Travel Using Contactless Cards: An Update From TfL

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A meeting with TfL last week, updating us on where it’s at with contactless payment, gave us further insight into the system that is due to be rolled out ‘shortly’ to everyone on the network.

Although giving us no specific date, it looks likely that either the second or third weekend in September will be the ‘go live’ date, when everyone will be able to use contactless cards to pay for journeys that they currently use Oyster for.

Buses — you’ll remember — are currently separate with no daily price capping on them, and only a few thousand people on a pilot have been able to use contactless on the tube. From mid-September, everyone with a contactless card will now be able to pay that way.

TfL has created a new payment method with the the major banking networks (Visa, Mastercard and Amex) to create what they call Transit Transaction Model (TTM). This is a unique payment that charges a zero pound and pence transaction to your card — because unlike the flat fare for buses, the system cannot know how much to deduct until you touch out and your journey is over. The TTM model is something unique to TfL, and it’s looking at selling it on to other transport providers in the rest of Europe.

Then, the capping system is being brought up to date to almost match Oyster.

Firstly: capping will work on buses for multiple bus journeys, meaning that you’ll never pay more than £4.40 (once you make four journeys by bus in a day you’ll pay no more) and daily capping will work on all modes — tube, DLR, bus, tram and trains within the Oyster network too.

And then something brand new: weekly capping that runs from Monday to Sunday, meaning that you can make multiple journeys throughout the week, and it will cap as soon as you get to the price of a weekly travelcard for the zone(s) that you have travelled in. Monthly and annual capping is not yet in place.

It seems that TfL is keen to move away from Oyster and get people using contactless as it moves the transactions onto the banks and off Oyster, meaning that the amount of money spent maintaining the Oyster system can be shrunk back.

TfL also told us that weekly capping would be introduced to Oyster users! Something which is brand new — normally, it only caps for daily usage, but a lot of work into the algorithm that makes the system work has taken place, so it’s being extended to Oyster too. It means that people who regularly buy weekly travelcards on Oyster will now never need to do so again. The system will cap you at the price of a weekly automatically, whether on Oyster or contactless, meaning less time spent at ticket machines.

Contactless will therefore work in an identical way to Oyster — including the pink Oyster pads to let the system know if your journey does not go through Zone 1 so you’ll get an even cheaper fare.

Photo by Dan Kennedy from the Londonist Flickr pool

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Article by Geoff Marshall | 35 Articles | View Profile | Twitter

  • Paul Corfield

    Surely the weekly capping on Oyster can only work when TfL swap Oyster to “dumb” card technology that works in the same way as a bank card with the zero value transaction concept? This has long been forecast by TfL as a later phase of the Future Ticketing Project. The Mayorwatch blog described the different phases of that project a few months ago.

    Oyster cards maintain a cash balance and transaction record on the card itself and updates as you validate the card as you touch on card readers. This is a completely different model to TTM.

    I therefore think it is wrong to suggest or hint that weekly capping on Oyster could start in a few weeks time. It is more likely 2-3 years away.

  • Geoff Marshall

    it may be that Oyster weekly capping is a while away yet. I simply asked them the question “Will you bring weekly capping to Oyster” and was told ‘yes’ – but I admit, a date was not given. It was hard enough to get a date out of them of when contactless would start for everyone! they wouldn’t tell us, but our other source/resource, points to the second or third weekend of September (13th/14th or 20th/21st)

  • Somersetchris

    What would be nice is for the banks to give us a choice of contactless or non-contactless cards. Trying to keep them separate when I only have wallet is a pain in the proverbial. This is not going to help

  • Shaun Barlow

    Oyster and the machines that read them need to be sorted before people can trust TfL & The Mayor/Banks with our monies/accounts!
    Sneakie amounts of cash on PAYG are being taken from cards with “incompleted journey” records all the time.

