The Oyster card is here to stay

The London Oyster contactless railcard is rightfully hailed as a visionary technological leap in the way passengers pay for rail travel, and throughout the last decade, user numbers have soared. But with the use of contactless bank cards now on a similarly steep trajectory, are the Oyster’s days numbered?

GlobalData’s railway technology writer Frances Marcellin says: “The introduction of Oyster smartcards in London revolutionised the way that people pay for travel in the city. The system made moving across London easier and faster through pay-as-you-go passes which could automatically be topped up. They eliminated the need for cash and reduced the queues.

“With the process and cost of issuing new Oyster cards (around 500,000 each month) quite substantial, TfL decided a less labour-intensive system was required that was also interoperable with existing infrastructure and technology. So, in 2014 a contactless ticketing system using bank cards was introduced.

“Fast forward to 2019 and payments with contactless bank cards or mobile phones now make up 60% of all Tube and rail pay-as-you-go journeys in London. This is the equivalent of around 21 million journeys a week. The remaining 40% still use Oyster.

“But will the Oyster card continue to remain in circulation as contactless card and smartphone payments take off?”

TfL head of customer payments Mike Tuckett says TfL has no plans phase the Oyster card out. “This is because there will always be customers, such as children or those who need to manage their finances more carefully, who will benefit from the card. However, as the system is now more than 15 years old, and it is clear that more people are switching to using pay-as-you-go with contactless bank cards or mobile devices, we are no longer extending Oyster to other stations outside London.”

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