TfL-style contactless payments for train tickets are expanding and will be added to several Chiltern Railways stations at the end of this month.

Photo by Steph Gray on Unsplash

The expansion of the pay-as-you-go contactless payments on Chiltern services is part of “Project Oval”, a government scheme to expand TfL’s service across much of the southeast of England. The £20 million rollout is being funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and carried out by TfL with the provision of in-station validation equipment carried out by Cubic Transportation Systems, which already provides the same kit to TfL.

The first phase, of around 51 stations, was due to go live in December 2023 but was delayed and then held up again as the ticketing updates had to wait for the internal June fares revision.

The rollout is now being phased in batches.

From Sunday 30th June, customers be able to pay as you go with a contactless card or device at the following six additional Chiltern Railways stations:

  • Beaconsfield
  • Denham
  • Denham Golf Club
  • Gerrards Cross
  • High Wycombe
  • Seer Green & Jordans

Around three-quarters of trips on TfL services now use contactless payments, showing that the option to pay without queuing to buy a ticket and the daily/weekly caps to ensure people don’t get unexpected bills are popular.

There are two pricing phases for the contactless payment options being rolled out.

Initially, contactless payments will be launched with full-fare, adult PAYG travel using contactless payment cards and mobile devices across the South East, fully integrated with TfL’s existing scheme. Later, this will be upgraded to enable discounted PAYG travel for National Rail concessionary customers.

The expansion will not include Oyster cards, just the newer bank card-based contactless payments, as Oyster is an older technology that wasn’t designed for and can’t handle the expanded area. That mirrors how the Elizabeth line was extended to Reading, with Oyster only working as far as the edge of Zone 6, after which only bank card contactless will work.

Although contactless payments are expanding outside TfL’s realm, Chiltern customers can still buy paper tickets for their journey. Child fares, railcard discounts, and season tickets may provide better value at the moment.

The other stations planned for the first phase of the Project Oval expansion by the end of this year are:

Thameslink

  • Bat & Ball
  • Dunton Green
  • Eynsford
  • Otford
  • Sevenoaks
  • Shoreham (Kent)

LNWR

  • Apsley
  • Berkhamsted
  • Bletchley
  • Bricket Wood
  • Cheddington
  • Garston
  • Hemel Hempstead
  • How Wood
  • Kings Langley
  • Leighton Buzzard
  • Park Street
  • St Albans Abbey
  • Tring
  • Watford North

c2c

  • Basildon
  • Benfleet
  • Chalkwell
  • East Tilbury
  • Laindon
  • Leigh-on-Sea
  • Pitsea
  • Shoeburyness
  • Southend Central
  • Southend East
  • Stanford-le-Hope
  • Thorpe Bay
  • Tilbury Town
  • West Horndon
  • Westcliff

A quirk is how Tilbury Riverside station will be handled, as that’s a parliamentary service which allows you to use a bus to travel to it for free if you have a paper ticket to “Tilbury Town or Riverside”.

South Western

  • Ashford (Surrey)
  • Datchet
  • Egham
  • Kempton Park
  • Shepperton
  • Staines
  • Sunbury
  • Sunnymeads
  • Upper Halliford
  • Virginia Water
  • Windsor & Eton Riverside
  • Wraysbury

With contactless already available at Windsor and Eton Central, Windsor will become a fully contactless town for train fares.

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18 comments
  1. Andrew says:

    Is it just me or is paying via contactless slower than paying by Oyster on these devices?

    • ianVisits says:

      Somewhere around 0.2 seconds slower, which is negligable.

    • MilesT says:

      Although paying by phone can be a lot slower, if the phone user isn’t fully prepared with the device and has the desired card active (or set for “automatic” mode for transit purposes).

      Technology quick, people less so.

      (or to use a IT support codeword: PICNIC problem in chair not in computer)

  2. Mike says:

    Is there any way to apply Railcards to contactless payments with credit/debit cards?

