Transport for London (TfL) has been forced to delay renewing the contract for its payment systems because the war in Ukraine is affecting a planned upgrade.
At the moment, the supply of Oyster and contactless payment systems is handled by a supply contract with Cubic. That contract was signed in 2014, and extended in 2017 to expire in 2025. As would be expected, TfL is currently in a process of inviting companies to bid to run the Revenue Collection Contract (RCC) when the current agreement expires. Ahead of that, TfL is also engaged in a project to replace older contactless payment readers that are installed on buses, as they’re reaching the end of their life, and that’s caused a problem.
Today, 75 per cent of TfL’s public transport revenue is collected from customers using pay as you go on either contactless or Oyster, and this figure is growing over time. This means that the card reader used by customers to record their journeys is a critical element. The card readers installed on buses need to be replaced because if the older readers break they can’t charge customers for their journey, which affects TfL’s revenues. So, a project to replace them, known as Proteus is underway and was expected to be completed by July 2025 in buses, with options for rail to follow.
The timing is the important part, as the plan was to upgrade all the buses with new contactless readers before the existing supply contract with Cubic expires, in case Cubic doesn’t win the replacement contract. Cubic supplied the original Oyster technology, but it’s bespoke and owned by Cubic, so any replacement payments supplier would likely prefer to move to contactless payments using bank cards or a proposed national rail card.
That possible switch over is why all TfL buses need to have modern contactless card readers installed, so that contract bidders can write their bid documents on the assumption that they can take over managing the payments and move away from Oyster as quickly as possible.
However, TfL says that over recent months, due to various factors — including component supply difficulties arising from the war in Ukraine — it has become apparent that the July 2025 date for upgrading all the buses is no longer achievable.
Therefore, TfL is extending its contract with Cubic by another year, to expire in July 2026, and delaying the start of the tender for a new Revenue Collection Contract, known within the industry as ‘Proteus’, until later in the autumn as well. TfL argues that the extension gives them more time to complete the bus card reader upgrade project, and also to work with potential bidders to increase the competitiveness of the bids for whoever takes over the contract in 2026.
Updated 16th June to amend a detail about Proteus.