After previous tests resulted in mobile phone payments taking a little longer to complete a transaction than a contactless Oyster card, Transport for London is again trying Near Field Communication-enabled phones for payment on its rail network and Tube underground rails.
Transport is piloting the NFC phone payments as well as various contactless card payments with 5,000 volunteers in its continuing efforts to eventually eliminate cash or coin payments on the trains.
The service will allow customers to use mobile phones or contactless debit, credit or charge cards to pay fares on Tube, the London Overground, the Docklands Light Railway, tram and most national rail services in London. Commuters touch their card or phone on the yellow readers in the same manner that many do with their contactless Oyster cards, Transport states in a press release.
In July of 2012, Transport reported that tests with NFC chips in mobile phones were taking 500 milliseconds per transaction, compared to 300 milliseconds for the Oyster card. That miniscule difference was a concern for the organization as it was seeking something comparable or faster than the Oyster card for commuter fares.
But the move to eliminate cash fares began in earnest earlier this year when Transport informed commuters in central London that they could no longer use cash or coins to pay for bus rides. Transport was seeking to eliminate cash payments and encourage use of the city's Oyster transportation contactless card or other bank-issued debit or credit cards.
Although Transport's past focus has been on contactless cards, the recent new testing and upgrades to readers make the system capable of accepting suitable mobile payment applications, Transport says.
We are continuing to modernize all of our transport services to make it easier for customers to do business with us, Shashi Verma, Transport's customer experience director, says in the release.
Mobile phones with a Visa, Mastercard or American Express payment application could be accepted on Transport services, Verma adds.
"We are testing to see how the devices perform on the system and welcome any innovations which improve the services and choices we are able to offer customers, Verma says.