It appears that TfL are currently looking to remove road-side ticket machines (RTMs) on the bus network, with a public consultation on this now online here.

RTMs are largely a legacy of the pre-Oyster age, when their presence as a “Pay Before You Board” option helped speed up bus boarding in Central London and various high traffic areas outside of that.

420 RTMs apparently remain, from which a single cash fare can be purchased. The plan under consultation would see all of these permanently removed.

The consultation indicates that 40,000 purchases a week are currently made from the machines, which equates to approximately 2m a year. Running costs for the machines equate to £1.9m a year.

Assuming the plan comes to pass, removal will begin at the end of September with the last machines being removed by February 2013. Details of the consultation can be found here.

Thanks to CB for the spot.

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There are 67 comments on this article
  1. Greg Tingey says:

    Probably a good idea.
    I mean, we all NOTICE, now, when someone gets on a bus with (Shock, hooror!) cash for a single-fare, and hold everything and everyone up …..
    AFAIK all tourists are bombarded with (true) propaganda about getting an “Oyster” … even I have one, though it now gets used, perhaps twice a year, since I have a freedom pass, and travelling away from home before 09,30 without some form of permit (if I’m going to work, I have a pass) on other rail lines is distinctly unusual …..

  2. John Bull says:

    Yes, they remind me a lot of phone boxes in that they’re simply a good idea that time and social changes have largely left behind.

  3. Anon says:

    I had to use one recently as some friends were over from the US and were only planning to use the bus once as they had travelcards for the rest of their time here. It was very expensive and fiddly (exact change only I seem to remember) but that’s what they wanted to do.

    I do wonder what will come in for people who don’t want an oystercard (due to length of stay etc), we shouldn’t just stop them using buses, or are bus drivers in zone 1 to be told to accept cash fares again?

  4. Anon says:

    I should have read the link first, the title: “Ending bus ‘Pay Before you Board” arrangements and removing road-side ticket machines’ gives away that the whole ‘Pay Before you Board’ scheme is also being scrapped.

  5. David says:

    Given that the bendies have gone I’d imagine that the drivers will simply be able to accept cash fares again. It’s not as though they don’t have the cash box already on their bus.

    Given the tiny minority of people who now use cash single fares on the bus, it’ll hardly make any difference.

  6. CyberGreg says:

    I used this machine once, for my very first journey on my very first day in London 6 years ago.
    Anyone making more than one journey or staying in London longer than 5 minutes should avoid them anyway.

  7. Shaun McDonald says:

    The fact that people get on the bus wanting to pay the driver not realising that they should have paid beforehand probably holds the bus up more than paying the driver directly.

  8. marek says:

    From the first adoption of the pay before boarding rule, the effect has fairly consistently been to slow buses down, not speed them up. Almost all bus drivers wait while the hapless tourist fights the machine, rather than driving off to leave them to figure out our before the next bus comes. It’s a fascinating example of how social norms trump efficiency. Or to put it another way, bus drivers are much more friendly than TfL assumed. That being ago, the counter the machines go, the better.

  9. Mike P says:

    Fastrack route A (Dartford Bluewater via the Bridge development) was pay-before-you-board-only on launch. KCC, or Arriva, or the Thames Gateway whatever-it-is-now-if-it-still-exists-body scrapped it a couple of years ago because of its user-unfriendliness. The announcement of which I forgot when I last used it………

    Good to see TfL has caught up with the yokels in the sticks 🙂

  10. Darryl says:

    Maybe they should be replaced with Oyster top-up machines?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Anything to do with Contactless payment being introduced?

  12. mdb says:

    As much as I like the idea of replacing them with top-up machines, this would require some sort of network connectivity. The current machines don’t have this since they are pretty much similar to car parking ticket machines in functionality (put money in, press button, bit of paper comes out). Adding such connectivity would probably get quite expensive.

    As a side note, it would be really good if oyster let you take one bus journey if your balance is below £1.35, putting you into negative much the same way as you can on the tube. This would allow one to get to the tube station or wherever they can top up, rather than getting caught out!

  13. John Bull says:

    Last I heard they were still struggling with contactless in testing.

    To be honest PBYB was a big winner before Oyster PAYG existed – that’s what it was effectively a prototype for in practical terms if not in technology. It allowed people who were familiar enough with the system that they knew what ticket they needed to buy one before they boarded, thus speeding up (in theory) the flow of passengers onto the bus.

    As other commentors have rightly indicated, what it didn’t do was speed up the payment transaction for those unfamiliar with the system – e.g. tourists who were unsure what to do. They still needed handholding from the driver (or at least pointing in the direction of the ticket machine).

    At the end of the day, the need for that element of handholding still exists for an absolute minority today, and will do no matter WHAT improvements come down the line now. It’s been weened down to a minimum – its some ludicrously low percentage of journeys on the buses that are now made without Oyster – but we’re basically at the point where short of implanting MiFare chips in Londoner’s heads at birth (and in everyone else’s the moment they step within the M25) you can’t speed things up anymore.

    Essentially ticketing on London buses is now so streamlined that its the explanation of what your new bus user needs to do that will always take longer than the transaction itself, be it a cash fare or wave and pay. It’ll take Bob the bus driver just as long to explain to a slightly dubious/unsure tourist that they only need to wave their bank card over the reader as it would for them to get out the fare money.

    Basically Wave and Pay is TfL’s intended Oyster killer, not cash killer (they know that’s already as “dead” as its ever going to get).

