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Transport: Make the London Transport "Oyster" card scheme UK-wide

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mct16
Member
#1 · Posted: 24 Aug 2011 13:56
This should only concern UK residents, but this is my way of getting the subject around.

There are a couple of epetitions being applied to the UK government, urging them to make the Oyster travel card available nationwide:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/3075

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/5345

Oyster is a plastic smartcard you can use instead of paper tickets. It is the cheapest way to pay for journeys by public transport (train, tube and bus) around London. The idea is that if you use it, you end up paying a lot less than if you had bought a paper ticket.

I raised this idea with some politicians a few years ago and their main objection was that the computers handling the Oyster cards were designed for London, not the UK as a whole. But if we were to introduce the Oyster card bit-by-bit, in major cities like Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, we could progressively introduce it throughout the UK over the years.

It seems that other areas are introducing their own versions of the Oyster card, but I think that it should be the London Oyster rather than something like the Manchester Shell, The Glasgow Pearl or the Cardiff Clam. We don't have different currencies or different credit cards so why have different electronic travel smartcards?

Please sign the epetitions. It would be great for a simple travel system to be made available all over the country and not just the capital.
glendale
Member
#2 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 02:38
I must ask but have you clicked on to the wrong forum?
where does Tintin fit in to this?
Tintinrulz
Member
#3 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 03:07
mct16 is a regular on the forums. I agree though that this thread is incredibly random and out of place.
jock123
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:12 · Edited by: jock123
glendale:
I must ask but have you clicked on to the wrong forum?

No, he's in the Lounge, right enough...

glendale:
where does Tintin fit in to this?

There's no need for Tintin in here: like any other member, mct16 is perfectly entitled to discuss any topic he chooses in the Lounge: it's specifically for topics which don't fit into the Tintin theme elsewhere, if a member wants to air them to others in these groups.

Tintinrulz:
that this thread is incredibly random and out of place.

That sort of comment doesn't reflect well on you, as you too are a regular here and should know by now that the Lounge can be use to discuss any topic (provided it doesn't break any of the other forum rules - so "within reason").

Members are of course always welcome to contact the Mods if they feel that the boards are being used for inappropriate material; however please leave it to the Moderators to decide if a member needs to be told what they can or can't post.
number1fan
Member
#5 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:41
The reason it's not all over the UK is because of the volume of people per city. The real reason Oyster cards are issued is so the bus drives now carry as little money as possible.This due to people mugging drivers. But yes, Oyster should be every where.
But I read in a paper that Transport for London (TfL) may not renew their contract with Oyster.
Tintinrulz
Member
#6 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 09:11 · Edited by: Tintinrulz
jock, I wasn't insulting mct16. The post read like a clever bit of spam. Obviously the fact that it was posted by a regular member quickly helped me to realise it wasn't. I should've left off the bit about it 'being out of place.' I apologise.
jock123
Moderator
#7 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 14:38 · Edited by: jock123
Tintinrulz:
I should've left off the bit about it 'being out of place.' I apologise.

No problem... :-)

On the subject of Oyster cards going national, I'm not sure what the actual benefit would be - there's nothing to say that the Oyster card is even the best system available for London, it's just the one we have, and as number1fan says above, may not be the one we have when it comes time to renew the contract.

I'm not saying I don't like the idea in principle (it would be handy when I go to visit my mum, for a start), but a national travel card scheme would need to be developed in its own right, and not just be a bolt-on to the Oyster, which is location specific.

Travel systems work differently in different places and serve different needs. The population of London is about equivalent to the population of Scotland (actually it is probably now higher), but the area of Greater London is just over 600 square miles, which is more or less fully inhabited and comprehensively transport linked, compared to Scotland's which is over 30,000 square miles, much of which is sparsely inhabited or uninhabited, and doesn't have integrated transport as a result.

North Yorkshire is another example - population of around a million, in an area of some 3,000 square miles, but 40% of that is national parks.

Another way of thinking of it is that about an eightth of the British population is in the Greater London area. That makes something like Oyster practical and practicable.

But rolling it out nationally, you'd need to implement some vast country-wide computer system to coordinate it, and how would you finance development,or even just installing all the readers which would be needed?

You'd have to raise the money somehow, so I imagine the easiest thing to do would be to decrease the discount on using the card, which sort of starts to undermine the benefit.

