London's smart card draws nearer

01 Jan 2001

IN MAY the TranSys consortium will be unveiling the branding for the contactless smart card system that passengers on London Underground and the city's buses will begin to use from August 17 2002. TranSys Marketing Director Nicole Carroll reports that the current proposition has been 'very well received' by focus groups. She promises a brand that will be 'transport-themed', while conveying the innovative and flexible nature of the centrepiece of the Prestige project (RG 7.99 p434).

The May launch will mark the start of a marketing campaign to introduce the smart card system to the travelling public as trials increase in scope. At present 200 cards are being used for journeys between South Kensington and St James's Park stations by staff from TranSys and the Prestige team at client Transport for London. Between now and spring 2002, some 3000 additional cards will be issued for 'really intense' trials, followed by the replacement of around 100000 TfL staff passes with smart cards.

For customers, monthly season tickets will start to be issued as smart cards from August 2002, followed by annual tickets as they fall due for renewal, mainly around the end of the calendar year. By August 2003, when the TranSys consortium of EDS, Cubic, ICL and WS Atkins is due to receive its first usage-based payments, Carroll expects some 4million cards to be in use.

Benchmarking against major smart card projects in Hong Kong, Washington DC and Chicago has convinced TranSys that phased implementation is best. 'Don't ever go out in a big bang', says Carroll. With the first three project milestones achieved on or ahead of schedule, TranSys is now working to upgrade Multifare TVMs to touch-screen technology (right) by February. The fourth Prestige milestone also includes the installation of new ticket office machines and station accounting systems, due for completion in early July 2001. The fifth milestone covers the gating of joint stations shared by LU and commuter Train Operating Companies.

A gradual approach is also likely to be adopted for changing the fare structure on the back of the new ticket medium. Although Carroll reports enthusiasm for stored-value ticketing amongst LU passengers, she suggests that this may be launched later, allowing passengers time to become familiar with the cards.

As one of Britain's largest smart card schemes, Prestige will have great potential for secondary applications such as loyalty schemes and event ticketing. Carroll says TfL and TranSys will consider such possibilities, and 'alliances' with other transport smart cards, as long as they are 'specific relationships that make sense'.

Through its use of the Tri-Reade developed by Cubic to handle both types of ISO standard smart card, Prestige is 'definitely future-proof' according to Carroll, who sees the contract held by TranSys to install, operate and maintain the system as 'a 17-year warranty' for TfL. In time, Prestige smart cards will also cover the Docklands Light Railway and Croydon Tramlink, and she is 'very optimistic' that they will also be taken up by commuter TOCs. