 and finishing at 4:15?

That won’t cut much ice with those who consider school to be a state run child-minding service first and foremost.

Patrick Donnelly says:
8 July 2014

All public transport should be free of charge.

OK, Patrick – I like that. But there’s still a bill.

Who buys the buses/trams/trains, maintains them, pays for the fuel, pays the driver, maintains the physical and electronic infrastructures and provides the backup? Need not be the same organization for all of these. But someone has to – it’s not free.

And do note that, if all public transport (or did you mean just London?) is free at point of use, then

(1) there will be a massive increase in usage, probably well over double, and

(2) alternative transport systems like taxis and air transport (or are they free, too?) will take a big dive, though not as much as bus, tram and train will go up.

Who compensates for this, or is the load to be taken by staff in these sectors going on the dole?

Finally, can the public transport network take the peak time strain of the enormous extra usage (no – it can’t), or will we have to spend tens of billions fixing that – and suffer all the disruption while it’s done?

Can o’ worms!

“All public transport should be free of charge.” Perhaps it could all be run by volunteers then? 🙂

Richard P Beauchamp says:
9 July 2014

(As I stated earlier)

All public travel should be commissioned and funded just exactly as the NHS.

As all travel, privately owned and run, and public transport is already paid for by the taxpayer the cost of a NTS (National Travel Service) will be zero to start with and a reduction in time.

Currently People pay for their travel costs with what they earn after tax or with benefits which have been funded from taxation.

Subsidies also come from taxation.

It follows that many people will choose not to pay twice for their travel and give up the car for all or a greater part of their lives than they do now.

Private car use at their discretion just as private health care is discretionary already.

Think of a problem related to travel and consider that it will be solved or reduced by introducing a NTS!

Bazjay says:
9 July 2014

More interesting postings since my previous one. I’m inspired to make a few more comments myself!

First, I don’t agree with the idea of free transport – or indeed free anything that costs money to provide, and that’s just about all public services – because of the risk of frivolous use, i.e. people using it just because it’s there, and so distorting true demand. On buses, for instance, you could attract rowdies and drunks, particularly at night when they might welcome a free bed and warmth, and youngsters jumping on and off for a joyride.

But that’s not to say we should go to the other extreme and charge the full economic price. Just as we talk about affordable housing, we should have affordable public transport. That means continuing subsidies, but I believe these to be justified (a) because of the need to allow people to get about who, for whatever reason, can’t drive or can’t afford their own transport; and (b) for town planning and traffic reasons – the price of public transport in urban areas should be low in relation to the cost of driving, because it is so much more efficient in terms of scarce road-space taken up per passenger. The first Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, had the right idea when he introduced congestion charging – it’s entirely fair that those making extravagant use of road-space, i.e. motorists (the majority of whom carry no passengers in the rush hours) should pay for the privilege and that the revenue should be used to make public transport more affordable and efficient and hence more attractive (and also to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians). It still applies to some extent in London but, instead of building on it, the present Mayor, Boris Johnson, sent out the wrong signals by cutting the congestion zone in half.

Finally, as regards rural areas, an advanced modern society like ours ought to be able to support unprofitable services to the extent that there’s at least a basic service of several trips a day linking villages to their nearest town, and regular-interval services of at least, say, every hour or two hours, as appropriate, on trunk routes between towns and cities.

Bazjay, I agree we should use public transport more effectively to reduce, hopefully, congestion, and that it should be “affordable”. At present much exceeds the cost of your car, without the convenience – particularly when the car takes two or more people.
You say: “But that’s not to say we should go to the other extreme and charge the full economic price”. I think transport should stand on its own (economic) feet. Those who can afford to pay do not need a subsidy; we should target subsidies at the genuinely needy – say by issuing discount cards. Otherwise we will unecessarily spend taxpayers money that is needed elsewhere.

