If you’ve noticed people are increasingly tapping in on the London Underground with their phone or watch, you won’t be surprised to learn that than a third of contactless pay as you go journeys on the tube are now being paid for with a smartphone or smartwatch, according to new figures from Transport for London (TfL).

(c) TfL

Using contactless payment cards to automatically debit bank accounts for fares was launched in 2012, initially with a simple model on buses, but really took off with the formal launch in 2014 for the tube and trains. Part of the appeal, apart from not having to queue to buy a ticket is the daily and weekly capping, so people don’t accidentally spend a lot more than they expected, as there’s always an upper limit on how much journeys can cost.

Across London, contactless journeys now make up around 71% of all pay as you go journeys on buses, Tube and rail services in and around London, up from around 31% in 2016.

Along with people using bank cards to tap-in/out on the London Underground, the use of mobile devices to pay for tube tickets by adults has also surged in recent years, now reaching 35% of contactless payments, compared to 26% of ticket sales in 2019.

TfL’s latest figures show that in a four-week period from the end of July to late August 2022, around 485,000 journeys a day were being made on the Tube using a mobile device. This equates to around 35% of all contactless journeys or around 25% of Tube adult pay as you go journeys made. Prior to the pandemic (around the end of January 2020), there were around 400,000 contactless journeys a day being made using a mobile phone or smart watch – which was just 16% of all Adult pay as you go Tube journeys.

Pay as you go with mobile on the London Underground is now more popular than before the pandemic.

Despite the growth in contactless on the tube, thousands of paper tickets are still being sold every day in tube stations – for example, at King’s Cross station, around 1,000 paper ‘Day Travelcards’ are still being sold every day.

And that is despite contactless card payments being cheaper than using a paper ticket.

To encourage customers to switch away from paper tickets, Google Pay has recently begun a six month advertising campaign across five of London’s most high profile tube stations. Within these stations, customers will see signage prompting them to add a debit or credit card to Google Wallet. Once a card is added to the app, customers can skip the queue for ticket machines and simply pay contactless with Google Pay. Signage on ticket readers at Tube stations across the network has also been refreshed to better emphasise contactless options alongside the traditional Oyster card.

Google has also made improvements to its suite of apps to help provide better access to public transport information within London and let customers know that they could use Google Pay to travel on London’s public transport network, rather than queuing to buy a paper ticket.

(c) TfL

Andrew Anderson, Head of Customer Payments at TfL, said: “We are committed to making travel in London as easy as possible. Millions of journeys in and around London are now made using contactless every day – with close to half a million now made using mobile devices rather than a bank card. Working with Google Pay, we are helping promote the benefits of smart ticketing over queuing to purchase traditional paper tickets, making travel more convenient and accessible for all.”

The contactless system covers all tube, bus and tram services, as well as rail services as far as Gatwick Airport in the south, Luton Airport, Welwyn Garden City in the north and Reading, Marlow and Henley-on-Thames in the west.

Contactless payments will also be expanded outside London to the wider southeast of England under a scheme being funded by the Department for Transport. The first 53 stations should go live by the end of this year, with another 180 stations added by May 2024.

This article was published on ianVisits


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