  14. Josh says:

    I don’t like these contactless cards. They screw up my Oyster card. I can’t just touch my wallet on the Oyster reader any before because all these RFID cheaps confuse it.

  15. Dazinho says:

    As much as I like contactless cards, I would sooner not get my wallet or credit card out to swipe onto a bus or through an underground barrier. Seems like an opportunity to get my wallet stolen. If everyone has to do it, tube stations could become targets for muggers.

    I think I’ll stick with my Oyster card while I can

  16. Not Boris Johnson says:

    “short of implanting MiFare chips in Londoner’s heads at birth (and in everyone else’s the moment they step within the M25)”

    Golly gosh John, Phase 4 is still embargoed, you dashed flibbertigibbet!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I remember when under Ken Livingstone all these machines went up – along with signs saying Pay before you board. Great!! I remember seeing poor tourists fiddling with these damn machines as the bus pulls up . . . then doesn’t even wait for them to get the ticket out of the machine and pulls off leaving them shouting at the driver. This is what Livingstone called “Keeping London Moving”. This is my suggestion – put Oyster readers at every bus top and then start charging people per mile foe very journey . . . so you would touch in at the bus stop when the bus arrives (or even on the bus?) and then touch out when you get off the bus. Its crazy that if you travel from Paddington to Victoria on the 436 you pay the same as if you travel from Paddington to Lewisham. Also end this rubbish of fleecing tourists and those who forget their Oyster/need to top it up by making them pay MORE for the privilege of getting on the bus. How many bus conductors were once employed on London Transport – and how much would all their salaries and benefits today? That’s how much they have saved in getting rid of all those staff? So why mot have a fairer system? If we are not going to have conductors on buses with oyster readers who can also top-up then we need to have something that is more user friendly. Has anyone seen a TfL fares book? Was it me or does is run to 20 pages or something?

  18. Paul says:

    As someone who actually remembers regularly using the buses in London before PBYB, I will vouch for the fact that it made a substantial difference at first. Waiting for 20 people to fiddle with their money at every bus stop used to get *very* tiresome. Of course Oyster has now taken that function over to the extent that every time I see some poor sod trying to use one of those machines I just want to go over and tell them it’s not worth it. Better to have an Oyster, pity the deposit went up to £5.

    Why not have Oyster top-up facilities on the buses themselves? Maybe a “machine” by the stairs, away from the driver? No need for connectivity if it’s cash only surely? And the bus already has to reconcile it’s oyster reader with the main database somehow at some point anyway.

  19. Greg Tingey says:

    Completely OFF topic.

    Verging-on-the-ridiculous have lost (as expected) the ex-LNW long-distance franchise, and it has gone to Worst Group – part of the ridiculously-named “stagecoach” bus spivs’ operation.
    [ All post-deregulation non-municipal bus operators are about on a par with the coach boys in “The Titfield Thunderbolt” ]

    Any thoughts or predictions on this?

  20. Whiff says:

    Yes, completely off-topic and I’m not sure how relevant it is to travel within London but the little I’ve read suggests that First could struggle to make the numbers add up and we could be heading for a fiasco similar to those on the East Coast franchises. When I used to live in Exeter I had direct experience of both Virgin and First. Back then Virgin’s more reasonable prices and infinitely better customer service made a journey with them much more pleasant. I understand, though, that in recent years their prices have become just as bad as First so I don’t think many people will miss them even if the alternative may not be much better

    Back on-topic, given the price incentive for using Oyster I’m quite surprised that 1% of journeys are still made using cash. Does anyone know whether TFL are still trying to reduce this or whether they accept that whatever they do some people will always want to use cash.

  21. Fandroid says:

    Greg — The so-called Virgin West Coast is actually 49% owned by Stagecoach. The bearded one is just there to fool the media . And First Group is a major competitor of Stagecoach, not part of it. Stagecoach run SW Trains (well!) and East Midlands Trains. First Group has a more mixed reputation. Generally FGW is well thought of now, FCC gets a lot of flack and Scotrail seems to be OK too. The franchise price has turned out to be a couple of £billion less than the bearded one was ranting about and First Group promise to reduce Anytime walk-on fares by 15%. A great improvement on Virgin’s ludicrous fares policy.

  22. Whiff says:

    ‘The bearded one’ is still the majority owner, though.

    It’s a few years since I lived in FGW territory so if First have become more realistic with their fares policy while Virgin’s fares have become more extortionate then this does sound like it could be an improvement for consumers (and a rare example of the franchise process working well?)

  23. C says:

    I’ll miss Virgin, and I actually use it rather than sling mud at RB from the sidelines. Same with aviation bods who don’t fly Virgin but hate him (because yes he’s smug and a publicity whore) – even though he’s achieved more than any of us will.

    Back to subject:

    Good move. Anything to get rid of the hideous street furniture, clutter and general crap on London’s pavements is a positive step.

    Vending machines for Oysters would be good, if we had them everywhere Japan-style, but installing those would be ugly too.

    I worry about people needing to catch night buses who may not have cash – not too many areas in Central London without a cash machine though I suppose.

  24. Mikey C says:

    Will conductors on the NBFL start accepting cash fares then, as it would be ridiculous if you had to pay the driver?

