Oystercard - Electronic Ticketing System

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  • Topic: Oyster card, London Underground, Transport for London
  • Pages : 19 (5019 words )
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  • Published : March 29, 2010
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Oyster Card – Electronic Ticketing


“Time is money, we are told, and increasing mobility is a way of saving time, but how successful are modern transport systems at saving time? “

(John Whitelegg, “Time Pollution”, Ecologist 23, no.4 – 1993)

Service choice reasons


If you live in London, you will probably know the Oyster Card fairly well. More or less everybody has one.

You use it to pay for bus or tube travel – top up some money on the card and instead of buying a paper ticket each time, just place your card on a yellow reader, and it will work out how much the journey cost and automatically deduct it from your card. It does save a ton of time, and quite a bit of money too (tickets are cheaper on Oyster).

When I first came to London, I found extremely benefcial using the Oyster Card to move around the city and realized how crucial is this service in order to make people travel fast and saving time during their journey.

I come from a place where the concept of “Public Transport” is missed at all. We do not have underground systems, buses are few and always late. In my hometown, Palermo, there are neither tram nor boat services and if you want to cycling you have not to be fussy: bicycle paths are just in the historical centre, which is the “car” kingdom. Last but not least, people are not used to walk even if distances are very short.

I have chosen to analyse the Oyster Card as I honestly think it is a light, useful and well-designed service supporting another service, in other worlds: an electronic ticketing serving the public transport system. Travelling around London, I have been using my Student Oyster Card and I rarely had problems. When it has happened, I have always found punctual and kind help from the London Underground Staff.

In a Metropolis as London is, where our journey is not an easy one, we need to go fast, simplifying all the touch points that allow us to buy a ticket, to board on a bus or to finally come back home.

My experience with this service has been pleasant and easy so far, and I guess most of the people who live in London will agree with me.


Piccadilly Circus - picture taken by myself.

Value proposition


Project: Oyster Card 
Designer: Transys 
Year: 2002

The Oyster Card, developed as part of the £1.2 billion Private Finance Initiative, was introduced for three reasons: first, to reduce queuing at ticket offices during peak periods; second, to make better use of staff; and third, to reduce fraud. Transport for London placed the contract with Transys, a consortium of specialist firms, for the provision of an advanced ticketing system. It was hoped that the Oyster Card would eventually replace most paper tickets.

The smartcard system went live in November 2002 when the Oyster brand was launched and the first cards were made available to 80,000 staff.[1] Fraud, estimated to be running at £43million per year, was the main driver of the project. The main loss of revenue stemmed from customers either travelling without tickets or using tickets not valid for the whole journey.

Other countries have similar smart cards and some of them are used for other types of micro-payments as well as transport - for example Hong Kong's Octopus card and Japan's Suica card. At the moment about over 70 similar systems are runned across 5 continents.

Since the Oyster card has been introduced in London, the advantages for the customer have been the speed and ease with which they can get through barriers and on to the station, and also in the savings that they make through using the Oyster Card.

It can currently be used on the London Underground, London buses and trams, Docklands Light Railway and National Rail Services in London, providing “seamless journeys across London”. In future, the Oyster Card will be linked to the provision of other services including shopping. This is a great example of advances in technology...
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