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London buses go cashless -- but not everyone is happy

From Sunday, buses in London will no longer accept cash payments, making it the first major international city to adopt a cashless bus system.

LONDON: From Sunday, buses in London will no longer accept cash payments, making it the first major international city to adopt a cashless bus system.

British transport authorities say they hope to make the system more efficient and cut down on costs.

However, not everyone agrees with the scheme.

Of the 6 million Londoners who use the bus service regularly, the overwhelming majority use an electronic travel card called the oyster card that one pre-pays money onto. The travel card makes fares cheaper and accessing buses faster.

Currently only 1 per cent of travellers pay by cash, but this still represents 60,000 bus journeys.

Some campaigners say the change will adversely affect homeless and vulnerable bus users.

One campaigner, Sophie Wills-Valk, said: "By forcing everyone to pay with plastic -- either a bank card or an oyster card -- it means people without a bank card, such as the rising number of homeless people, will effectively be cut off from the network and I don't think that's fair, because it's about everyone being able to move around London."

Sophie's petition attracted 660 supporters -- she says those affected probably don't have access to computers.

Transport for London did consult with passengers -- of 37,000 responses, only a third agreed with the proposed change to go cashless.

However despite the negative reaction, Transport for London has imposed the change.

London travel authorities insist drivers will have the discretion to allow vulnerable people and those who have lost their travel card to travel, and have provisions for those with little credit.

Mike Weston, director of Buses at Transport for London, said: "Our research shows that the majority of people who pay cash do so because they've left their oyster card at home or they haven't got enough money on their oyster card, and so we've introduced a facility where if you've got less than your bus fare, (for example) £1.45 on your card, but more than zero, you can make one more journey.

“That was introduced in June and has been used a million times so far, so that gives them one extra journey before they have to top up again.”

Transport for London also wants to get the word out to tourists about the change, but the new system is likely to leave some passengers less than happy when they find they cannot pay cash to ride the bus.   

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