from Wolf Street:
On January 1st, Londoners woke up to a rather perplexing reality: all of the cashless Oyster card readers on the city’s buses, rail and tube stations had stopped working. With cash as good as banished from the London transport system, attendants had little choice but to wave passengers through open ticket barriers and onto buses without paying, until the problem was fixed.
Serious Pause for Thought
Ironically, the costly glitch came on a day that new fare increases were to be introduced, with journey prices going up by an average of 1%. According to research by the UK Labour Party, rail fares have risen at three times the rate of wages since 2010, with campaigners saying ticket prices have become “increasingly divorced from reality.”
While for London’s commuters the glitch offered a welcome respite from ever-spiraling transport costs, the temporary collapse of the Osyter Card system should give serious pause for thought about our growing dependence on electronic cashless payment systems, especially as government, central banks, financial institutions, credit card companies, and large corporations conspire openly to pull the plug on cash [read: The War on Cash in 10 Spine-Chilling Quotes].
Just this week the UK Department of Transport announced plans it is developing with banks, credit card companies, and train groups to extend the London Underground’s cashless payment system across the entire UK rail network.
“We are in the early stages of exploring how passengers could pay for and store tickets on their contactless credit or debit cards as part of our wider aim to improve the experience of rail passengers and move towards smarter types of ticket,” said Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and train operators.
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