Cashless or Brainless?

The Oyster Card alongside a bunch of coins. Is it  right to rid the coins?
A consultation held by Transport for London (TfL) in the Winter asked if they could remove cash from London in the summer. Many, many, many people disagreed with the idea and now The West London Bus Blog sums up why it is wrong to remove cash from London's buses.

Believe it or not, the changes will be introduced in Summer even though only about 1 out 3 people actually agreed with the idea, which makes it pretty pointless to host the consultation if you ask me. But here's a lesson about what TfL does, as this isn't the first time they've pulled this stunt: If TfL wants to do something, they host a consultation, but even then if people disagree, they (TfL) still go ahead with the idea. This was the same with bus route 324, between Stanmore Station and Brent Cross, Tesco, which started in 2010, only about 40% supported the route, with the remaining 60% disagreeing, but the route still continued service, with some of the most unreliable buses today, despite the agree side being outnumbered.

One popular argument was about tourists coming to explore the city for holiday and leisure purposes. Clearly they haven't thought of them, the people that bring in a lot of money for the company. What's the purpose of buying an Oyster Card for a, let's say, 14-day vacation, of which you may be getting the taxi to some places, friends and families will give you a ride in their car on others. If you're coming in through Heathrow, you may know about the Heathrow Free Travel Zone where you don't need an Oyster Card or any sort of payment, you can hop on for free between Harlington Corner/ Pinglestone Close/ Skyport Drive and Heathrow Bus Station (All Terminals) on most TfL routes. 

However, there isn't much leisure around Heathrow, the only thing you can get is a pricey hotel which you can only get food there if you have rented one of their rooms. But what about shopping? What about some souvenirs to bring back home to the family? You can't get anything from Heathrow (Outside Duty-Free I'm speaking) so you're gonna need the bus to the next town. Unfortunately, the Heathrow Free Travel Zone doesn't stretch to, in this case, Slough, West Drayton, Hayes Town or Hounslow. So you can't go anywhere locally for a cheap fare. It's not worth having to get the Piccadilly Line for three stops to Hounslow Central (or four for Hounslow East where all the hustle and bustle is) and be charged for a Zone 4-6 ticket (!) when you can just use a cheaper fare for one bus ride on direct routes 81 and 222.

The second argument that seems like a hot topic is the people who live outside of London (Locally). Not all TfL buses are in London, some bus routes do spill into local counties just across the London boundary, such as route 258 which goes to Watford Junction and Watford Town Centre and Bushey, or route 428 which spills into home counties and serves Bluewater and Derwent Valley Hospital or routes 370 and 372 to Lakeside, Bus Station. In these areas, such as Borehamwood (On the 107 and 292 routes) there isn't any top-up Oyster shops or there is only one on the other side of town and is inconvenient to get to, which is usually inside the train station. What about the residents of these areas that don't really need TfL services often and do not need the use of local bus routes run by TfL and maybe instead by Arriva The Shires, Sullivan Buses or Uno? Again, why buy an Oyster Card and use it like 5 times before it becomes invalid, broken or stuck in the washing machine in your jeans pocket! Nobody forgets money in their pocket, I haven't heard a story of that one anyways.
For these residents outside of London anyways, they usually pay with cash so it'd be convenient for them as it's a routine they are used to. 

On the topic of missing Oyster Cards, many people have had to replace their card at some point. Some Oyster Cards have short expiry dates whilst the original Oyster Card has no expiry date to my knowledge. Many cards have actually ended up in the Washing Machine, in our trouser or jumper pockets whereas in this situation with cash, nobody forgets that they have cash in their pockets (if they did) so they'd remember to take it out. Also Oyster Cards are easily misplaced and lost, cash would have more care to it, and also some people, especially with the non-Photocard variants tend to steal and use each other's photocard, paying the price of 1 for 2 passengers whereas with cash you'd get an individual ticket each. When the inspector comes on, you can just pull out the ticket and if it wasn't present, you'd be labelled as 'fare evader'. However with the non-photocard, you could be together and if the inspector wasn't looking in your direction, checking someone else's card on the other row, you could just easily give the same card just inspected to the person next to you and you'd get away with it.

Thirdly, we talked about tourists, and people outside of London, but what about the people IN London, the Londoners? We forget our Oyster cards sometimes ourselves. Especially Saturday night dwellers in Soho who tend to leave their Oysters lying around on the floor. Walk down Regent Street on some Sunday mornings and you might find one/ some yourself. Oyster Cards might be accidentally left at home, and that's where Cash comes to save you. There really is no point in going to Central London without cash, so it'd be merely impossible to leave your wallet or purse behind. 

Fourthly, this new idea doesn't seem popular. People who are used to cash might consider just getting a tube ticket which is faster and at that rate cheaper and more useful than of taking the bus, so this adds more pressure to London Underground, London Overground and the DLR. Now the tube trains will be more busier than ever during the peak rush hours. Now imagine on a already overcrowded line, such as the Victoria Line, getting more passengers - This will increase unreliability rates on the lines, more people could even be pushed onto the platform - It could increase crime rates on London Underground. I think they're getting too ahead of themselves with the Oyster Card, who made it's first debut over 11 years ago.

I would like to thank Sophie Wilks for the inspiration of this article, and for providing the facts and figures of the statements in this post.