  25. Littlejohn says:

    No apologies for going off-topic again. One of the joys of this forum is the way one thread leads to another. When the West Coast transfer was first talked about I found myself in the ghastly position of agreeing with Bob Crow. On reflection though sanity has returned. I regularly (but not often) fly by Virgin Atlantic. Good service and none of the condescending, superior cabin staff you get with BA. But this does not blind me to the fact that the Bearded One is totally self-centred and trots out the same whinge whenever things don’t go his way (think back to the National Lottery re-tender or BA’s purchase of BMI and he said much the same things). He is also very good at creaming off the most remunerative services (look at the Virgin Atlantic route map for example), usually when others have created the demand. From my experience FGW do a good job within the limits of the infrastructure they work with. Will we have another GNER? Maybe. Will FirstGroup deliver a better West Coast service? Maybe again. Hopefully the final contract will include robust penalty clauses in case things go pear-shaped.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Ah well another bill for the taxpayer to pick up. Where else could roll out a whole ticketing system at someone else’s expense (with presumably some business case stuffed full of dodgy assumptions) and then a few years later scrap it. So it has barely been covering its costs – that means it would have cost nothing to make cash fares zero, i.e. free and that would have sped up boarding to its max as we still ahev the “where’s my oyster gone?” “oooh its run out” etc etc. Just nother example of a public body that can spend someone else’s money on a new fleet of buses only to repalce them prematurely because they were not suitable / caught fire etc. What ever next?

  27. Fandroid says:

    On the off-topic: Virgin have to be given the credit for the big ideas that eventually led to 125mph on the WCML. However, those ideas have not been added to since the 1990s. They have done nothing about the obvious fares anomalies, and have got quite comfortable with the concession they negotiated a few years back. It really is time to get someone else in, and First Group have a reasonably good track record, starting with First Great Eastern and including Trans-Pennine which I left off my earlier list. RB does like a good whinge when things don’t go his way, and today’s efforts are part of the standard behaviour pattern . He did sound genuinely upset on the radio this morning, so perhaps he’s just realised that his baby is just about to be adopted by a new parent and that more real effort (rather than relying on his image as the UK’s favourite entrepreneur) might have resulted in his keeping it.

    On the proper topic: London buses do have an almost unique feature in the UK now. They mostly have two doors, so loading times are reasonably short (not as good as bendy-buses though!). Go anywhere else in the country and a busy bus-stop results in an interminable loading time. That’s because London still has a public transport organisation rather than a bus operation driven by the bottom line. Somehow that bottom line attitude stifles the imagination. It’s difficult to get the message around that London buses are cash-free zones, when outside the capital, the opposite is true. The street ticket machines must cost a fortune to maintain, so getting rid of them makes sense. However, there has to be a way of improving the ability of occasional passengers to get tickets. Maybe TfL needs to review the function and coverage of their Oyster Ticket Shops to make the purchase of single tickets possible in those.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Yes, two doors (well in central London anyway) not true throughout the red bus world. Anyone asked why they don’t line up with the stairs like they always used to — on some buses you get the same jam as you might on a single door bus where the staircase is behind the driver and leaving passengers have to jostle their way towards the centre doors especailly if the bus has standing passengers. I’ve puzzled over this and someone somewhere must know why it was a good idea……I can’t even think it saves money (like not having a back window downstairs).

    In other towns and some cities (in general) the predominant flow is to or from the centre so progresive loading and one major discharge or one or two major loadings and progresive discharge in the suburbs. London isnt like this as it is busy on and off along most routes (except perhaps major rail terminals) so the xtra cost of two doors has always seemed good value.

    The cost of maintaining the street ticket machines was (or should have been) known when they were installed and balanced agasint the costs of having conductors on buses.

  29. Greg Tingey says:

    Oops, my bad – got two lots of Bus Spivs mixed up.
    Yes, of course Stagecoach are competotors, supposedly of Worst Group!

    Anon @ 12.17
    It is barely covering its’ costs – NOW.
    When introduced, it was much more useful – no Oyster, remember?
    I think your right or left-wing extremism (you seem incredibly muddled) has escaped – down boy! (or girl)

    Edinburgh buses – but they are a municipal operation.
    Bus deregulation was a disaster – wasn’t THAT a suprise!
    Come on – 90+% of usesr have Oyster, there are one-day travelcards, as well, it’s all well publicised.
    SIngle tickets are, now an extra complication that we cab do without.

  30. Transport Insider says:

    I was heavily involved in the pilot for RTMs namely the W7 cashless bus project. This was back in 2001.

    At that stage cash journeys were 27% of total. We wanted to get cash off the bus but it wasn’t clear that Oyster was going to be the whole answer. The RTMs were an attempt to speed boarding.

    A combination of Oyster everywhere and premium pricing for cash on bus has made them obsolete. I agree with John’s comment that their time has passed.

    Wave and pay is an Oyster killer not a cash killer.

    The machines are lightly modified pay and display machines and are crude but effective.

    Their removal has been on the cards for a while. I suspect a contract is due to expire which provides a break point.

  31. Guano says:

    Oyster made Roadside Ticket Machines and conductors and bendy buses obsolete. It wasn’t obvious, though, ten years ago that that would be the case. The priority then was to speed up bus journeys, which could be dire and slow even with only a quarter of passengers paying a cash fare. In the end Oyster cards worked better than expected so interim measures are no longer required.

  32. KitGreen says:

    “Anyone asked why they don’t line up with the stairs like they always used to”

    I think the most likely reason for this is wheelchair access. Space for these is immediately opposite the centre door.

