By Marcus Leach

Transport for London (TfL) must guarantee that its plans to introduce ‘wave and pay’ on the capital’s transport network will be fair to all passengers and not disadvantage those who choose to stick with the Oyster card, the London Assembly said today (Friday).

In its report - ‘The future of ticketing’ - the Assembly’s Transport Committee also raises questions about the robustness of TfL’s business case for the introduction of contactless ticketing, concluding it is unconvinced the scheme will deliver the financial savings TfL is banking on.

While some passengers may welcome the convenience of using a contactless bank card to pay for travel, the Committee is concerned that the one in five people who do not have a credit or debit card could miss out on cheaper fares offered on the contactless system.

Results of a survey carried out in conjunction with Which? also highlight passengers’ concerns about security and the safety of personal data. TfL has assured the Committee the contactless cards will be “100 percent safe”, but these perceptions may still prove to be a barrier.

“It’s only right that Transport for London is looking to new technologies to enhance its ticketing offer, but many passengers are sceptical about using bank cards as tickets, and others simply won’t be able to," Caroline Pidgeon AM, Chair of the Transport Committee, said.

“If contactless payment is to prove successful we would expect to see a far more detailed and compelling case for its introduction. Most importantly, we want guarantees that all passengers will continue to have access to the cheapest fares no matter what type of ticket they use.”

‘The future of ticketing’ sets out five key principles TfL should adopt in order to maintain passengers’ trust and ensure its ticketing policy is fair and flexible:

- Any new ticketing system must provide the highest possible security for passengers’ personal information.
- Passengers should be supported to use any new system by trained staff and an adequately staffed customer service centre.
- Passengers should have access to detailed break-downs of their transport expenditure, and information provided to TfL should be kept confidential unless otherwise agreed to by customers.
- Those on low incomes should not miss out on the lowest fares because they do not have a bank card.
- Any new ticketing system should, as far as possible, be compatible with those provided by other transport operators.

Having assessed TfL’s business case against best practice in the public sector, the Committee is unconvinced that it makes a compelling argument for introducing contactless payments, or that the scheme will deliver the return TfL expects on the £75 million it is spending on the early phases.

The Committee has referred the business case to IIPAG[5], the panel that advises on TfL’s investment programme, for an independent assessment of the underlying assumptions, costs and benefits.

Beyond the introduction of contactless payment technology, TfL also intends to revamp the current Oyster card system. The Committee urges TfL to adopt the ITSO standard as it does so, to ensure it can continue to offer a freely available pre-paid card that would be compatible nationally.

The Committee also wants to see more details on the wider implications of the adoption of contactless cards, including how staffing at TfL could be affected, and the potential lost revenue for the 4,000 small retailers in London that sell Oyster top-ups.

IIPAG is asked to prepare an assessment of TfL’s business case by March, and the Committee wants TfL to report back by September 2012 on all the issues raised in the report, including: how it plans to ensure the system is secure; how it will ensure all customers will have access to the cheapest fares; and how well the introduction of contactless payments on buses in April 2012 goes.

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