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London is to introduce a transport smartcard system and boroughs in the city are looking to use it to develop the first stage of a London-wide "citizen" card.

By early July, Transport for London (TfL) expects to introduce credit card sized smartcards for adults travelling on the underground and buses across the city in a £1.2 billion project. Commuters will be able to use this card in replace of monthly and annual tickets. TfL's 80,000 tube and bus employees have been testing the card since last October.

According to TfL, the card will benefit it and passengers because it will reduce the amount of time people have to queue to buy a ticket and to get through ticketing barriers. Cardholders will simply swipe their card through a reader to gain access to the relevant forms of transport, said TfL.

TfLondon's Oyster card could also be used by the city's boroughs to bolt-on additional services.

According to Mick Davies, a strategy consultant for London Connects, which is the agency responsible for e-Government delivery in London, the roll-out of TfL's smartcard will act as an impetus for London boroughs.

"We estimate that there will be around two millions of these cards being used by spring 2004 and the idea now is to look at what applications boroughs can add to these cards," said Davies.

A London Connects document envisages the card being used as an electronics purse for things such as parking, library services and access to leisure facilities, as well as an entry token providing a means of establishing the holder's rights to public and private services.

"It will make access to services easier for cardholders most in need of them. It will reduce the requirement for needy citizens to repeatedly prove that they are who they say they are and it will remove the stigma associated with means-tested services such as school dinners," said the document.

Currently, 30 London boroughs are working together so that the smartcards can be used across London and are not just limited to particular areas. It is envisaged that these "citizen smartcards" will be introduced in some boroughs by the first quarter of 2004, however this will depend on the requisite funding of around STG1 million being raised. It is thought that introducing the system across the whole of London will cost upwards of £50 million.

It is also planned that the pan-London smartcard will be rolled into the UK's national smart card project, which recently received parliamentary approval. However, London Connects admitted this will be quite a task as the Transport for London smartcard uses a different standard to the one that will be used in the national card.

Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore are just some of the Asian cities that have introduced smartcards that also function as electronic purses for their public transport systems. In Hong Kong, for instance, over 9 million people have an Octopus smart card. © ENN

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