  33. Anonymous says:

    The consultation does not explain what happens on the former Red Arrow services (507, 521). These are open boarding and do not accept cash on board. There will be costs associated with converting these routes and the Waterloo depot to accept potential cash payments. That doesn’t come for free.

    While I don’t have any real argument with the reasoning for removing them I do think there are some risks. Killing off Oyster is no means an assured success – some responses in this thread show why people are reluctant about the EMV bank card proposal. If TfL are too aggressive in “killing” Oyster and forcing people to use bank cards they might meet significant customer resistance – TfL’s own market research shows this.

    We do not know if the current wide differential between cash and Oyster bus fares will be maintained. If it narrows then some people may swap back to cash. It is also unclear what TfL would do if, for some reason, cash fare payments and dwell times started to increase in the central area. Once the infrastructure has gone it isn’t going to be put back. If buses slow down too much in the centre then network efficiency declines and costs increase (more buses due to longer running times).

    I note one poster campaigning for distance based fares using smartcards. Well they exist and work in Singapore and on Trent Barton buses (using Mango cards). It is also the basis of First Group’s use of smart technology on UK Bus. There would be significant challenges in getting exit validation of bus to work in London but at some point it will have to come because people will stop paying an increasingly high fare for short journeys. TfL will have to deal with that or risk a decline in ridership. There may also be significant planning benefits from getting proper bus journey info.

  34. timbeau says:


    ” I’m quite surprised that 1% of journeys are still made using cash. Does anyone know whether TFL are still trying to reduce this or whether they accept that whatever they do some people will always want to use cash”

    I expect most of the 1% don’t want to use cash but haqve either lost their Oyster or have discovered too late that it needs a top up. There will also be one-off visitors to London – is it worth getting a Oyster if you are only ever going to use the No 59 once, as part of a journey from Yeovil to Brussels?

  35. Anonymous says:

    Compared to other areas of the country London Bus fares (except for the short hop) are very good value. Maybe the short hop needs to be expensive to encourage healthy exercise.

  36. man on the Clapton omnibus says:

    Compared to other areas of the country London Bus fares (except for the short hop) are very good value. Maybe the short hop needs to be expensive to encourage healthy exercise.

    I find that most short hoppers are School children – take away their bus passes and inprove their health at the same time.

  37. Pedantic of Purley says:

    In reality very few people make a journey that is bus stop to bus stop. Typically most bus journeys involve a walk at one end or another or both. One reason for giving school children bus passes is to get them used to using buses. Take away their bus passes and you may find that mummy and daddy decide to drop them off door to door and their health will deteriorate and continue to deteriorate in adulthood.

    Whilst ideally we should encourage more exercise, most doctors would argue the really important thing is to do at least some even if it is only a bit of walking or climbing stairs. I am sure on the same basis we should switch off all escalators on the underground but we all know that the reality is that some people at least would decide the journey is just too much effort and get the car out thus reducing exercise to almost nil.

  38. MiaM says:

    An Oyster top-up machine doesn’t neccesary have to be online. TfL could just take the risk that someone uses a bank card without coverage (or a stolen card) and do neccesary actions to prevent one oyster card from being topped upp again and again from stolen/forged/empty bank cards, for example by putting that card on some kind of block list or whatever.

    TfL would then get dodged of the travels done with that oyster card immediately after the oyster is topped up, but if there isn’t any gain for deliberate fare dodgers to do this (for example the deposit could be higher than any reasonable amout of travel – and there could perhaps be different levels of deposit depending of if the customer want to be able to use these on-bus or at-bus stop top-up machines or not.

    It would of course be a question of what the bank card issuers are willing to accept. That seems to differ a lot between countries. For example in Sweden bank cards with chips is becoming more and more common, and the only places you can pay without a code at all are at parking ticket machines and a few restaurants/pubs (where you have to put your signature on some small paper and in theory show your ID card).. On the other hand, in Norway (neighbour country, culturally rather similar to Sweden) you can pay a long-distans bus ticket on bord on the bus by just sweeping the magnetic stripe of your credit card (actually the bus driver does the sweeping). No code, no signature, no ID card…

    Re School Children and bus travel. Another excelent reason for letting kids use ordiarny bus lines is that they not only get used to busses in general but also how transportation in their area works. The step to use public transit instead of going by car is probably significant lower than if the kids don’t travel by regular bus lines.

    IMHO anyone trying to master other people about that they should walk more or similar should themself have to walk more in really really bad weather… Doing a short bus ride instead of walking everywhere, everytime is life quality! Come on @man on the Clapton omnibus, get rid of your TV remote and come back in a month and tell us about the excersise from walking between your sofa and your TV…

    Re checking in and checking out systems – in for example Gothenburg and round (“Västtrafik” area) in Sweden that system is used. In theory it works great, in practise there are problems with the GPS connection to the card validators on boards hang sometimes and then you get charged the wrong fare (usually too high) without knowing until you touch your card (as the validators give no information about where they think the bus (or tram or train) are. Also there are some anomalies of that system. If you travel on a line from one zone through another zone and back to another place in the zone you started your journey, you only pay for one zone if you use PAYG. If you use a combination of PAYG and travel card (for the zone you start and end your journey at) you sometimes get charged PAYG money for the zone you pass throug, and sometimes you don’t get charged.

    I’l probably get back on that topic in an upcoming comment from me in the Transport Committee thread in a short while.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Is there any real evidence that bus journeys are quicker? As a cyclist, traffic in central London seems to be as heavy as it was 20 years ago. Has anyone done any research i wonder? For example, how long did it take a no. 73 to get from Hackney to Victoria 20 years ago compared with today?

