London Transport (LT) passengers may have to pay a deposit before buying their tickets when the redevelopment of the bus and underground ticketing system is complete.
LT's Prestige project will replace the magnetic stripe tickets with smartcards. The cards will be operational from August 2002.
Initially, smartcards will be introduced for Stored Value Ticketing (SVT) and to replace period passes of one week or more. SVT smartcards can be recharged and LT hopes they will reduce the amount of cash payments on the LT system.
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However, at last week's Smart Card 2000 Conference, Chris Oulds, Prestige's project manager, said a similar smartcard scheme in Korea had run into financial difficulties when passengers threw away their cards rather than topping them up.
To avoid this, Prestige is thinking of asking for deposits before cards are issued, particularly for the SVT. Passengers who are not regular users of public transport are more likely to retain their cards, LTbelieves.
Grizelda Hafter, a spokeswoman for the Prestige project, said, "People who are already using travel cards will be going to the station to renew their cards anyway. But irregular travellers need to be encouraged to hold onto their cards and top them up."