/ Travel & Leisure

TfL trams go cashless: will other transport follow suit?

Transport for London trams went fully cashless last week – you can no longer buy a paper ticket. Would you support your local transport following suit?

You’ll have to forgive me for a little local indulgence on this one – I was born in Croydon and still live nearby, so the sight of the distinctive green and white trams is a familiar one to me.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the platform ticket machines had a sign on them saying they still do not accept the new £1 coin or £5 note – and so an idea for a Which? Conversation was born: have you noticed any ticket machines STILL not accepting the new £1 coins and £5 notes?

But that particular best-laid Convo plan went awry with the cashless announcement, effective from 16 July. But maybe it’s something I’ll revive in the future.

Paper tickets for the chop?

We’ve already seen London buses go fully cashless, so could the days of the paper ticket for other London transport, such as the tube, be numbered?

And if so, is this what the future of transport will look like outside the capital?

I’ve lived in London all my life, so I’ve gotten used to all my transport payments being contactless. When I have a travelcard it’s on Oyster, and when I don’t, I pay by contactless card.

Ways to pay

This may work for me, but not everyone wants to be forced into contactless payments. There have been concerns around security, some don’t have contactless-enabled cards, and many simply prefer to pay with cash.

With more transport taking the cashless route and the government looking to introduce smart ticketing for rail across England and Wales by the end of this year, are cashless payments the way forward?

If the local transport in your area switched to card-only payments only tomorrow, would you be prepared? Do you still use cash to pay for public transport?


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I have no objection to cashless public transport. This is quite common on the continent. People in London can either use an Oyster card, or, if they are over 60 or disabled, use their Freedom Pass. Getting an Oyster card is very easy and most public transport users have them now – and as well as on the Croydon trams they can be used on the buses, Underground, Docklands Light Railway, and many National Rail services. I obtained an Oyster card even though I don’t live in Greater London because I visit the capital from time to time and it is very convenient with a maximum charge for a whole day’s travel.

As Duncan says, one of the advantages is that you can, if you need an alibi for example, look up your journeys. I have never heard of third parties being able to access the journey records for money-making purposes; so far as I can see the system is very secure. I can see why the police and security services might need to check people’s movements as part of their investigations into criminal activity and as part of the surveillance of suspected terrorists. Given the outrages that have occurred lately I should think most Londoners are comfortable with that.

Cash handling for small payments and managing the infrastructure [ticket machines etc] is an expensive business so this is a rational and reasonably satisfactory method of collecting fares economically; the alternative is higher fares and that would be quite unpopular I feel.

I don’t see a threat to cash in the UK let alone a world-wide conspiracy to abolish it.

I have no problem with encouraging the public to use Oyster and other contactless card but what happens if a card does not work or has been lost? If you cannot even buy a card because some machines have not been converted to accept coins and notes that have been use it demonstrates that the system is poorly managed.

That’s a good point. Also, many older people still do not have either a smart phone or a credit card; and also do not feel confidant in getting their ticket from a machine. It’s not a good time to be old!

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Peter – Almost all old people in London who wish travel have a Freedom Pass which allows them to use public transport free of charge. They don’t need to get a ticket, they just present it to the card reader on the bus or tram platform or at the entry gates on the Underground or National Rail station.

A far as I see from George’s Convo, the ticket machines to which he refers are redundant as Croydon trams have gone cashless. Maybe knowing this was going to happen did not it worthwhile spending money on them for the small number of tickets they issued? Perhaps management saw this coming and decided not to waste money?
I don’t live in Croydon and may have misinterpreted George’s intro 🙁

I had presumed from the context that the machines were ones that dispense or recharge cards. I stay out of London because of concerns about the air quality, so I’m rather ignorant about transport issues. When I spent a week there a few years ago I ended up visiting a hospital because of breathing problems. 🙁

Steve says:
28 July 2018

There can be technical problem even when everything is normal.
I did not say “Senior” and the Conductor did not notice I had my Senior Railcard open in front of me. He issued a full price ticket. He offered to do a refund so I bought a Senior and he went through the motions of making a refund onto my card.
The refund never arrived. It was most likely that the train was just going through one of the many stretches without a mobile signal.
A very minor problem, but what if a major network goes down (perhaps in a storm).

Well lucky London Senior Cits. getting free transport, but what about older people visiting the capital? We were caught out a couple of years ago not knowing TfL buses didn’t take cash and as the unhelpful driver just waved his hand vaguely at a nearby shop (which was closed!) we were consequently late for an important meeting. We’re happy with most card uses but the complications of paying for transport in London have put us off going there again..

I buy a one day travelcard when travelling into London on the train, that gives use of buses and the underground. I suppose the emergency alternative is to get a taxi.

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The free Concessionary Bus Pass, issued by any county or shire council in the UK to residents over 60 and to disabled people, is valid on London buses.

People who visit London a lot would probably find it beneficial to get an Oyster card which gives multiple travel options at greatly reduced fares and a maximum cap on any day’s travel.

Of course, the Freedom Pass enabling free transport for elderly people in London isn’t free – it’s paid for through the Council Tax – but it has a huge public benefit [in addition to that for the individual] in reducing car mileage, relieving congestion, and improving road safety.

May says:
4 August 2018

I consider his to be the loss of an important choice, and one which will impact those on the margins of society, with no bank accounts and possibly smart-phone most keenly.

In practice, it can also be an impediment unless the alternatives are well implemented.
Brighton on-road parking is an example of how obstructive a cashless system can be. The machines to use your credit/debit cards are unintuitive, and potentially insecure, pay-by phone requires an opaque registration process, and assumes a smart-phone is available, and payment by using cash at a ‘convenient’ shop, is anything but. You need to find a badly displayed code for the specific parking place, find the nearest shop – a list is available on-line if you have on-line access, but is in alphabetical order by shop name, which the user is unlikely to know, rather than by street name, – better but still requiring the would be user to find out the name of the street.

In practice, I seldom shop in Brighton now, preferring a trip to nearby Worthing, where parking is more rational, far easier, and the cheaper charges more than pay for the slightly longer journey, though not for the environmental impact


total shambles, a few coins and you ca pay

Utterly ridiculous! I use cash almost daily to buy my bus ticket and im a millennial! I actually asked for a non contactless card, they still gave me a contactless card but just disabled the function.

Seems odd that the goverenment encourages people to use public transport and then lets greedy private compaines remove the payment option of cash, releasitlly cutting the number of protential customers!

Bigskip says:
4 May 2019

I have no intentions of using card only payments. It will just be another transport / business / car park / petrol station I won’t use. I will either walk more or drive more. If shops go the same way I might try one of those food banks.

We need cash for our everyday shopping, not everyone has a bank account and or a smartphone.