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Oyster card

Transport for London sets out plans for next generation transport ticketing solution

Transport for London (TfL) is planning to integrate its Oyster closed-loop transit card into an account-based ticketing system for contactless fare payments as part of a network-wide scheme to upgrade its revenue collection system, according to a call for competition issued by the transit agency’s trading arm, Transport Trading Ltd.

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The upgrade — known as Project Proteus — will also include “allowing the interchangeable use of payment devices” by linking a passenger’s chosen payment card to mobile devices, the replacement of validation readers and other hardware and the introduction of “potential future revenue collection services (and the provision of associated systems and ancillary services)” such as “new emerging forms of mobility including micro-mobility, Mobility-as-a- Service, new ticketing and fare payment solutions and commercial revenue collection data”.

The call for competition also reveals that TfL is in “ongoing discussions” with the UK’s Department for Transport about a separate project which “seeks to extend contactless pay-as-you-go to stations in the broader south-east of England around London”.

Oyster card

An Oyster card is a smart card that you add money to, so you can pay as you go. You can pay as you go to travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, most Elizabeth line, IFS Cloud Cable Car and Thames Clippers River Bus services.

You can also travel on most National Rail services in London and some outside London.

You can also add:

  • Travelcard
  • Bus & Tram Pass
  • Discounts

Oyster cards aren’t accepted at Elizabeth line stations between Reading and Iver.

How to use Oyster card

Touch your Oyster card in at the start of your journey and touch out at the end on yellow card readers to pay the right fare. Only touch in on buses and trams

Key changes

“During the life of the Proteus Contract, we anticipate that there will be a number of changes,” the call for competition says.

“The key planned changes expected to be delivered during the Proteus Contract term include:

  • Hina Rail Reader Rollout: The Hina Rail Readers will be manufactured, tested and be readily available for the Proteus Contractor to implement onto the rail estate;
  • Payment Account Reference (PAR): This is a unique identifier associated with a specific cardholder PAN and this change will follow-on from the Hina reader deployment and will involve the Proteus Contractor. This change will allow us to link mobile devices with the payment card, allowing the interchangeable use of payment devices;
  • Account Based Ticketing/FTP5: This is our programme that will make Oyster an account-based system. Initially, this is likely to be a proof of concept involving design and back-office development work which we will lead on. Once the Proteus Contractor is in place, we will engage with developing the wider proposition to develop the system wide solution. This change will involve significant upgrade to our retail assets, changes to the reader to support the new risk management models, changes to the RID software as well as decommissioning the legacy Oyster system;
  • Revenue Inspection Device (RID) Replacement and Enhancement: This is the replacement of the current handheld device for revenue inspection. It is expected to be a broadly like-for-like device upgrade to the Android platform device. We expect the next device may need to additionally include the ability to check barcode tickets.”

TfL revenue collection contract “Project Proteus” to last up to 12 years

The current supplier of revenue collection systems is Cubic, which signed a $185 million, three-year contract with TfL in 2017. (Some 75% of TfL’s public transport revenue is collected from customers using pay as you go on either contactless or Oyster –the original technology for which is bespoke and owned by Cubic.)

The new supplier will be signed up to an initial seven-year contract with the possibility of extending up to a 12-year-term – a term length that may raise eyebrows in some quarters amid challenging financial times at TfL. (After months of wrangling, the government and TfL struck a funding deal in August that funds TfL until 31 March 2024. A proposal for the 2025-2026 period is being presented to the TfL board next month.)

TfL issued the contract details as “competitive dialogue” notice, saying that requests to participate need to be in by 27 January 2023, with expected full invitations to tender to be sent out by March 6, 2023.

The winning contractor under the Proteus Contract will have responsibility for systems integration for “operational and technical integration of modules of the system, the safe introduction of new or changed technologies and services, ongoing activities to identify and address obsolescence, and to manage faults and incidents as they should occur in day-to-day operation of the system.”

The current TfL revenue collection System supports legacy magnetic stripe tickets, Oyster (the TfL closed-loop, proprietary smart card system), contactless payment cards and ITSO (the UK national smart card specification).

Currently the System incorporates ~8,500 buses; ~1,000 London Underground, Overground, DLR and National Rail stations; ~4,000 Oyster Ticket Stops; and seven TfL Visitor Centres. This may be extended in coming years.

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Driven by wanderlust and a passion for tech, Sandra is the creative force behind Alertify. Love for exploration and discovery is what sparked the idea for Alertify, a product that likely combines Sandra’s technological expertise with the desire to simplify or enhance travel experiences in some way.