Contactless debit card payments on London buses by 2012

While mobile NFC payments are still slow-moving towards UK mass market, Transport for London (TfL) is demonstrating the faster progression of contactless card payments with its Future Ticketing project, promising contactless credit and debit card payment capability on London buses by 2012.

TfL has predicted contactless payment, in partnership with Visa, Mastercard and American Express, will be available on London’s bus network by early 2012 and has announced it is in discussion with “leading card schemes” and transport operators in major international cities to develop a common standards and system for the new technology.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s transport adviser, said in a statement,

“These technologies have the potential to propel us into a world where travelling around London can be easier and even more convenient for passengers. The Mayor is continually looking for new thoughts and ideas and that includes contactless payment.

“This technology is now maturing and could enable people to pay for their travel using credit and debit cards – resulting in a simpler process for the customer, and reducing commission and processing costs for TfL.

“This type of evolution to the next generation of emerging technologies would be a big step for the Oystercard. Any improvements we introduce would clearly need to deliver value for money but we are excited about the potential benefits there could be for the London commuter.”

While banks and retailers, such as Barclaycard, are working to familiarise consumers with contactless capabilities, London is likely to be the easiest place to introduce the new contactless technology due to the familiarity of the contactless Oyster travel card.

It will be interesting to see how TfL develop a multi-card reader along side ITSO’s work to establish a standardised specification for smart ticketing across the UK to allow the ITSO card to be used anywhere in the country for transportation.

TfL believe contactless payment using credit and debit cards will make London’s public transport more accessible to visitors who may carry contactless credit or debit cards from an overseas bank and will be able to use them for London travel.

As TfL was the first organisation to carry out a large-scale NFC trial, perhaps London would also be the most sensible place to launch NFC payments in the UK?  

More details of the TfL Future Ticketing initiative are to be announced by the end of the year.