    We hear a lot about traffic speeds in London being around 12 mph, so whilst (a) Oyster has allowed people to get on the buses quicker; (b) has saved the privatised bus network a shed load of money by 1. not handling cash 2. getting rid of all the bus conductors with all their salaries, pensions and benefits . . . are buses actually any quicker?

  40. MiaM says:


    Re Paddington to Victoria v.s. Paddington to Lewisham: Well, those who actually go by bus instead of rail from Paddington to Lewisham might just aswell not be charged more than Paddington-Victoria by bus.

    If a distance-related bus fare should be introduced then all it needs to be discussed if all those different bus passes (school bus pass, “force poor people to display their poorness to the bus driver”-passes, veteran passes and whatever) should better be converted to travelcards also valid on rail services as the difference between bus fares and rail fares would not be so signifant.

    I think a lot of people would change transport mode if such change is made. I’ve always thought of rail travel in London as the premium public transit mode, and bus travel as the budget transit mode. Would rail services be able to cope with all extra passengers that today travel by bus for economic reasons? (Hint: a good example of race and class segregation in Lodon can be seen if you travel by bus Croydon-Brixton and rail Croydon-Victoria (a rather similar route). It would be good it that kind of segregation stops…).

  41. James says:

    TfL have been trying to encourage people on to the buses & trams versus heavy rail and DLR for some time, leading to a real price and class division. They have, for instance, been offering people on certain benefits a reduction on bus fares for about 5 years now but with no equivalent reduction for heavy rail. Bus services have been seen as easy to expand, unlike rail, so the bus has had to soak up a lot of the expansion in the travel market.

    Where I differ from MiaM is that I can’t see any advantage to correcting this now, we need to add 50% extra capacity to the rail-based systems to start righting this pricing policy. Otherwise I won’t be able to get on to the train in the morning!

    I should say that this is mostly about journeys into central London or across a few zones. About 2 months ago I had a good hard look at my journey to work, which is all within zone 3. Oyster bus fare = £1.35, Oyster NR fare = £1.40 to £1.60 depending on time of day/week. That’s not a bad price for a 5 mile journey. The bus takes around an hour door-to-door in the peak, the train takes half that.

    We have recently added contactless payment to the tills at work and I have introduced a few customers to it, generally middle aged ladies. None of them had ever used the contactless facility on their debit cards before. My limited experience says that many people have heard of it but they find it slightly worrying. I think it will be a bit harder to introduce than Oyster. I will just wait for the headline “faulty bus ticket machine charged me for 2000 tickets”.

  42. Anonymous says:

    If you have a railcard discount on your Oyster then, off peak, train is often cheaper than bus. Purley to Croydon is £1.05 by train with the Gold Card discount but obviously £1.35 on the bus. I think there’s an argument for making all Oyster touches valid for entry onto Bus/Tram for an hour, as the annoying thing is less the flat fare for a short distance and more the fact that if you have to change bus you pay 2 flat fares, possibly for 2 short distances. I noticed in Malta that they have 2.2 for a 2 hour ticket and 2.60 for all day (and the delight of travelling on a former London Bendy Bus as well!) and if I remember correctly, Brussells had 1 hour for any ticket by bus, tram and metro with unlimited changes. As the Oyster records mode and time on the card, it should have no issues not charging for the second and subsequent entries until 1 hour was up.

  43. John says:

    Why has nobody mentioned an obvious solution yet (though I may have missed it as I only skimmed the comments) – get drivers to sell Oysters on board the bus!

    As someone mentioned, allow bus journeys to take the balance negative, so people with a positive balance under £1.35 can still travel, those already with a negative balance or who lost/forgot their Oyster can pay £5 for a new one, take the balance to -£1.35, and then top it up at a station.

    If they are leaving a station to go home, well, too bad, top it up at the corner shop or online.

    So drivers will only need to carry a few fivers with them (at least until the deposit is raised again, and still only pound coins will be needed, avoids the fiddling with 10p pieces).

    On the back of the Oyster, clearly write: “Deposit refundable at a tube station”. And if you really really don’t want an Oyster – £5 for a cash fare please.

  44. John says:

    Forgot to add – if the driver runs out of Oysters – it’s your lucky day. Every 2-3 months a bus comes along with a malfunctioning Oyster reader anyway, so it should all be taken into account at the planning stage

    This is similar to how the “Freedom Pass” in Sydney works, pay $2.50 (may have gone up since) for a day pass if over 60. Buses outside the city centre can’t validate them as they are cash only, but they still carry around a big pile and just sell them as needed. The date is written in pen, although the magnetic stripe is unactivated, but on first use on a train or city centre bus, the date is written to the strip.

    @Anon 6.56
    Agree, 1 hr or 2 hr tickets make sense, at the risk of making the back-end software even more complicated. Better than distance based.

    Or do it the Hong Kong way where you pay the fare from where you board to the end, regardless of where you get off. But even they realise it doesn’t always work, as some buses offer a discount if you get off early. No travelcards or caps though, which makes it easier for the bus reader to calculate.

  45. Greg Tingey says:

    Anon @ 15.58
    [ PLEASE use 24-hr clock! Or should I be addressing the web-master over this?]
    I agree about the replacement of Oyster by contactless use of bank cards is going to meet huge resistance.
    I for one, WON’T, for several reasons …
    fraud opportunity, theft of bank card, misappropriation, computer glitches emtying your account, etc.
    Oyster, keeping a separate “pot” for a dedicated purpose is a really good idea.
    Not so sure about “exit-swipe” on buses, as that will reverse the dwell/access/egress benefits that Oyster has brought.

