You Won’t Be Able To Pay Cash On Buses From This Summer

buses_030214Say goodbye to your pennies: Transport for London is ending cash fares on buses this summer.

TfL announced last year that it wanted to scrap cash fares, saying that just 1% of passengers pay with coins. Yet that’s 24m journeys a year and twice as many as pay with contactless cards. A consultation was held: even though two-thirds of the 37,000 respondents were against getting rid of cash, TfL is going ahead. (We wonder if the fact that three-quarters of those same respondents don’t use cash themselves had anything to do with it.)

Some of the chief concerns have been addressed. TfL reiterates that no vulnerable person should be left behind, and says drivers will be sent on refresher courses to have that more firmly drummed in. A new ‘one more journey’ feature will be introduced, so you’ll be able to swipe your Oyster even if you have a balance of less than £1.45 (the current single Oyster fare). However, if you didn’t realise your card was in negative balance or your journey home takes two buses…tough.

The other main action TfL will take is a publicity campaign around Oyster and contactless payment cards, now being rolled out across the whole transport network and so increasingly more likely to be used. But really: is there anyone left in London who doesn’t know about Oyster? Paying cash costs 95p more than using Pay As You Go. There must be a reason people are doing so.

Another major worry was tourists and visitors from out of town. According to TfL, most tourists already know how to pick up an Oyster card, but they’re not going to significantly increase the places from which cards are available. Some more Ticket Stops might open up, but the idea of putting Oyster vending machines by rail stations and bus stops as well as in tube stations was rejected. (There’s also an interesting timing issue around this announcement: this week’s strikes are partly about all tube ticket offices closing in 2015, which will cut off a useful point of access for the confused tourist. But this is all part of TfL’s push towards automation.)

It seems to us that this move will primarily cause problems at night: lost cards or cards in negative balance, with nowhere around to top up or get a new one. Even with extra driver training it’s almost inevitable we’ll see stories appearing in the local press about young people deemed to be shitfaced rather than vulnerable, left to stumble home alone.

With TfL believing it can make £130m in savings up to 2023, cash was always on borrowed time, but we’re surprised it’s being withdrawn so early. Contactless payment cards still aren’t in the pockets of many Londoners (or visitors) to be used as back-up. TfL has knowledge that card issuers are sending new plastic out to those of us in the south east over the next few months, but there’s still a way to go before we’re all swiping as second nature.

Read the full results of the consultation and TfL’s plans.

Photo by David Fernández Molina from the Londonist Flickr pool.

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  • sheloveslondon

    As someone who lost her Oyster card about 5 times last year, being able to pay cash at the last second was a life saver – especially at 2am. There needs to be some sort of way to get a bus when you’re stranded, surely?

    • Jasper Walker

      TfL have stated that a new policy will be introduced that anyone looking in bad need of transport (especially overnight) will be allowed to travel for free.

      • sheloveslondon

        Well that’s something. Still – begging for a free ride doesn’t sit as well with me as just being able to pay my own way with £2.20 or whatever it is.

      • Rachel Holdsworth

        That’s the theory and it should work; however, it’s also the policy now (that nobody vulnerable is left behind) but isn’t always followed – bus drivers are human, if it’s late and they’ve already had trouble, you can understand how they’d be more inclined to not let someone on who looks a bit borderline.

        • melissa740

          I’ve been refused entry on a night bus after swiping myself (my friend didn’t have enough cash). And a heavily pregnant friend wasn’t allowed on the bus despite offering a tenner because driver had no change. They don’t take the ‘vulnerable’ person thing that seriously. TFL said pregnant women don’t fall within the catagory of ‘vulnerable’ when she complained.

        • londona729

          I fear that this policy could lead to cases like this (

          On a similar note remember seeing a driver kick a man who said that he’d just been mugged off the bus on the BBC2 Routemaster’s series last year.

          The problem is that ‘vulnerable’ is a very subjective term in these circumstances. If TfL are too generous it could become a faredodger’s charter…

      • Christabel Gashion

        Yeah right, bus drivers have always had emergency tickets that they supposedly hand out to people if the bus isnt going to complete it’s journey, I’ve never once been given one despite asking, I got thrown off a bus 2 stops in after someone refused to pay and tryed to kick the drivers door in, he stopped the bus and refused to move, I had to walk the rest of my journey because he wouldn’t give emergency tickets or tell the bus behind that we had all paid already. I’ve been on numerous 83s who change the destination of the bus half way thru the journey and refuse to reimburse you etc. And oyster is no good without staff at tube stations, they don’t always work or try and charge youthe wrong amount, several times I’ve been charged for zone 1 when I didn’t set foot in it but went round it. And had to talk to staff to get it sorted out.

        • ben__c

          I was on a bus that stopped and issued an emergency ticket. The next bus took ages to come so the couple who’d been given the ticket got a taxi but they didn’t give it to us!

