Contactless Payments are Becoming Underground
Transport for London (TFL) have announced that contactless payment will be available throughout its transport networks by the end of 2018. Travellers and commuters on the tube, Docklands Light Railway, tram and London Overground networks will be able to use the new technology to pay for fares, and it is expected that the new payment option will greatly speed up queues for ticket buying.
How The Technology Works
Contactless payment readers use a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) to read debit, credit or charge cards, as an alternative to credit card machines for taking smaller charge payments. NFC readers create a short-range electromagnetic field that can only be used in close proximity. This field is able to temporarily power chips that don’t have a power supply, like those found on bank cards. When an NFC-enabled chip is pressed down on an NFC reader, the chip and reader are able to communicate and send data between each other.
Contactless payments are intended for small item purchases and, because the amount is small, no chip and pin authorisation is required. This will decrease the time it takes to buy a ticket as the payment transaction is completed within seconds of the bank card being touched against the NFC reader. There is no waiting for tickets or receipts to be printed out, and inspectors can see if travellers have purchased a ticket by checking the contactless debit or credit card that the customer used for the transaction. TFL anticipate that queues on busy transport links and stations will be significantly reduced with the introduction of contactless payment.
Convenience for TFL Staff
Decreased queuing times and quicker payment transactions will reduce the burden on transport staff and could improve the quality of service on particularly busy networks. TFL believe that the contactless payment option will save up to £35m every year on cash collection costs, and if more travellers use the payment option it will reduce the human errors typically associated with cash management.
Benefits For Travellers
The introduction of contactless payment means that travellers on London’s busy transport networks no longer have to worry about having the correct change for tickets or enough credit on their Oyster cards. Being able to quickly swipe debit or credit cards for a small transaction offers a much easier and more convenient way to pay for travel. Contactless payment can be cheaper, too, as the cost of a single journey fare is the same price as it is with an Oyster card, £1.40, compared to the cash fee of £2.40. There are plans to implement the price capping system currently in operation for Oyster cards when the contactless payment roll-out is complete. This means that if a traveller makes several journeys on different transport networks in one day, they won’t pay more than the price of an equivalent Day Travel card.
The introduction of contactless payment throughout London’s transport service has the potential to bring many benefits to the capital’s regular commuters and visiting tourists. TFL are confident that the new payment option will make it easier to pay for tickets and fares across its transport networks when the roll-out of the technology is completed in 2018.