    Agree re getting children OUT of cars & on to buses (&trains & trams) – once they are used to it, and that the syatem WORKS (which it does, mostly in London) then they will go on using it. Which is what we want.
    & @ 21.22 …
    Errr … there are at least two other reasons for the apparent social split between the 2 Croydon-Victoria modes: Intermediate stops-&-routing, & speed.
    If you are going to central London, or CJ to go eleswhere, you will catcth the train, if you want somewhere in-between, you will take the bus.
    And the bus is SLOW, the train is relatively fast, even the all-stations ones.
    Compare Liverpool Street – Walthamstow: train 15 minutes, every 15 minutes, bus 48, about an hour.
    [ /RANT ON … Bloody useles effin Tfl have aparently REMOVED direct access to bus timetables from their web-site in favour of touchy-feely “current information” and live travel crap. WHY?
    I can’t fin dout how long a journey is supposed to take, any more.
    Grrrr … Rant OFF! /]

    Anon @ 21.18
    Yes & no.
    Bus journeys are now back to being as fast as they were 50 years ago, maybe a little slower.
    OTOH, they are a LOT faster than they were 15 years ago, with no Oyster, and interminable loading-time delays, at least on non-RM-operated routes.
    When I was 15, I could cycle to Startford Loco sheds in 20-25 minutes.
    Now, I can cycle to Eastfield (exact same location!) in 20 – 25 minutes.
    The 97 from Walthamstow Central to Eastfield takes at least 30 minutes, & can take 40 (depending on traffic congestion, & of course the completely totally insane “security” checks – though those, hopefully, won’t last …)
    The real problem with bus speeds is, of course, the congestion on the roads.
    More trams in reserved sections sayas I!
    BTW Central London traffic really did speed up when pink Ken’s CC-zone came in, but I think that advantage has now been negated.

    You are saying that the approx 5-25p a day is the cost of more-than halving your travelling time – which is probably worth it, isn’t it?
    Can everyone else note this point?
    Your point about “faulty” bus machine empties your credit-card is only too scary – &, sooner or later some enterprising person will work out how to rig the syatem deliberately, as well.
    Let’s just not go there, shell we?

    Distance-based fares inside cities.
    That’s what we had BEFORE the zones came in, with separate, individual fares for everything.
    Don’t you remember how complicated that was, and how it dis-incentivised people from using trains & buses?
    I realise that there are still separate train fares, usually used for and by dedicated saeson-ticket holders (eg. Walthamstow – Liverpool St annual is about £500 pa cheaper than zones 1-3 annual) so such a user will also keep an Oyster for separate (usually weekend) running around.

  46. Anonymous says:

    For full bus timetables:

  47. Pedantic of Purley says:

    With reference to Greg’s self-confessed rant:

    TfL almost have decent bus timetables online. The ones at the stop can be found by clicking Journey Planner on the home page and then clicking “Timetables” in the left hand column then selecting the appropriate route, direction and stop. Not intuitive to initially find I grant you. They can also be found by using one of the mapping options.

    The problem is that you get average off-peak journey times which is absolutely useless for a journey that gets really seriously snarled in traffic during the peak hours (e.g. 405 to Redhill on approach to Redhill).

    Now if they could have an option that told you the average actual journey time for the past week (or recent weekends as appropriate) for the journey you wanted to make at the time you want to make it then that would be really neat.

    I don’t suppose this is a major issue for TfL but it was a lot easier to analyse number of trams needed, detailed service patterns etc. when they issued a conventional timetable PDF of every single tram journey rather than have to deduce it from the “services from your stop” information. “Every 2-10 minutes” doesn’t really help.

  48. Whiff says:

    To add to John’s international comparisons I see that Bangkok has now introduced the fantastically named Rabbit card- an electronic payment system that can be used both on the Skytrain and to pay for other stuff as well.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Well Greg you might get agitated about bus real time info and phone apps but I have two bus ones (both free) on my phone and one of those allows you to click on the your intended bus and see predicted arrival times for later stops. That’s very neat and allows you to see if you are likely to make a connection to another route. Worked perfectly the other day for a connection into an hourly service at Barnet. As other posters have said the stop specific panels are all accessible on line and Mr Munster’s “” site has conventional timetable info on it. I can load up the stop specific panels on my phone too even though they are not my preferred style of presentation.

    I think real time bus info for London’s bus services is one of the biggest improvements for many years.

  50. John Bull says:

    Yes, as with RTMs I do feel bus timetables from a user perspective are something that technology has largely rendered redundant. Unlike rail timetables, they can never be genuinely reflective of journey times, and buses (in London at least) don’t “wait” for the designated arrival/departure time if they’re early.

    The arrival of good, accurate real time bus information is one of the largely unheralded triumphs of recent years in London Transport terms, to my mind at least.

  51. Greg Tingey says:

    Thanks for that – that’s the same as they used to have, they’ve just made it even more difficult to find them!
    W T F ??

    I think y’all got the wrong impression.
    The tochy-feely “real-time info” may be (is?) a useful bonus, but I usually want to know how long a journey is going to take BEFORE I START, which is where a rea, actual timetable is so useful.
    And, of course, I refuse to have a touchscreen phne – much too vulnerable to damage.

