TfL Aiming To Scrap Cash Fares On Buses

Transport for London wants to stop accepting cash fares on buses, and has considered implementing the plan as early as this year.

BBC’s Sunday Politics programme requested a Mayoral briefing from the end of 2012, which says:

It is also proposed that the sale of cash tickets on bus [sic] be stopped at a suitable time in 2013.

1.5% of bus fares are paid for in cash, 24m journeys a year, equating to around £57m in revenue. On the Sunday Politics Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director, Surface Transport, said it costs around £10m-£15m to collect cash fares on buses (though the BBC’s Transport correspondent, Tom Edwards, said on Twitter yesterday that the figure is more like £35m) and TfL’s plan seems to be that once revenue is less than adminstration costs, cash fares will go.

However, since cash fares are £1 more expensive than Oyster it’s probable that anyone paying in cash has a genuine need to: lost Oyster card, empty Oyster card, late at night, etc. Labour London Assembly member Val Shawcross said:

Being able to pay with cash on buses must continue as an emergency option for people who have lost their Oyster cards and need to get home. It’s not safe to take this away from Londoners who might have no other choice and could find themselves stranded.

London Travelwatch also makes the point that even though paying with cash can slow things down, that’s unlikely to be cancelled out by arguments with the driver over not being able to pay in cash.

Leon Daniels reassured Sunday Politics viewers that:

No vulnerable people are left behind on our bus network. [Bus drivers] make these decisions every day.

(Embarrassingly, he also made a bit of a cock-up, saying that if people buy a rail ticket to ‘London terminals’ or zone 1 they get unlimited travel on the bus and underground network. He seems to be confusing standard tickets with a ticket-plus-travelcard.)

The contactless card system isn’t yet a replacement for cash, either. One million journeys have been paid for this way since the system was introduced in December 2012, but that’s peanuts compared with 24 million annual cash journeys. Contactless payments will inevitably rise with familiarity, but it’s also not a solution for poorer people who can’t have debit cards. TfL says it will consult before any changes are brought in, but what’s your opinion?

Photo by Screen Deb from the Londonist Flickr pool. You can watch the Sunday Politics on BBC iPlayer until 12.34pm, 21 April. Bus segment starts around 44 minutes in.

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  • MattFromLondonist

    Interesting. It’s bound to happen sooner or later — the question is whether this is too soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if cash, in general, slowly disappears over the coming decades. 50 years from now, I imagine we’ll look back with amused fondness to the times when people exchanged dirty discs of metal to get around.

    • Kay

      Well, trends don’t always tell the whole story and what you find is sometimes trends peak and then crash. I think the whole eWallet/digital cash thing is at its peak now, meaning in the next decades it will probably crash. This ties is with the next economic bubble burst, which WILL this time render ATMs dry. We can’t keep going digital, look at what happened to Bitcoin this week.

      On this particular point, I think it is absolutely ludicrous. What about people in London for a short period of time who don’t want an Oyster. And these figures are based on what, why does it currently cost to keep cash as an alternative, it makes no sense!? And even with the contactless payment, the author is wrong, it is not that poor people can’t afford debit cards, it is that they can’t afford credit cards, and credit cards is where most contactless is.

      TFL should instead focus on making the service more efficient and making our buses safer and cleaner, and most importantly make sure drivers are trained how to be “humans”. The amount of times I see drivers do absolutely dumb crap like stop the bus in the middle of the road because someone’s oyster went red, or because someone is standing on the top floor since the bottom is filled. Just dumb stuff, like not opening the doors to passengers in traffic jams when the stop is only a few feet away. And they are like that because the bus network is privatized, and route operators are different in their treatment of workers. It’s a sham.

  • Jo

    This is a ridiculous plan. I would be concerned about my safety when going out at night if buses wouldn’t accept cash. At the moment, if I were to lose my oyster card whilst I was out, I know I would still be able to get home – even if my bag were stolen and I lost my purse, I expect that someone would be able to lend me the fare. If buses stop taking cash however, how would I get home? It’s very unlikely I would be able to borrow a spare oyster card from someone, and where can I buy one late at night? The argument that this is not a problem because bus drivers will allow people on to buses even if they don’t have a topped-up oyster card is silly – if this were the case surely everyone would say they had lost their oyster card to avoid paying at all?

  • Andy

    And what about visitors? And what about if you have no ticket and there is no machine at the bus stop? And what if the machine at the bus stop is not working? Idiots.

  • Jack

    Really bad. Anyone with half a brain knows that the oyster cards are a surreptitious way of giving people indentity cards, as they track movements. Second obviously there is the safety argument (and the TfL director is clearly a liar – even his statement seems to contradict itself – how can people not be left behind if drivers MAKE THE DECISIONS every day? Thirdly it’s almost as stupid as Barclay Contactless Card – someone could steal your Oyster card and you’re out of pocket. And finally it’s easy to lose money (and get stranded) because faulty machines, with TfL staff unwilling to help. Put ‘

    My two months journey to get £10 Oyster refund’ in google.

  • thetransporthub

    what about tourists that don’t have oysters or contactless cards how to they pay?