Bazjay says:
11 July 2014

Looks OK at first sight, Malcolm, but the problem arises when you attempt to define the “genuinely needy.” Just today, for instance, research quoted in a feature in a national newspaper highlights the dependence on buses of the unemployed looking for work, with 77 per cent having no regular access to a car, van or motorcycle. About a quarter of them had missed out on jobs because there was no bus on which to travel to those jobs. Elsewhere it reports that 30 per cent of people shopping for food rely on the bus, having no access to a car. And (my own thought, not from the report) what about young mums in low-income families who have to take the kids on the bus because their husband/partner is using the family car for work travel? And so it goes on. Importantly, there is also the point I tried to make before about using low fares deliberately to attract on to buses many of those who might otherwise have used private transport, adding to problems of congestion, air pollution and parking (the congestion in itself delaying buses)

Cllr David Durant says:
12 July 2014

Banning cash fares on London Buses is a stupid idea that also betrays the GLA Mayor’s election promise to support outer-London. This is because more passengers in outer-London paid the cash fare compared to inner-London and banning cash will leave vulnerable people at risk of being stranded, particularly at night.

Also ironically this will put bus drivers at greater risk of being assaulted, not by muggers trying to steal money, but by passengers trying to pay money in order to get home.

And why do it, when London Buses are a public service [funded by the GLA levy] and when the £1 extra cash fare raised more money for TfL than it cost to administer?

The TfL estimate was that between 60,000 and 85,000 paid the cash fare everyday. Settle for 70,000 and this means the extra pound was raising £25.5 million a year. More than the forecast saving of £24 million in 6 years time!

Alas the reason is because the GLA Mayor has ignored his own election promises and put the self-interest of TfL bureaucrats before the wider public interest.

Bazjay says:
13 July 2014

Yes, you’re right to raise this very fundamental question, Cllr Durant. TfL could easily have afforded to continue the cash facility had the Mayor not adopted what is becoming an increasingly ill-concealed hostility to public transport. In the eyes of the media, it seems, he can do no wrong otherwise they would surely have seen through his hollow policies by now. He’s put the fares up by well above inflation every year, for heaven’s sake (a staggering 20 per cent in 2010) – where’s all that extra money gone? Ah, yes, many millions of it on developing a completely unnecessary new bus which requires a second member of staff to watch the extra door. At a stroke he eliminated a large amount of revenue helping to provide good and affordable transport, by cutting the congestion charging zone in half. He promised to extend the south London tram network and what has happened? Nothing. These days he seems only interested in his cycling project – that’s good in itself but it shouldn’t be at the expense of public transport and its users.

Cllr David Durant says:
13 July 2014

Also between £30 -£77 million remains as credit on the Oyster cards every year. Thus even if cashless fares ever did cost more to administer than they raised, money from the Oyster cards could pay the difference.

And now passengers will probably top up extra [just in case] and this will leave even more credit on their Oyster cards every year.

Or have TfL decided to restrict access to the buses because they have a deal with the banks/IT to encourage sales of contact cards?

Richard P Beauchamp says:
13 July 2014

Sorry to sound so boring but I say again that every problem except joyriders is lessened or resolved by the introduction of a NATIONAL TRAVEL SERVICE.

As taxpayers pick up the bill for all journeys they will progressively give up the car. There will be more buses of various sizes running on more routes and covering weekends, evenings, bank holidays and rural areas. Everyone will be served; progressively better and better as more cars are laid off and more buses are built. The vulnerable, the job seeker, the young, the old and the taxpayer will be better off.

Personal Car ownership will become discretionary for those hobbyists or wealthy to enjoy.

Congestion, pollution and parking provision will all progressively ease.

There is an election coming up, let’s get behind this and bring about a revolution in public transport!

Stranding in the rain, waiting for a bus, arrives full. I still have to get from the destination bus stop to where I want to go. I have to carry heavy shopping to the bus stop and home. I have to carry luggage around on holiday. I want to travel late at night. I have a wheelchair or very limited mobility.I am sure there are a lot more reasons why bus travel will not be always a suitable means of travel. I also have better uses for taxpayers’ money than paying the travel costs of the many who can afford to pay for themselves – not the least, for health and the care of the elderley.
I’m afraid I won’t be one of your revolutionaries.

ps – I forgot about transport strikes! We could be held to ransom.

