A temporary reprieve for cash, as TfL has put on hold plans to stop accepting cash as payment for travel tickets.

During the pandemic, TfL stopped accepting cash payments at many tube stations as a temporary measure, and had been planning to make that change permenant, and later to expand it. Around 70% of tube stations stopped accepting cash during the pandemic, along with all DLR stations. Apart from reducing handling of cash, they also found that it reduce queues at ticket offices, a useful effect during social distancing.

TfL’s argument being that few people now pay with cash anyway — and that local retailers can also sell tickets if people needed to pay with cash.

However, an investigation by London TravelWatch’s found that some stations don’t have a Ticket Stop, usually a newsagent or convenience store, nearby, meaning that it would have been harder to top up an Oyster card with cash.

TfL has now partially stepped back from the plans, saying that it will review the decision and wont be proceeding “at this time”.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, commenting on TfL dropping its plans to stop taking cash across all of London Underground, DLR and London Overground stations said:

“This is a welcome decision and a real victory for the 260,000 adults in London without a bank account. Children and tourists will also benefit from this decision.”

“As Travelwatch powerfully demonstrated there are many stations which do not have a newsagent or convenience store nearby, so TfL’s plans would have posed ongoing difficulties for people topping up Oyster cards.”

However, TfL noted that it will be keeping payment options under review.

A TfL spokesperson said: “After engaging with our stakeholders, we have decided not to expand our temporary measure of making ticket machines cashless to remaining Tube and DLR stations, or other stations on our network, at this time. We will instead take time to reflect on the issues raised throughout our engagement. The temporary changes made to station ticket machines earlier in the pandemic will remain in place, and we will continue to monitor and respond to any concerns raised.”

With the decline of cash as a payment option in society in general, it’s likely that London’s transport will go cashless at some point in the future, once they have addressed the issues raised by the recent attempt to go cashless.

Although the plan to make ticket machines cashless only on a permenant basis has been paused, London TravelWatch Director, Emma Gibson said that they are disappointed that TfL have not set a date to re-instate cash at over 200 stations where it was withdrawn early in the pandemic.

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4 comments
  1. I must admit I was surprised to see someone emptying cash out a DLR ticket machine at Woolwich Arsenal this week. I guess it’s Keolis Amey Docklands who must be doing that?

  2. JP says:

    Call me a cynic, but is this anything other than a sop, a bit of “spinnage” before the inevitable face recognition / chip in the neck days ahead?

    What?! People still use cash, they cry incredulously from TfL towers.
    Even though we’ve tried to price ’em out?
    Well at the moment you can’t even top up the blummin Oyster/identity card with a bit of the old foldin’ in most places, as stated.
    Convenience is king and cash is too, still.
    If they want numbers, off peak especially to climb back towards the goal of break-even levels ever, TfL needs to offer as many ways to pay, incentives to use and as much ease of use as possible – for commuters, children, tourists and on-a-whim-travellers too.

  3. James Miller says:

    Some years ago, after London buses went cashless, I was on a Manchester bus and there was a scrum of low life around the driver’s cab trying to steal his money.

    I remarked this to the guy next to me, who turned out to be a union rep for Manchester bus drivers. So we got talking about ticketing on buses.

    He said, that the union liked cashless, as it cut down attacks on staff.

    We need efficient public transport and cashless certainly saves time for everybody.

  4. MilesT says:

    There is an opportunity for TfL/Mayor to take the lead in improving society by
    a) waypointing people to cashless alternatives, like basic bank accounts
    b) ensuring there are no “Oyster top up” deserts, subsidising opening of new shops if need be, or providing other practical help
    c) Developing/promoting new oyster top up options, e.g. leveraging mobile phone e-topup system available in many shops and many ATMs. Needs a new magstripe card linked to the oyster card/a way to type in a e-topup voucher number on the ticket machine, and integration between Oyster Servers and e-topup servers to be able to transfer the value.

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