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Oyster card

From Academic Kids

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Front and back of an Oyster card.
Larger versions: Front | Back

The Oyster card is a form of electronic ticketing designed for use on Transport for London and National Rail services within the Greater London area. The card was first issued in 2003.

The Oyster card is a contactless smartcard. Travellers wave the card over a distinctive yellow circular reader positioned on automated barriers at Underground stations to 'touch' in and out at the start and end of a journey. Every London Bus also has a reader, on the driver's ticket machine or, in the case of articulated buses, near the other entrance doors as well. The system is based on Philips's MIFARE chip technology, with a current proximity range of about 10cm. The scheme is operated by TranSys.

The Oyster card may have been inspired by Hong Kong's transportation system, which uses the similar Octopus card. As with the Octopus card and other pay-as-you-go smartcards, also notably in Japan, there is the potential for future expansion of the Oyster card to act as an electronic purse, or even as a credit card or mobile phone payment system.

Contents

Use

Oyster cards can be used to store both period travelcards (of one week or more) and a pay-as-you-go balance, known as Pre Pay. The Pre Pay balance is automatically debited by the correct fare at the end of each journey by tube or DLR and each time a bus or tram is boarded. The Pre Pay balance is also debited by the relevant amount if the user travels by tube or DLR beyond the zonal validity of any travelcards stored on the card.

When using Pre Pay at stations with barriers, debiting is seamless, as users need to use the card to open the barriers. At stations without barriers, users have to remember to touch the card on an Oyster validator at the beginning and end of the journey in order to debit the card by the correct amount.

The card can hold up to three period travelcards at the same time, each with different validity dates and zonal coverage. Period bus passes can also be charged to the card. The system is designed to be multi-modal and works across London's Tube, DLR, tram and Bus network.

Users of the system can purchase tickets or increase the Pre Pay balance on their card at the ticket office or at touch-screen ticket machines at Underground stations, over the telephone, online at the Oyster card website (http://www.oystercard.com) or from some retailers.

Rail

Users with period travelcards can also travel on rail services within the Greater London area in all the zones they have validity for on their card, however Pre Pay is only available on rail routes which run alongside London Underground lines (such as c2c), where tickets are interchangeable. Pre Pay is not planned to be launched on the rest of London's Rail network, mainly because of the difference in pricing structure between train operators. Transport for London is actively encouraging train operators to adopt its zonal ticket pricing system within London so Pre Pay can be introduced on their routes. Rail routes entirely or almost entirely within the Greater London area are likely candidates for early conversion.

There are no immediate plans to roll out the Oyster card to the National Rail Network outside the Greater London area, though the Association of Train Operating Companies is interested in developing an ISO 14443-type card, like Oyster. As of 2004, it is not clear whether the two systems will be compatible.

Prices

Pre Pay single ticket prices for bus, tube, DLR and tram are at a lower price than cash fares to encourage customers to switch to Oyster. For example a £1.20 cash bus fare costs between £1 and 80p, depending on time of day and route, if purchased using an Oyster card.

For journeys on the tube and DLR before 6:30am, after 7:00pm, at any time over the weekend or on public holidays special low prices have also been introduced to encourage customers to use the system where there is capacity. For example a Zone 1 to 6 cash single of £3.80 costs £2.00 if bought using an Oyster card. A single journey in Zone 1 only (the busiest area) is not discounted.

A capping system was introduced on 27 February 2005, which guarantees that an Oyster card user will be charged no more than the cheapest combinations of tickets and day Travelcards that covers all journeys made that day.

Issues

The system has been criticised as a threat to the privacy of its users. Each Oyster card is uniquely numbered, and registration, though not compulsory, is required in order to use the online Oyster services. Usage data is stored both on the card and centrally by Transport for London. Privacy groups are afraid about how this data will be used, especially given the introduction of the London Congestion Charge by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in February 2003.

The system has also not been without technical setbacks. On the 10 March 2005 a software fault meant that the whole Oyster system was inoperable during the morning rush hour. Ticket barriers had to be left open and Pre Pay fares could not be collected [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4335291.stm).

When the prepay system was introduced some passengers were prevented from making a second journey on their travelcard. Upon investigation each had a negative prepay balance. This was widely reported as a major bug in the system. [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/3422051.stm) However, the reason for the "bug" was the season tickets purchased (either knowingly or otherwise) did not include all the zones the ticket holder passed through on their journey. The existing paper system could not prevent this kind of misuse as the barriers only checked if a paper ticket was valid in the zone the barrier was in.

See also

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References

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