London fare freeze to boost smartcard use

From next year, passengers using the new Oyster smartcard to travel by tube will pay 2003 prices for their journeys, London Mayor...

From next year, passengers using the new Oyster smartcard to travel by tube will pay 2003 prices for their journeys, London Mayor Ken Livingstone announced yesterday.

The contactless card, which removes the need for cash when buying tickets, is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to provide faster passage for the six million users of London's transport network.

A number of cities worldwide have already rolled out travel smartcards, the best known of which is Hong Kong's Octopus card.

Livingstone announced the move in an attempt to boost use of the smartcard, which was launched to the public at the end of June.

He said, "This is a real spur for people to switch from cash payment and the various complex [payment] methods that we have at the moment, to all investing in an Oystercard."

Use of prepaid tickets like the Oyster smartcard can help reduce queues at tube stations and speed up bus services, he added.

Oyster is available to annual and monthly adult season ticket holders in the capital who register and pay in advance over the internet or by telephone. However, the cards, which use radio frequency identification-style electronic tracking technology, will also be available from ticket offices and retail outlets next month.

Transport for London, which is administering the scheme, expects that nearly a third of the 221,000 people buying single tube tickets will take advantage of the fare freeze offer and sign up for the smartcard in January.

Officials are planning to issue all 350,000 annual and monthly ticket holders with an Oyster card within the next year.

In addition to the underground, buses, tramlink and docklands light railway, Oyster can be also be used on national rail within the six zones of greater London.

The London smartcard has been designed and is being managed by the Transys consortium of companies, including EDS, for Transport for London.

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