    • ianVisits says:

      “Later, this will be upgraded to enable discounted PAYG travel for National Rail concessionary customers.”

  3. Julian Walker says:

    Presumably anyone travelling to Tilbury Town and intending to use the bus to Tilbury Riverside continues to buy a paper ticket.

  4. Dan says:

    Previously it was said that adding railcards to contactless payment cards would happen “in 2024”. Do you know if that’s still the plan or is that going to be late as well?

  5. JP says:

    When I worked for TfL, Phase 1 Project Oval go-live was scheduled for 21 October ’23. And that’s just for relatively straightforward full fare ticketing (admittedly some of the ticket pricing challenges were far from simple!). I wouldn’t expect railcard discounts on contactless anytime soon. Technology changes happen very slowly at TfL these days. I hope I’m proved wrong though.

  6. Paul says:

    Great and long overdue; one has to wonder why this takes so long
    The UK in general seems to suffer from a culture of angsting and arguing over details rather than just getting stuff done

    • ianVisits says:

      Actually, the UK is a world leader in contactless payments for transport — it was pretty much invented by TfL after all — but as if often the case, the organisation that invents something is then stuck with the legacy kit for a long time until it can be upgraded, so it looks as if the first mover isn’t innovative, when in fact, it’s if anything, too innovative.

    • MilesT says:

      To be more precise, I understand Hong Kong was first with “Octopus”, Oyster being largely a copy (fairly soon after).

    • Paul says:

      @ianVisits I agree TfL led the technology here – but I doubt the delays are anything to do with the technology! I suspect a litany of management difficulties that boil down to an outdated bureaucracy and working culture. It’s a similar story in a lot of more established organisations.

      @MilesT – Ian is referring to contactless payments on transport, not Oyster/Octopus. Uniquely TfL worked with the major payment providers to develop a system much more sophisticated than standard retail contactless, to allow touch in and out, accumulation of payments during the day/week, and never needing to insert a card anywhere.

  7. Gerry says:

    Dunton Green is a Southeastern station that does not have any Thameslink services.
    Along with Sevenoaks, it now suffers from having evening peak fares from London reintroduced (having been abolished about 40 years ago). However, the minor benefit of contactless has still not arrived; it’s often cheaper to buy a Super Off-Peak Day Return from Tonbridge because it has no evening restriction !
    The Contactless expansion was due in 2023, but it slipped to the New Year, and the Southeastern website still forlornly promises ‘Spring 2024’.
    Has there been any formal announcement that it’s been further delayed to the end of 2024?

    • ianVisits says:

      I am not aware of anyone saying the expansion has been delayed to the end of 2024 – where did you hear that?

  8. Gerry says:

    “The other stations planned for the first phase of the Project Oval expansion by the end of this year are…”

    • ianVisits says:

      BY the end of the year, not TO the end of the year – could be in 6 days time, or six months time.

  9. Gerry says:

    We’ll have to wait and see, but based on past performance my bet would be that the 2025 fares hike will have kicked in before contactless can be used on Southeastern and Thameslink services on the lines from Sevenoaks.

    Similarly, when contactless eventually arrives it still won’t be possible to load a railcard.

    Nor will the takeover of the metro services by TfL be delivered, despite being promised more than a decade ago.

    Hope I’m wrong on all three !

  10. Edvid May 22nd says:

    Is your ‘Phase 1 by end-of-this-year’ remark based on Ticketing & Revenue Update 152, perchance? The quoted sentence below…

    “In preparation for delivery of the second and third stages of Project Oval later this year, Cubic will be adding base data for a further batch of stations planned to be covered within Phases 2A and 2B of the project.”

    …initially had me believe that TfL still were looking to implement the whole full-fare expansion this year(!) Now I’m wondering if the second / third phases they refer to (following the 30 June extension to High Wycombe, essentially “1A”) are actually “1B / 1C”.

    Back in May 2022 the provisional Phase 1 target was majority due by the end of 2022. 25 months on that gap hasn’t shrunk all that much!

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