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London buses get contactless payment option

Transport for London aiming to get NFC rolled out across entire network by the end of 2013

By Steve Evans

London bus contactless payment

Commuters in London are now able to pay for their bus journeys using contactless payments. The development means Londoners can pay for their bus ride with a credit or debit card, as well as Oyster cards.

Near-field communications (NFC) payments are being rolled out across London’s 8,500 buses and cost the same as a single journey on an Oyster card, which is £1.35, much cheaper than the £2.30 it costs to pay in cash. Transport for London (TfL) estimates that around 85,000 journeys are paid for in cash every day.

TfL also said that 36,000 people each day attempt to pay for a bus journey via their Oyster card, only to find that they do not have enough credit remaining. This new initiative will give those passengers an alternative payment method, TfL said.

Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Customer Experience, said giving commuters an alternative payment method will save them money.

"Bus passengers will realise significant savings by swapping from cash to contactless payment card and getting the cheaper single Oyster fare," she said. "We look forward to seeing the number of people using this payment option increase over the next year as the banking industry issues more contactless cards to their customers."

"Lots of us have had the frustrating experience of dashing to board a bus only to discover that our Oyster card has run out of credit," said Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. "So the arrival of this latest technology is welcome news, meaning that with a simple touch of a contactless payment card, people can avoid having to scrabble for change and also still benefit from the Oyster fare discount."

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TfL decided to introduce contactless payments on London buses first as the pricing structure is far simpler than on the rest of the transport network, with a single flat fee regardless of distance.

However TfL is hopeful that contactless payments will be rolled out to the rest of the transport network, such as London Underground and Overground by the end of 2013.

While contactless payment methods can be more convenient that using cash, there are question marks over security.

An investigation by Channel 4 earlier this year found that mobile phones can be used to read contactless payment cards and grab important information off them. Despite these worries a report by Informa claimed that NFC payments will top $37bn by 2016.

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