  52. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Yes they moved them two or three years ago during a website revamp and it took me ages to find them and even then I stumbled on them by chance. I am afraid it is a feature of the modern websites in particular and the world in general. Nowadays the information is generally there and accessible but we (at least you and me) cannot find it because it is buried in sea of unwanted data.

    You probably naively looked for bus timetables by going to the buses page. Silly boy! However if you want the tram timetables then they can be found on the tram page.

  53. JamesC says:

    Firstly this is not a rant 🙂

    Two simple points –

    This is clearly going in increase the number of people dodging fares, some people are just going to risk it if the bus if full, and they can’t get on the front set of doors to pay the driver and just jump on the rear ones instead witout paying (i.e. the new Borris Bus) – This however is not going to have a major impact in financial terms as the running costs of the machines are clearly much higher.

    Touch out on busses is a VERY bad idea that is going to go VERY wrong. Its simply not needed unless we are intending on going back to the 60p outside zone 1, and £1 inside zone model that we used to have for cash fares in the good old days….. Its going to increase dwell time significantly, and i’m sure we can all recall what happened on the bendy busses when all the card readers in the back stopped working and people had to (or otherwise) push to the front to use the drivers one. Whats going to happen if people touch in on the front one, only to then find the touch out one at the rear doors is not working…….

    The whole concept of Oyster was KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)….. And this is why the NR extension permits failed so miserably

  54. Anonymous says:

    @ James C – I mentioned touching out on buses because I believe the current flat fare system will begin to falter as fares continue to rise and rise. Whether we like it or not buses tend to have a greater proportion of short hop journeys than longer trips. TfL can ill afford to price off a significant proportion of bus travellers because it will end up with reduced revenue and then the need to reduce costs / cut services thus triggering more decline. TfL is under pressure to reduce costs and subsidy and big inflation busting fare rises is part and parcel of that. Will people jump on the bus for 2-3 stops when the Oyster fare is £2 which is what I predict it will be come 2016?

    You say it won’t work – I say it does work in other places in the world with huge volumes travelling by bus and high boarding and alighting volumes at interchanges. You can always develop rules and processes to deal with equipment failure so that is not some insurmountable barrier. I agree it would be a challenge in London but you can’t simply dismiss an idea by saying it will cost more. How much more as you seem to know? As other posters have said the system could help additional products like 1 hour tickets work or multi modal through tickets. Note I am not saying exit validation is desirable or necessary – I am saying economics and political / budgetary pressures may require the reintroduction of a graduated fares system for buses and this is one way to make it work.

    @ John Bull – much as I like real time info I do not agree that timetables are no longer needed. They are an important aid and, of course, are essential to make the underlying I-Bus system work. No schedule = chaos.

  55. Fandroid says:

    London operates a half-way house compared with many continental cities. Generally you are trusted there to buy the appropriate ticket for your journey, and just about all tickets are valid for as many changes on as many transport modes as you wish within a set time limit (depending on the number of zones transited). That trust has its limits though, as there are mobile inspectors and they will impose a hefty fine if you are found cheating. I have seen statistics concerning fare evasion and they are generally thought to be below 10%. It would be interesting to compare that with the cost of London’s fare-capturing infrastructure, especially all those ticket barriers on the Tube and NR.

    I say half-way house, because at least London has zones and a flat fare for buses, whereas out in private-enterprise bus-land you generally get charged by distance, even in fairly small towns.

    Changing Oyster to allow bus-train-Tube-tram interchange and simply charge once for the number of zones transited would make a lot of sense. Then perhaps the buses could be organised as real feeders to the trains/tubes/trams rather than as competition.

  56. Greg Tingey says:

    But Oyster fares are capped anyway, are they not, with lower fares being charged in the off-peak?
    I admit that it makes no differnce to me, aged 66 – as said above, I now only use Oyster very occasionally.
    But my wife is under 60 & uses her Oyster quite a bit at weekends.
    Her usual work-journey is direct season to Liverpool St & then walk forward …..

    Fare evasion
    Generally reckoned to be about 1.5 -> 2% of rail travellers “without a valid ticket / not validated properly. [note]
    One wonders if the extreme & expensive efforts being made to “combat fare evasion” (Like the saga of the unwanted barriers @ Sheffield) are worth it.
    I mean, all those gates and readers cost money top install and maintain, but so do ticket-checking staff.
    Where is the balance-point?
    At what point is it cheaper to accept that some minority will not be paying the correct fares?
    Come to that, how many people are being overcharged on their Oysters etc – I seem to recall various press articles on the subject…..

    [note: Source – conversations with t.t-inspectors whilst on my surveying travels!]

  57. Anonymous says:

    @ Fandroid – well yes ticket gates do cost money to maintain but less these days than in the past because of the high volume of contactless transactions. Gates do help to control congestion and ease flow patterns at busy stations. There are obviously some places where they have been rammed into the space available and I’d personally consider that to be questionable. I appreciate everyone (including Greg) gets excited about Sheffield but one example does not destroy a successful concept on urban transport networks. LU’s evasion levels are way below 10% and if someone thinks 10% is somehow “acceptable” they clearly have nice lax financial targets when it comes to making sure you get the revenue due for services used. The other statistic is that LU and Bus revenue is very high indeed – both over £1bn pa last time I looked. 10% of that is an astronomic number to lose and I doubt very much that it costs £100m pa to run the gated system but someone might be able to do the numbers better than me. The use of Oyster on bus has also helped reduce a whole pile of fraud and reducing cash payments makes it harder for drivers to defraud too.

