Transport for London (TfL) is looking for a company to maintain and upgrade its billing systems and is likely to migrate away from older Oyster cards which are increasingly unable to work with other billing platforms.

At the moment, the supply of Oyster and contactless payment systems is handled by a supply contract with Cubic, and that contract is currently due to expire in July 2026, having been extended by a year due to upgrade delays to the card readers on buses.

Although Cubic supplies the Oyster card system, TfL has also invested in the billing system as it added contactless payments and other upgrades to how the billing worked.

Contracts need retendering at times anyway, but TfL is also looking at a long-term upgrade of the billing platform. The system currently supports legacy magnetic stripe tickets, Oyster, contactless payment cards and ITSO (the UK national smart card specification).

What is known within TfL as the Proteus Contract, is expected to go live in August 2024, with a phased rollout for full delivery in August 2026, when the current contract with Cubic expires.

Apart from running the billing platform, the contractor will be required to take part in an upgrade of the card readers used on the railways.

There’s also a plan underway to enable debit cards and smartphones to be linked as a single payment account. At the moment, if someone taps in with a credit card and were to tap out with a smartphone, they are treated as two separate cards for billing, and customers pay twice for the trip. The upgrade would eliminate that accidental double-billing problem, and could also open up a wider range of options to link multiple devices to a single passenger.

There’s also a plan to migrate the Oyster cards to an account based system as part of a scheme to discontinue the older Oyster cards, although more recent Oyster cards may still be supported.

There is also the related issue of expanding pay-as-you-go contactless payments outside London to the wider southeast, which the tender documents say is under discussion with the Department for Transport.

The initial contract, worth around £800 million is for 7 years, with an option to extend to 12 years. That works out at roughly £115-£125 million a year to run TfL’s billing systems.


Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with:

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

  1. Keith says:

    If linking debit & smartphones to a single account it would be nice if it could then be linked to railcard discounts, as I believe you can with Oyster cards.

    Even better if it could someone link to Two Together & Family railcards. At present the inability to do this is the main reason I sometimes still use the (legacy) magnetic strip travelcard tickets, as I can apply such discounts to it. Depending on where I’m travelling to it can work out cheaper than tapping in & out and paying the daily cap.

    • Mark says:

      It already became harder to link Railcard discount to Oyster when ticket offices disappeared. Clearly the feature is disappearing by stealth.

  2. Brian Butterworth says:

    It’s still odd that there at one of the UK’s busiest station (Stratford) you can’t use the QR-code-style tickets Trainline provide and you have to waft them at a TfL staff member.

    So when you make a Greater Anglia trip with your Network Card one must repeat “don’t tap out, don’t tap out” because if you do, it’s a £8.90 that’s hard to get back!

    • Sean says:

      I emailed TfL earlier this year specifically about Stratford and QR tickets as it is a real pain. Turns out no LU-run stations have them and unfortunately are unlikely to get them anytime soon.

    • Mike.oxlong says:

      I regularly use barcodes between Stratford and Rugby

    • Mark says:

      I don’t understand Brian. Afaik, the network card lets you buy a (QR or paper) ticket to your destination at a discount. As long as you manage to get out or back in through the barrier on a return, there’s no other point at which money is deducted surely? What’s the debitable card you’re using?

  3. Wayne says:

    For a US reader, can someone please define “older Oyster card”? My wife and I have Oyster cards we’ve had for at least five years (probably longer); we’ll be back in the UK next September – should we get new cards then to be safe?

    • MilesT says:

      Yes, that age is probably at risk of getting discontinued in between infrequent trips. Next time you come, use it for a few days, then go to a machine and to get a refund (disable the card). I think that vintage of card will result in return of £5 deposit (more recently the deposit was turned into credit on first use after 1 year).

      The for the rest of your trip, use contactless payment card/phone app (if you can–your payment card provider may charge a small fee once a day to process the end of day settlement request from TfL). If you use a travel money debit card that will work and if denominated in GBP won’t have a daily fee.

      If you can’t/won’t use a payment card, new Oyster card is £7 NON REFUNDABLE AND DOES NOT TURN INTO CREDIT (recent change).

    • Fred says:

      Check the bottom left corner on the back of the card. A first generation card does NOT have a ‘D’ there. More details on the website (search “first generation”)

  4. Adam says:

    Hopefully contactless rollout further from London will equate to fairer pricing for commuters in those areas. With hybrid working and no need for a season ticket I’ve taken to cycling three stops down the line to where I can pay contactless. Traveling off peak in the morning this has more than halved my travel costs. My local station is extortionate and limits options, basically forcing you to get a travelcard at £31.30. Contactless is costing me £14.90.

  5. Maurice Reed says:

    I still have one of the earliest Oyster cards which I used to use as an annual season ticket until I got my pensioners card and now top up its credit and have used it for friends when in London

  6. JP says:

    I’m all for anonymity so each rumour of “upgrades” usually upsets my equilibrium.
    Why do the powers that be need to know anything more than person A travelled from point 1 to point 2?