Bazjay says:
13 July 2014

An unduly gloomy view, I feel, Malcolm. You don’t need to stand in the rain these days. Check how long till your bus arrives on your smartphone or by text message, and wait comfortably at home, in the pub, or wherever you happen to be, then stroll to the stop when the bus is coming. Most routes operate until late at night, and many all night. All London buses can now take wheelchairs and most have plenty of luggage space.

Bazjay, I think the many people who live in rural areas would have more than a stroll to the bus stop (with no shelter)! A stroll maybe also in the wind, rain and snow in the gloomy weather we sometimes get. Whilst the bus might still have space for luggage, you then have to haul it to wherever your final destination might be – another long stroll. I’m still not a recruit.

I recently dropped my wife at the dentist. When she came out she discovered she had left her purse with her Oyster Card at home. She had also forgotten her phone. Luckily she had some coins so could pay the bus fare. With cashless she simply wouldn’t have been able to get home. And what about people who have their purse/wallet stolen with their Oyster and cashless card in it. What do they do. I’ve had a look at the TfL site and there seems to be no provision for such eventualities, which cannot be that rare. The first person who is murdered late at night because they have no way of getting the bus home will put a bit of strain on TfL’s insouciance.

Sorry David. That does not conform with the business model of speed and efficiency that you are expected to accept.

On the buses I am familiar with you can pay cash and get change, though it is a courtesy to the driver and waiting passengers to have the correct money ready. It’s nice outside London.

It’s fine to be able to pay by card but not very clever to force this on us in the name of efficiency.

And what if you left your purse with your Oyster card and bank card and cash and your phone at home? Whose fault is it then and whose responsibility to get you home? And even then you don’t think to explain your predicament to someone so you can borrow their phone for ten seconds to phone a freind?

Everyone seems to be struggling to contrive ever more bizarre situations to denounce cashless buses. I really wonder how those foreigners have managed for decades in continental cities without there being a bloody revolution over the right to pay cash on their buses!

Totally unacceptable that they won’t accept cash from anyone – if that’s really what they intend.

PGS says:
15 July 2014

Not just what they intend – it’s what they’ve DONE! I agree – totally unacceptable.

I live in Norfolk and I have a senior bus pass. Until a couple of weeks ago I would have said that cashless buses would make no difference to me. But then I lost my pass and only discovered the loss when getting on a bus. Fortunately I had enough cash for my fare, but if I hadn’t been able to pay cash then I would have had to walk home with all my shopping, which would have been a real problem.

I agree with all the comments above about people needing to pay cash in an emergency. There does need to be some way of using a bus in an emergency by paying cash. This is especially important for more vulnerable people and those unable to walk far.

Yes, Hazel. You’ve hit the nub of the problem. Elsewhere, though, where they already have cashless public transport, the usual solution is countless shops that sell tickets/card recharges.

If I had my druthers, as an occasional visitor to London I’d suggest the TfL passed card/ticket handling mostly over to private enterprise, so that instead of having only tube/mainline stations for this services, every newsagent/tobacconist/postoffice/snackbar, for example, would have a TfL card machine connected to their credit card sales machine and could issue one-time tickets, daily passes and Oyster topups This should surely, even with the vendors’ profits allowed for, be more efficient for TfL than having their own complex issuing machines, and would avoid queues simply because there would be so many sellers. Rather like lottery tickets, in fact, and no harder to administrate.

For people who never carry a debit card with them (most will soon be contactless and usable on tube and buses) the solution would be an emergency single use ticket tucked away somewhere. Of course, the nay-sayers like romb above will always be able to come up with a scenario where people only have cash – but that ignores people who have no cash, either. What would they suggest that TfL do with people who, in an emergency, have nothing to pay with at all?

