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Remember the furore a few years back when London's buses went cashless? It's set to happen again, on a smaller scale, as the south London tram network follows suit.
The trams — centered on Croydon but extending out to Wimbledon, Beckenham and other choice suburbs — still accept paper tickets, vended from coin-op machines at the stops.
The rise in Oyster and contactless payments has rendered the system obsolete. Meanwhile, Transport for London has been dissuading customers from using paper for some time by charging £2.60 for a paper-based fare, but just £1.50 with a swiped card.
Indeed, 'less than 66 single single tickets a day' — says TfL, baiting grammar pedants everywhere — are still paid for with cash. That's fewer than two fares per tram stop across the network, per day.
TfL computes that the money needed to maintain the machines is not matched by the tiny number of people who use them and, hence, the trams shall become cashless. As part of its consultation, TfL received more than 800 responses from the public with suggestions and criticisms of the plans, which are summarised online here.
Changes like this can get emotive. People have all kinds of reasons for favouring coins over plastic — from personal security ('I don't want my movements tracked') to not understanding the technology. TfL will unleash gangs of 'travel ambassadors' to assist any customers who need help adjusting to the new system, along with new signage and additional validators.
The withdrawal of the coin machines will begin almost immediately. And remember, always touch in, and NOT out when using the trams.