  • Shaun Barlow

    TfL and the Mayor need to get the money-syphoning “errors” on PAYG Oyster sorted out before people belive that the readers and software behind them can be trusted with access to bank accounts!
    PAYG Oyster “incompleted journey:- £7:50 Clapham Junction – Shepherds Bush” fine doesn’t sound right to me, with the Oyster Transaction record telling me what the journey was, it KNEW what the journey was. How could it have been “incomplete”?
    Any staff I see on Clapham Junction Station now are sorting (or appearing to) problems for Oyster Card Customers, and failing.
    How safe is Contactless Travel, when warnings are being braodcast on the networks to not store Contactless Cards next to other cards, for fear of/// what?

    • Paul Corfield

      Having read some feedback from people taking part in the Contactless trial it seems the TfL back office system will auto correct any missing transactions when there is a regular travel pattern. Further there is the ability to sign on to your account record and correct any erroneous journey records or fill in missing station names. Apparently you are advised about any of these issues. I have also read the system will “split” any journeys accidentally joined together by people using out of station interchanges. These are all issues that can cause maximum fares to be charged and clearly TfL are trying to avoid that happening too much with the bank card functionality. There is some good info on the Oyster-Rail website about the contactless bank card trial.

  • ianxn

    TfL may want everyone on Contactless and think that the public want that, but I’d much rather stick with Oyster. Reason: because a weekly or monthly oyster transaction PDF just goes straight into my expenses as travel costs, and because it’s separate and marked TfL, both I and the taxman know the transactions can only be travel costs. Picking out and adding up TfL charges from a lengthy contactless payment bank statement will massively increase my monthly admin process. Unless TfL expect me to open a separate contactless card account with my bank just for travel!

    • Geoff Marshall

      Yes, their other concern is “What if people have more than one contactless card” (as I do), and you use different ones during the week by mistake – if you don’t use the same card the whole time, it may never cap. They’re aware of this as an issue from what they told us.

      You can choose on the new contactless website though to have all your journeys s emailed to you (as you can with Oyster right now) on a weekly basis – just the travel ones. You then have a list that is good for the taxman … !

      Point it – TfL have worked really hard on getting it to this point, and they will roll it out, and it will get used. But how fast will the takeup will be? Ah, well that remains to be seen …

      • ianxn

        OK didn’t know they were planning a “contactless” transaction record website – thanks for that news, that definitely makes the switch from oyster to contactless slightly less objectionable.

        One more puzzle with contactless, occasionally (if you shop too much or whatever) you do get asked to put in your PIN, to reconfirm the contactless card is still in the right hands, but TfL readers on buses/tube have no PIN entry mechanism – so what have TfL done to work around that? Do they just reject contactless payment if the card happens to have decided that PIN reverification is needed?

        Also I really hope the next generation of payment, via contactless card, has finally done away with the “nominate a station to pick up your refund / apply your ticket” business. Really inconvenient. I understand that the age of Oyster meant that was the way it worked/works but hope it’s on the way out now.

        • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

          My understanding from TfL with the PIN issue is that it’s occasionally a problem on buses at the moment, but when the new system goes live they’ve found a way round it (can’t remember whether it’s because the system doesn’t put a monetary amount on the card when you touch it or for another technical reason).

          • Geoff Marshall

            I think with TTM, a ‘zero’ charge will never require a PIN to be entered – that’s why they’ve created this new transaction type, that is totally unique and thus gets round the problem.

            Refunds? If you have an issue, you can call the number (as you do with Oyster now), and can be credited back to the account that your contactless card is linked to. But there are also new ticket machines on the way, and if the ‘no ticket office’ plan goes through, expect the station staff standing around with their iPads to be able to process a refund for you on the spot as well …

    • https://soundcloud.com/inhead-kay/ Kay

      I reckon they will think about a way where you can add your credit card to your online oyster profile, thus making it easy to set up email alerts on journey history. But maybe not…

  • Profshorthair

    As an old geezer, I’m interested to know how the Freedom Pass will work when Oyster is finally phased out. Any sign of the thinking on that?

