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Transport for London (TfL) is investigating the possibilities of long term alternatives to its smart cards

Richard Thomas, chief programme officer for the Prestige project at TfL, said it is now talking to the banking industry and mobile phone suppliers about how credit cards or phone chips could be used in paying for travel.

The organisation is currently encouraging passengers to use its Oyster Card by offering discounted fares. Thomas said it has now issued 5.3m of the cards, but said in his opinion they could be replaced by other cards within five years.

He told the Citizen Cards 06 conference in London that the technology is already available to transfer the payment operation to leading credit cards. One advantage of this would be to extend more of the benefits of paying by smart card to people who live outside London and use its transport system only occasionally.

Thomas said there would be a need to clarify the rule: payments would go to a credit card account but the money would ultimately go to TfL.

"The biggest stumbling point is the Financial Services Authority," he said. "If there are more levels we have to have the security and integrity to make sure the system is robust."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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