Can Oyster succeed outside London?


London is a unique case in England in its ability to deploy an Oyster type solution. Firstly, there is one body that sets fare policy for the trains and buses and secondly, the original business case was supported by the high cost of land in London and the restricted access to it. It also has largely driven cash out of the system, although it took 10 plus years.

This means TfL had a starting point that cannot be easily replicated outside London. That’s not to say its impossible, but as the number of parties increases it makes creating a standard system difficult to agree and develop. It’s not clear yet why the TfGM and ATOS project has broken down as per this article in The Guardian, however three years into the project it looks like it’s back to the drawing board.

Maybe this is not such a bad thing. I’m a huge fan of Oyster functionality, especially now it has been extended into surburban stations. However, the design is still based on the ideas evolved from the original Oyster Card in the last century. The world has moved on. The number of payment options has increased and customer expectations have evolved. Young people now are more likely to take out their phone than their wallet. Not only that, but they expect the phone to do everything we used other media for, such as news, maps, finding out what your friends are doing. Before committing to a massive expenditure program repeating what has gone before, why not take a breath and see what the world has to offer now and how we can create the UBER and BlaBla experience for public transport?

It will not be an overnight change, but now is the time to see what is available that can run alongside existing systems so migration can take place over time. In five years time we may all be chipped and tracked and there will be no need for masses of infrastructure; it really will be pay as you go and it won’t matter what mode of transport you are on!

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