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TfL delays wave-and-pay tickets until 2013

Wants more time to make kit 'more robust'

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Transport for London's (TfL's) plan to introduce contactless ticketing across the whole of its network is likely to happen in 2013, and will not be completed by the end of 2012 as previously announced by the authority.

In October 2010, TfL said it wanted to introduce contactless technology across its transport network by the end of 2012. Contactless tickets will give passengers with contactless-enabled Eurocard, Mastercard or Visa cards the ability to pay using existing Oyster card readers.

The original plan was for the authority to implement 'wave and pay' technology on all 8,000 buses in time for the Olympic Games. However this roll out will now happen on a smaller scale, with the technology being implemented on a selected number of buses before the Games. The full roll out, covering the tube, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway, tram and National Rail service, is not likely to start being implemented until 2013, or possibly later.

A spokeswoman for TfL told Guardian Government Computing that the authority would roll out the technology on all buses by the end of the year, and that it was not going to rush out the contactless ticketing system until it was ready.

Shashi Verma, TfL's director of customer experience, said: "We are leading the world in pioneering this exciting new technology that will make paying for journeys quicker, easier and more convenient for passengers on London's transport network. We will only roll it out once we are confident it is 100% robust.

"To this end it has always been our intention to introduce contactless card payment in stages, and from next month we will begin implementing and testing the new technology on a small number of London's buses."

TfL's business case for contactless payment received heavy criticism from the London assembly's transport committee last November for not being robust enough. The committee also said that the new system may not deliver the financial savings that the authority expects.

TfL has also had to address security concerns around the implementation of contactless payment. While giving evidence to the assembly's transport committee last September, Will Judge, the head of future ticketing at TfL, said that the new system would be 100 per cent safe against "invisible pick pocketing", and that fraudsters would not be able to extract confidential information from a person's contactless bank card or other compatible technology.

Commenting on the latest development, Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London assembly group and chair of the London assembly transport committee, said: "No one is against new technology but the delayed start of wave and pay is a great opportunity to ensure the new technology works properly from day one of its introduction.

"At the same time the mayor and TfL must ensure that whenever it starts people who decide to stick with Oyster pay-as-you-go don't get penalised with higher fares."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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