        • londona729

          It’s not an emergency ticket but rather an Unpaid Fair Notice (yellow slip).

          You should have complained to TfL about that

      • londona729

        This isn’t a new policy.. TfL give UFNs (unpaid fair notices) to ‘vulnerable’ people with no means of paying their fare. It’s just that TfL will be giving out more UFNs than normal….possibly becoming a faredodger’s charter if UFNs continue living up to their name and remain unpaid!

  • Tom Bolton

    This would make more sense if Oyster cards always worked, but they don’t. I have been thrown off a bus, despite having a valid Travelcard, because the Oyster reader wouldn’t recognise it. This despite showing the record card to the driver, which clearly proves whether a travel card is valid. He refused to look at it, or me for that matter. Both the technology and the judgement of drivers is far from flawless, and the passenger is even more likely to be the victim.

  • Verity K

    Ridiculous. I wasn’t allowed on a nightbus from Hackney Wick at about 3 in the morning, sober, with the network closed so i couldn’t top up being 50p short of the cash fare. I then had to walk to Queensbridge Road in the middle of the night on my own. My cynical self thinks the “refresher courses” won’t really train in empathy and common sense….

  • Denise

    I don’t think this idea of scrapping cash payment will work unless drivers have a supply of emergency topped up oyster cards that we can purchase on the bus.

    • andybrice

      This actually seems like a very good idea. I feel like some system is needed whereby buses can accept cash in emergencies, but just don’t offer change.

    • londona729

      The thing is that wouldn’t save TfL the money they want to save as they’d still have to accept cash payments (or pay to install chip and pin readers on every bus!)

  • David Farbey

    It’s called “let’s have a consultation and ignore the feedback because we’ve made a decision already”

  • Soop

    So what happens to the school children who lose their Oyster cards? I’ve heard so many examples of drivers refusing to let them on board and then they have to walk miles home with heavy bags. And of course they then have no way of getting to school till a replacement card arrives.

    School kids aren’t always “vulnerable” and I doubt the training will advise drivers to take them to school at 7.30am when they plead they have no card. However, they have no alternative means of transport when they lose their cards – and can you really expect an 11-year-old to never lose a card?

  • Jo

    Free travel just for looking vulnerable – win!

  • boris ‘pinweiner’ johnson


  • swimmingpaul

    Ive never lost my oyster and still have the same one ive had since they started but often find my machine at my local station is out of use and the ticket office closed when I would like to top up its madness to get rid of cash surely a short trial period for a while to see if it works would be better ?

  • Chris Glew

    Simple scenario: it’s 1am and you’ve lost your Oyster card.

    Simple answer: ?

    • MattFromLondonist

      Get a new one from the nearest 24 hour corner shop or garage.

      • Chris Glew

        I’m trying to find the nearest 24 hour shop selling Oyster cards to different locations, but TFL’s Oyster ticket stops map is experiencing “technical difficulties”. Good job I’m not trying to look at 1am!

        My point was that there are certain swathes of London to which one can travel with an Oyster card, but don’t have a 24 hour Oyster card selling newsagent or shop.

        • MattFromLondonist

          I know – it’s less than ideal. Should be relatively easy to find somewhere if you’re in central London, though. Perhaps this is something TfL can expand and communicate better, as the cashless bus is introduced.

    • kjmci

      If you’ve lost your Oyster card, you’ve probably lost your whole wallet, so you’re out of cash anyway.

      Oh, and “TfL reiterates that no vulnerable person should be left behind”. 1am with no oyster, no wallet, no cash and no other way home strikes me as vulnerable.

      • londona729

        Most people don’t ‘put all their eggs in one basket’ so to speak and would hopefully have a few pounds or more in cash in their pocket.

        It’s all subjective

  • Andy Davis

    I’m a wheelchair user. I arrive at Marylebone with my 15 year old son. We have neither Oyster cards nor contacless payment cards. We need to get to Victoria to continue our rail journey. What do I do? Who do I ask?

    I get on the bus with two friends. We all have contactless payments cards (1 each) but no Oyster cards. My two friends touch their cards – no problem. Mine is rejected. What do I do? What do they do? What does the bus driver do?

    I’m 75 years old. I’m at the bus stop. The bus arrives and I realise I have left my Freedom Pass at home. I have a pocket full of change but no contactless payment card. I don’t walk so well and I have to get to a doctor’s appointment. What do I do?

  • Andy Davis

    We will be able to use cash to buy a ticket for every mode of public transport except the omnibus. Is the irony lost on TfL’s number crunchers?

  • Andy Davis

    Why has there been no mention in the ‘mitigation’ section of the decison document of:
    – changing ticketing rules to allow a bus to be used on a rail through ticket across London (e.g. Manchester to Brighton)
    – incoporating London into the Plusbus ticketing arrangements?

    Why have London Travelwatch and the London Assembly not fought harder against this decision?