NFC payments rolled out for London buses

London bus passengers will be able to pay for journeys with the swipe of an NFC-enabled debit card, with Transport for London rolling out the contactless payment scheme from today.

The use of debit, credit or charge cards to pay fares could mean less reliance on the Oyster cards which are typically used on London’s 8,500 buses.

The system will mean that passengers paying without an Oyster card will pay the lower fare of £1.35, rather than the cash payment of £2.30.

Apparently 85,000 journeys each day in the capital are paid for in cash, with at least 500 people being turned away for paying with a high denomination note, TfL said. There are also 36,000 people who have insufficient funds on their Oyster card to pay for a journey, making life easier for those who have forgotten to top up their balance.

TfL said that it is looking to extend the service to other parts of the public transport network, with contact payments enabled across the London Underground, DLR, London Overground and trams by late 2013. Daily and weekly capping will also be brought in at this stage too.Talks are  underway to allow the use of NFC payments through the national rail network.

London mayor Boris Johnson welcomed the news: “Lots of us have had the frustrating experience of dashing to board a bus only to discover that our Oyster card has run out of credit. 

“So the arrival of this latest technology is welcome news, meaning that with a simple touch of acontactless payment card, people can avoid having to scrabble for change and also still benefit from the Oyster fare discount.”

He added: “This is the latest in a range of ways we are working to make passenger journeys even easier and more convenient.”

Although TfL has not specified that NFC-enabled smartphones will be supported, it is likely that bus passengers will be able to pay with a flash of their mobile too.

Just how confident passengers will be to brandish their expensive smartphone when taking a perilous night bus is up for debate.  

A TfL spokesperson told TechEye that during this first phase, there will not be a daily ‘cap’ on spending, as with the Oyster card, although when NFC is rolled out to the other transport networks, a daily and weekly cap will be introduced. The idea for now is not to replace the Oyster Card, but to provide a cheaper alternative than physical cash if the card has run out, or you are caught without change.

As for fraud claims, this will be handled by card providers.

If a ticket inspector boards the bus, he or she will get a print out from the bus driver that displays the last four digits of every card used for contactless payments, which can then be verified.