What would the benefit be to someone in Dundee, say, that they could use a card in Camden at a moment’s notice? Why would someone in Purley need to be able to board a bus in Perth at the drop of a hat?

It's a lot of extra pain for little gain, as far as I can see...

For those who do need the facility, as you suggest, there is a nationally available system of cash in use... ;-)
mct16
Member
#8 · Posted: 25 Aug 2011 20:31
Tintinrulz:
I apologise.

No offence taken. I did point out in the opening post that this was for the benefit of UK residents and I am aware that this forum includes a large number of Australians and other nationalities, so I can understand that this is a bit of an odd discussion for people outside the UK.

Jock123
You make a number of good points (as always), but I still believe that the arguments in favour outweigh the ones against.

jock123:
[Oyster] may not be the one we have when it comes time to renew the contract.

Maybe, but even if the company running the scheme is forced out, the Mayor and Transport for London bosses would have to be real gluttons for punishment if they then abolish it or replace it with a scheme with which the Oyster card is not compatible. Some records have indicated that more journeys are being made by Oyster than by paper tickets these days. If millions of users were told that they could no longer use their Oyster cards, there would probably be an uprising.

jock123:
You'd need to implement some vast country-wide computer system to coordinate it, and how would you finance development, or even just installing all the readers which would be needed?

I am not saying that the scheme should be adopted nationwide overnight, but more as a step-by-step process, starting in a few major cities, and then expanding over the country as it becomes economically viable. We are probably talking years, maybe decades, but you have to start somewhere.

jock123:
What would the benefit be to someone in Dundee, say, that they could use a card in Camden at a moment’s notice? Why would someone in Purley need to be able to board a bus in Perth at the drop of a hat?

I have friends from Sweden and Paris who only visit London on occasion, maybe every year or two, but they still bought Oyster cards since it enabled them to get around London at a much cheaper rate than say a weekly paper Travelcard.

If you happen to be a businessman or salesman or an official like a civil servant who goes around the country a lot, having a single means of paying for a discount journey would be far better than having to sign up to whatever local scheme is available.

I, for example, live in a place akin to a kind of limbo in that we can use the Oyster card for some journeys but not others: I could use it to go to London by bus, but for the train I would have to buy a paper ticket. If I return home late in the evening, it is a gamble deciding to either wait for a once-in-an-hour bus or paying extra for the train.

The local buses will accept my Oyster for journeys into London, but going the opposite way in the same bus will require buying a more expensive paper ticket. There is a local scheme for using the buses at a discount but you can only buy it if you are also doing a train journey and doing some pay-as-you-go journeys by bus and train turned out to be a lot cheaper anyway.

Reducing confusion like this could help boost public transport, getting more people out of their cars and helping the environment by also reducing the number of paper tickets. Every little helps.
jock123
Moderator
#9 · Posted: 26 Aug 2011 00:06 · Edited by: jock123
mct16:
if the company running the scheme is forced out, the Mayor and Transport for London bosses would have to be real gluttons for punishment if they then abolish it or replace it with a scheme with which the Oyster card is not compatible.

That’s exactly what is in the offing: the actual card itself is what is set to be changed, as the company which supplies it and owns the technology can’t deliver all the services that TfL want. If the proposed change happens, you’ll have to surrender the existing card (remember, it doesn’t belong to you, it remains the property of TfL, and you can get your deposit back if you no longer want it) for another from another company, when that supplier is chosen. Presumably you will be credited on the new card with your balance.

I can’t see it provoking more than a loud “tsk”, from most people, hardly cause for a riot…

mct16:
I am not saying that the scheme should be adopted nationwide overnight, but more as a step-by-step process, starting in a few major cities, and then expanding over the country as it becomes economically viable.

Could it ever be economically viable? I doubt it. It’s effectively replacing something that is commonly available and works without charge (money - be it cash, cheque or debit card) for something specialized which will cost (a computerized card).

mct16:
they still bought Oyster cards since it enabled them to get around London at a much cheaper rate than say a weekly paper Travelcard.

Good for them, the sensible choice, but scarcely an argument that the scheme needs to go national…

The cost reduction in London is paid for in kind, because it gets people onto the buses and into the Tube faster - it’s the increase in volume which was the LU target, and absorbs some of the loss of revenue on the journeys made at a reduced rate. The Oyster card isn’t in and of itself cheap; if London Transport chose to, they could offer you bargain tariffs on a paper ticket; it’s what they used to do with the old carnets of bus tickets, the “Red Rover” tickets, etc. etc. They just don’t now.

