Over 230 mainline rail stations around London are to be brought into Transport for London’s contactless payments system over the next couple of years, under an agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT).
Following an initial consultation back in 2019, a year ago, the DfT decided that around 233 stations would be upgraded to accept contactless payments to allow customers to travel to/from London using a single tap in/tap out with their bank card, and put out a tender to suppliers. The upgrade is part of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail that aims to make it simpler to catch a train without the hassles of selecting which sort of ticket a person should buy in advance in order to avoid paying more than they should.
The map below was the suggested coverage expansion in the 2019 consultation, although the consultation also includes options to expand further to Brighton, Oxford and Milton Keynes. As it’s the consultation map, it may not match the final rollout plans.
As TfL already runs a large contactless payments system that offers what the DfT is looking for, it’s understandable that TfL won the contract. Although TfL is carrying out the work, the project’s roughly £68 million cost is being fully covered by the DfT at no cost to TfL, who will be subcontracting the provision of in-station validation equipment to Cubic Transportation Systems, who already provide the same kit to TfL.
The list of stations being included in the southeast of England rollout will be announced by the DfT in the next few months, but due to the scale of the work, the expansion of contactless payments has already been decided to be split into two phases:
- Phase 1 – Contactless payments in 53 stations – majority due by the end of 2022.
- Phase 2 – Contactless payments in 180 stations – majority due by May 2024.
The decision about which stations are in phase one or phase two will be mainly down to which are easier to deliver to, such as stations that already have validation equipment in them and the existing fares structure, and discussions with the train companies involved.
There are also two phases to the payment options being rolled out:
- Phase 1 – Full-fare, Adult PAYG travel using contactless payment cards and mobile devices across the South East, fully integrated with TfL’s existing scheme.
- Phase 2 – Enable discounted PAYG travel for National Rail concessionary customers.
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL said: “Our pay as you go with contactless system has helped revolutionise the ability to pay for travel, and is now used in a number of cities across the world. We have recently been selected as the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) preferred partner to deliver an initiative to expand pay as you go on rail services across the South East. This will both help rail customers outside London travel more flexibly and conveniently, and support the wider economic recovery of the South East through easier access to rail travel. We are now working closely with the DfT on an implementation plan and hope to provide further details in due course.”
The expansion work with the DfT follows on from the recent expansion of pay as you go with contactless to GWR branch line services to Henley on Thames, Windsor and Eton Central and, from later this month, to Bourne End and Marlow.
Due to the older technology used, the expansion will not include Oyster cards, just the newer bank card-based contactless payments. That mirrors the way 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.
The original consultation also suggested that in some cases, contactless payments could also extend to local transport services such as buses, although this is not a major focus of the programme at the moment.
Similar schemes are also being rolled on South Western Railway and Transport for the North.