    @ Greg – yes Oyster uses a daily cap but differentiated by peak / off peak as well as the predictable parameters like mode and zonal use. There is no peak / off peak differential on bus fares but there has been one in the fairly recent past. The studies into fare evasion on the overground network gave a good overview of how to blend better ticket purchase options, staff on stations, selected gating and on train checking to give a large reduction in fraudulent travel. I’m sure there is a presentation somewhere on the TfL website.

    There is obviously a point of “diminishing returns” of benefit relative to cost but revenue fraud is multi faceted and forever changing. You need to keep an eye across all areas and ensure that if you are the “tipping point” that you don’t get too relaxed and let things creep up again to the point where more urgent action is needed.

    I think we will soon see more Mayor’s Questions / FOI requests from the usual protagonists about Oyster overcharging and various ticketing issues. It is August after all so the politicians are having a holiday. Boris’s announcement about the 2013 fares increase will re-ignite all the debate about fares and tickets giving his (probably ill advised) remarks about “baring down” on the scale of increase for 2013. I doubt there will be any departure from the RPI+2% position because of the overall financial pressure on TfL. This will cause “outrage” from Ms Pidgeon and Ms Shawcross as a follow on from previous challenges and the positions taken during the election campaign. Enjoy the holiday break before the tedium of this debate returns 🙂

  58. Greg Tingey says:

    Anon @ 23.43
    You DID note my remark about ~1.52% non-valid travel?
    Yes, I agree re crowding and crushes @ gates.
    Remember, though, that, by law, there must be an emergency exit – usually provided by the BIG RED BUTTON (If you can find it) & if there are gates blocking the exit.
    Hitting said button “pops” the gates.
    [ Which is why I get so exited about the West exit from Southwark UG station – you can get trapped “Outside” two sets of parallel inward-facing gates, with no possible exit at all…. ]
    Two contra examples, the good one first …
    ON 7/7/2005, my wife had just turned East to go down to the inner-rail platform at Liverpool ST, when there was a very bright orange flash, followed a second or so later, by the pressure-wave of the so-called “Aldgate” bomb going off – by the time, a very few seconds later, when she reached the uper gates, they were all open.
    About 5 years back, I came up @ W’stow Central, and there had been both a concert somewhere & a footy match … the top-of-escalators area was filling rapidly, to the point it was obvious that people were not going to be able to get off the tops (!)
    The staff were just watching, doing nothing, so I popped the button with my cane, before we got a crowd-crush….

  59. JamesC says:

    Anon – I made no reference to it cposting more to implament touch out on busses, however the machines aon each bus, plus altering the touch in ones plus the oyster system itself to impairment this will cost.

    Some countries do this differently. Those with guided busses or lots of room on the pavement ‘fence’ in the bus stops with barriers around them. This would cost even more to implement.

    I just can’t see what’s wrong with what we have. If you don’t want to spend £2 on a single fare. Get a bus pass…… Or stop replacing the busses every 2 years…….?

  60. Anonymous says:

    Assuming that the 507 and 521 are treated like all other routes, and apart from open boarding, they are now, the demise if the RTMs will mean that it will be possible to get change when paying a cash fare on these routes for the first time!

  61. Jeremy says:

    Mr Tingey, your mis-spelling of ‘excited’ is delightful given the circumstances!

  62. Anonymous says:

    Greg: Thanks for the story involving your wife. I hope the near miss hasn’t affected her too badly.

  63. Greg Tingey says:

    Steaming fury, when she found out ……

  64. Anonymous says:

    Just going back to the journey time displays on bus stop timetables, I find they are fictional even at the most off peak times of day – I caught a journey at 0100 one morning from Clapham Junction to Kingston and it took twice as long as shown, even though the driver was flying and passenger loadings were not severe. I would personally prefer a combination of (accurate) average inter-peak journey time and average peak journey time (surely calculable from Countdown?) so you can get a better idea of how long things will take.

  65. Rich says:

    One thought which might be news to some people RE: the several who have said there should be no touch out on London buses.

    Admittedly it is not so much of an issue now that the bendies have been replaced, but I know of at least a dozen people (virtually all Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish, who were visitors to London) complaining about the cost of London buses. It later transpired was because they were both touching IN and OUT of buses and so being charged twice… I thought Oyster was supposed to be clever enough not to charge twice if swiped twice on the same bus 20mins apart, but apparently not.

    It appears that the periodic reminders to “always touch in and out” that you hear at stations/on trains etc got into some people’s heads, and trying to be good legal visitors, they did the same on buses (bendies, where you had machines to touch in and out, and did not pass the driver on the way out).

    And though it might be obvious to locals, if you think about it logically from a foreign visitor perspective: How would they know that you have to touch in and out on trains but not buses?

  66. Andrew says:

    The bus stop in Sussex Garden haslost its “Buy tickets before boarding” sign and now has standard white route numbers, although the machine still appears to be usable.

  67. Anon5 says:

    I noticed today the Trafalgar Square branded stop on Cockspur Street has had its yellow tiles replaced with white ones. The notice to buy tickets before boarding has also disappeared. I assume the ticket machine has gome too. In a few years we will look back at photos of London buses in the early 2000s and point out the yellow tiled bus stops and yellow destination blinds on the front of buses, I guess in much the same way a yellow roundel reminds us of the early 90s (or was it late 80s?)

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