I think it is optimistic to assume that having a card scheme would automatically lead to discounts, as most places just don’t have the necessary volume to justify the change.

Nor do most cities have the zoned layout of London; Londoners are encouraged to make journeys avoiding the city centre - by staying out of that zone, journeys on the Tube and trains are cheaper. Again this isn’t balanced against the actual cost of the journey - it’s to keep potentially crowded stations within their capacity. This just isn’t applicable in other cities. Nor would they need the ability to “balance the books” on your card, which prevents you paying more than the cost of a travel-card with which you could have made the same journeys.

I recently made a day trip to Brussels, a city closer to London and quicker to get to than many places in Britain, and it was the work of moments to buy a public transport ticket on the train.

This operates on an entirely different system - for a start it’s a multi-use paper ticket for a set number of trips. However it does something that the Oyster card doesn’t (and possibly can’t): once you stamp it, it allows you to get on and off trains, trams or buses for a period of an hour. This means that you can make a single trip of up to an hour on various forms of transport for one use of the ticket. Commuting to work with my Oyster card on a trip of 45 mins, using a train and a bus means two lots of money off my card.

If any other local transport card in the U.K. offered that, given the choice I’d take that system over the Oyster. But it wasn’t any sort of headache for me to use my Oyster to get to St. Pancras, and the Brussels ticket in Brussels, so I’m happy to use both.

mct16:
If you happen to be a businessman or salesman or an official like a civil servant who goes around the country a lot, having a single means of paying for a discount journey would be far better than having to sign up to whatever local scheme is available.

That’s a very small number of people out ofthe general population, and a smaller sub-set of them will ever use public transport - many will drive there in a car (I don’t drive, so I’m not advocating that over the use of public transport - I’m with you on the benefits of increased mass transportation), or take a trip to a station where they may not be far from their destination.

mct16:
I, for example, live in a place akin to a kind of limbo in that we can use the Oyster card for some journeys but not others

I agree that the pricing systems are daft, but that again is outside the scope of the delivery mechanism - the Oyster card doesn’t make that go away, otherwise all journeys on any transport would cost the same, no matter the distance, akin to the Brussels scheme. But TfL says that a single bus journey is a flat fare, but a train journey varies on where you go, based on arbitrary divisions.
Also be thankful that you still have access to public transport; there are places now so strapped for cash that they are cutting bus services. They are hardly going to be able to fund a more expensive scheme involving computerization, radio-controlled terminals on buses and the admin involved.

mct16:
Reducing confusion like this could help boost public transport,

I don’t think it reduces confusion, it just replaces it with different confusion. Trust me - I’ve tried to convince people that the Oyster adjusts the cost of your travel at the end of the day, so you never pay more than you would for a zone travel card, and believe me, many folk just don’t get it.

mct16:
by also reducing the number of paper tickets. Every little helps.

There would have to be work to show that the use of a recyclable paper ticket is less environmentally friendly than a plastic card made from limited resources like hydrocarbons and the precious metal foil components.

In your initial post you made a reference to not having different credit cards - in fact we do: not all cards are universally accepted, and those that are are subject to change - one bank is removing the ability for their customers to use other banks’ machines. MasterCard and VISA are not interchangeable, not all cash machines are part ofthe Link scheme, and then you have Diner’s Club and Amex cards, which operate differently again.

You also said that we don’t have different currencies, and indeed we don’t: we have money, which is acceptable for use on buses and trains and all sorts of transport throughout the country, without any change to any infrastructure.

The Oyster isn’t like currency, it’s like a wallet, and we don’t expect everyone to have the same wallet - they get the one that suits them.

The people of Cardiff deserve the public transport system that suits their needs: if that happens to be the Oyster, then well and good, perhaps it could be made to work; if it’s a less involved system, or indeed even a more complex one, then well and good too. If they look and say it’s fine as is, or that they want to use tokens or whatever, then great.

I just can’t see that there’s a need for a universal adoption of a scheme made for a densely packed city like London anywhere other than London. It’s a lovely idea - it just doesn’t fly…
mct16
Member
#10 · Posted: 8 Mar 2012 16:23 · Edited by: mct16
Sky News - UK Trains Set For Oyster-Style 'Smart Cards',
BBC News - Rail smart cards to be rolled out across UK
I wonder if someone in government came across this little discussion?

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