    • Paul Corfield

      I would expect the Freedom Pass to migrate to the new form of Oyster electronic card or to switch to the ITSO national standard. Either way your Freedom Pass will work as it does now – provided the Boroughs can continue to fund what is a very generous scheme. I’d be more concerned about the financial pressures on the Boroughs than any future technology switch when it comes to the Freedom Pass.

      TfL have completed a DfT funded scheme that allows ITSO spec cards to be read by any Oyster reader. TfL just need to switch the functionality on. This means train company smartcards with a valid ticket loaded will be able to be read by a TfL smartcard reader. Southern Railway are expected to launch Travelcards issued on their Key Smartcard in the near future and these will work on all TfL services.

      It also means bus passes issued by Councils outside London will be able to be read electronically on TfL buses. I understand that London Freedom Passes already have dual chip functionality which means they can be read by card readers outside London on bus routes where the English National Concessionary Pass is accepted.

  • JohnTechnophile

    While I am thankful that capping as such exists – a great idea! – I completely do not want to use it. It seems like so much hassle – *always* taking extra-special care where you touched-in, did you do it properly, what if you just want to walk through the station, etc etc – so many potential issues.
    I just want my monthly/yearly pass – I really hope they don’t aim to dismantle that completely.

  • Nick

    They should have a way to let you disable contactless with TFL so that you can freely continue using your Oyster without having to carry 2 wallets around. It’s a huge inconvenience having to have two wallets and always being careful that you might scan the wrong card by accident. Those with a monthly or annual Oyster run the danger of getting charged twice. I find this whole thing extremely inconvenient

    • Chris

      You wont get charged twice – you will simply get an error at the gate. It cannot read two cards at the same time.

  • bobdvb

    Geoff, is TfL using the hotel technique of silently reserving £20 as the cap or just doing a zero pence transaction? I know a few people who have been caught out at hotels by not having sufficient credit for both the room and the deposit, even though the deposit wasn’t actually being charged. And I imagine it could be an issue for people using pre-paid cards or who are approaching their credit limit?

  • hostile_17

    It seems to be just one more thing for them to nag us about when we’re tired first thing in the morning. Mind the heat. Mind the gap. Mind the steps. Mind the doors. Mind the people. Don’t stand there, stand there. No don’t stand there, stand over there. Let people off that train first… on that train where people are sandwiched against the door.

    Now card clash! Yep… we’ve brought in a new payment system and it’s your fault if you cause card clash!

    Different readers would have solved that, albeit more expensive.

  • Rachel

    The weekly cap is well overdue (especially as since they introduced the afternoon peak it’s almost impossible to cap off peak Mon-Fri) as it’s hard to predict if I need a weekly card or not while on maternity leave, as the weather often means it’s not suitable to do what I had planned with a small baby. But it’s a shame it will only run Monday to Sunday as sometimes I might only need to travel starting midweek so am less likely to cap Mon-Sun. But presumably that maximises their revenue and why would they want to save people money at their expense?

  • Matt Potter

    I’m confused what will happen when a tourist arrives from a country that doesn’t have contactless cards, or people who don’t have bank accounts (yes there are some people). Will they not be able to get around? I’m guessing that this is just an attempt to shrink the number of people using Oyster, but will continue to have them. I do like the concept of just swiping my contactless card and when I got the limit of a weekly, monthly, or yearly travel card I get free travel after that however I’m not sure this has been thought through. Currently I travel 99% from my home in zone 3 to work in zone 1, but say I have a one off journey to zone 6. This will mean my weekly, monthly, or yearly travel card limit would be zone 1 to 6. So either everyone will need another contactless card, which would be very confusing and if in a hurry or after a few drinks I use the wrong card then the whole year of being careful is out of the window, or everyone will need an oyster card, which defeats the case of TFL doing all this work. And that’s before considering the lack of ticket offices and refunds (how will I prove I’ve made the journey the system hadn’t recorded to a person at the station (especially on the platform where there might not be any mobile or wifi reception).