Under the new system as I understand it, almost everyone would be able to pay with some sort of card, even if they have no cash. And back to the original point of this conversation: handling the little cash that is now used to buy bus tickets is DESPERATELY expensive per ticket: many times the price of the ticket, and at the expense of other users. I imagine that this was the main driver for them to propose going cashless, just as it has been in so many cities worldwide.

And (as an afterthought) I’ve yet to hear the keep-the-cash-on-buses people suggest that we should do the same with the Tube: have conductors on tube trains to collect your money if you choose to pay that way! Let alone having the train driver do it him or herself. All the reasons that the Tube ticketing has evolved as it has over the past few decades was for very good reason – and all those reasons equally apply to buses!

Most of this has been repeated ad nauseam further up the thread but never mind…

1. There are loads of shops that do Oyster top up and so on
2. If you are out of credit you are allowed a last bus journey before being forced to top up your card.

How many people actually find themselves in a situation where they have no Oyster card, no bank card and no phone to get someone to rescue them or to call a taxi? If you are out and about without the wherewithal to get home you probably shouldn’t be out and about. And the people getting excited about someone being murdered because they couldn’t get a bus home should reassess their attitude to risk.

Thanks for the backup. Nick! Yes, a lot of this has been said before, even by me; but with well over 100 comments we can hardly expect everyone to read the lot with each new comment. My suggestions now cover 3 points, separately:

1) That even more top-up shops will be needed, including one-off ticket issue, if cash is to go – most points made by the nay-sayers are genuinely valid and need to be addressed.

2) People with “no Oyster card, no bank card and no phone to get someone to rescue them or to call a taxi” are a tiny proportion, but cash-on-the-bus does cover them right now, even if they have to beg for it! It would be reasonable for Londoners not to be put in a worse position than now if things go wrong, and we ought to have some credible alternative – which is what some of the rages above are about; but

3) You can’t cover *every* possible eventuality, which includes being card- and cashless but honest. Only (as I said some way above) letting TfL have your identity, so that none of these cards would be needed, would cover this – and that really *is* a can-‘o-worms – though it might eventually creep in!

Bazjay says:
16 July 2014

A bit puzzled by your reference to the Tube, David. You don’t expect to buy a ticket on a train because you can only access the trains via a station, and every station has a person and/or machines from which you can obtain your ticket. (That’s also the system on the trams in south London.)

As I said in an earlier posting, in central London paying the driver had already been banned for some years, but ticket machines were available at bus stops. Rather than this system being extended, I gather it too has now been phased out, presumably to save the expense involved in maintaining the machines and collecting the cash. But, again as I said before, this strikes me as unacceptable in a supposedly wealthy city like London, especially in view of the high fares and the fact that it can apparently afford to spend millions developing an unnecessary new model of bus.

Ah, Bazjay, it’s the egalitarian in me. With all ticket offices about to be abolished (strikes notwithstanding) maybe we should go back to the old way, also routine throughout parts of the country still on buses and unmanned railway stations out in the sticks – pay in cash after you’ve boarded, if you wish. It was the strenuous comments of ‘cashless public transport over my dead body’ or similar that have kept popping in! And of course, London has been gradually getting away from such Victorian fare structures for a century.

Of course pay-the-tube-driver is nonsense. It’s enough for those in a cash economy to have a fair alternative of buying a fare without having to possess a card which is back-trackable by the nosies (and I’m sure that this point will be in many minds, including both GCHQ and those they seek).

As Nick Davies says, in desperation, borrow a phone to call help. What’s the issue? Though I do remember being stranded in central Paris in 1988, near M. Eiffel’s copy of the Blackpool Tower, with all of my party gone off ‘somewhere’ and very little money. Deadline for ferry, of course: I well remember the rising panic as I waited in a prominent spot to be spotted – and waited, and waited. It all fell out OK, but it’s made me sympathetic to those caught out in London!