    That aside, I hope that any new system fines the twerps who have been waiting at a bus stop in the rain like the rest of us and then take half an hour finding their phone and switching it to the contactless payment setting. Either that or a handy little electric shock should do the trick.

  7. graham underwood says:

    seems like another one of sadiq khans rob a londoner schemes

    • ChrisC says:

      Really? The system would need replacing / updating whoever the Mayor is.

      And having a proper fare collection system isn’t robbing anyone.

    • Malcolm says:

      How on earth do you derive that from tfl renewing a payment system at the expiry of a contract?

  8. Chris Brady says:

    TfL is millions of pounds in credit from false (fraudulant) deductions from Oyster or bank cards. The issue is the ‘helpful’ staff on gatelines opening gates so that folks either fail to touch in or fail to touch out. This in turn registers an unresolved journey which incurs a maximum fine. Those at Paddington are worst for this.

    • ianVisits says:

      Registered users can easily and quickly get a refund on the website which lists all partial journeys registered to your account.

    • Jackie says:

      I’ve been scouring the internet for some information on fraudulent conyactless payments so was interested to see this.
      I live in Brighton and made a rare journey to London yesterday by train to Victoria station. At Victoria, Underground station, I bought a return paper ticket to Oxford Circus, using the machine and my Visa debit card, which cost £12.60 . I made the journey to Oxford Circus and back to Victoria Underground station, and then walked to the train station and return to Brighton. However on my bank statement in addition to the £12.60 London Transport charge, there is an additional £20.60 charge later in the afternoon from “TFL travel charge/”. I have no account with TFL and no card registered with them.
      I have made 10 calls to TFL today to try and sort this out, getting passed from pillar to post (One insisted it was a congestion charge despite my having not driven a vehicle in London since 2000!) It appears a card reader accidentally took a reading from my bank card!

    • ianVisits says:

      So it was an accident rather than fraud.

  9. NG says:

    Note: I have an ancient “Oyster” card, which gets used, perhaps, once every 18 months & it’s many years old, as I have a “geriatric’s pass” for in-London journeys. It’s still working, or was about 3 months back.
    I assume, that once the new “improved” scheme is rolled out, I will need a new one?

  10. Rory says:

    The Elizabeth line has accelerated the need for this – ticketing is a total mess.

    Impossible to use railcard to complete a hybrid TfL / GWR journey – e.g. Whitechapel > Slough – unless you break the journey at Paddington in order to tap out and then wave a QR-code at the gate staff to let you back on next train on the same line.

    21st century Britain!

    • ianVisits says:

      I guess it’s a sign of how successful TfL’s travelcard tickets are that people people expect GWR tickets to be accepted on a non-GWR service.

  11. Rory says:

    I don’t understand.

    If I buy a Paddington > Slough non-advance ticket I can use either Elizabeth Line or GWR right?

    Shouldn’t I be able to purchase a peak non-railcarded (or off-peak railcarded) Whitechapel > Paddington part of that without having to get off the train and the back onto the next one of exact the same service?

    • Rory says:

      Sorry – I clearly can’t use this comment system. Was a reply to ianVisits at 2.42pm!

    • ianVisits says:

      They’re shared services above ground, but as there’s no comparable GWR service once you get past Paddington, it’s not unreasonable that your GWR ticket wouldn’t be valid. Eventually, there’ll be a universal ticket, but not yet.

    • Rory says:

      Ah yes agreed.

      To be clear I am not asking to deny either train company the revenue they are entitled.

      I am just asking for a joined by system where as a railcard owner, I can buy a joined up, fairly priced ticket for what is a single railway journey, without having to unnecessarily break my journey to U-turn at the barriers and return to the exact same trains and railway line. (Indeed as non-railcard contactless users can).

      Feels like it’s fair to aspire towards that and that I am not ‘expecting’ anything unreasonable?

  12. William Hill says:

    Would be nice to have the 60+ card on my phone. It is just another thing to lose.

    It seems like a no brainer to me

  13. Geoff says:

    Will be an interesting tender process for what would seem to to be another PPP style contract (as with the original one with Cubic). Also be great to overcome some of the weaknesses of staffing and fraud issues of the life expired gates (particularly the WAG)

  14. Oyster says:

    Maybe it is just me, but I find a daily line item on my credit card statement annoying to look through. I use an Oyster card with a top up to get around this.

    • ianVisits says:

      If you have a line in bank statement every day, then you’d be better off buying a monthly or annual travelcard anyway.

  15. No Won says:

    When will there be a Japan-style national Oyster system? Imagine being able to use such a card/digital platform (or phone/debit card equivalent) for train, metro, tram, bus, ferry etc. all over the UK. (I know it’s not quite like that in Japan but we could be even better…)
    Any party that promises this gets my vote.

Home >> News >> Transport News