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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Open fare transit payments a no-go for 2012 Olympics

The goal of the London mass transit authority to have the city's bus system equipped with an "open" fare payment system by the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games will not be met. The reason for the delay is reportedly due to concerns that the near field communication- (NFC) based system would not be fast enough to handle mobile fare payments at peak travel times.

In February 2011, the Transport for London (TfL) said London's system of 8,000 buses would be NFC-enabled by the start of the Olympics to accept open-loop, network-branded, NFC chip-embedded credit and debit cards, as well as the city's popular closed-loop, proprietary Oyster prepaid transit cards. The service would facilitate transit payments by riders tapping cards and smart phones on readers.

In the June 2012 edition of the Global Prepaid Exchange's Prepaid Insights newsletter, Global Prepaid Exchange's Tory Batten said the "read speed of NFC-enabled mobile devices is currently too slow to handle rapid passenger throughput at peak times. While Transport for London's Oyster cards operate at a read speed of 300 milliseconds, industry changes to switch the secure element from the phone to the SIM [subscriber identity module] has slowed the read speed down to above the 500 millisecond cut-off point."

Security was another concern, according to Batten, because open-loop credit and debit accounts contain sensitive personal financial information, unlike closed-loop transit cards which only hold transit fare balances.

Shashi Verma, Director of Customer Experience at TfL, said, "We will only roll it out once we are confident it is 100 percent robust. To this end it has always been our intention to introduce contactless card payment in stages…" He added the TfL began testing the new technology on a small number of London buses in June 2012.

Verma noted that the TfL's plan was always to introduce contactless payments in phases, with the bus system representing the first phase, followed by upgrades to the Tube (subway system), Docklands Light Railway, tram and London Overground network. The work is still scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012. end of article

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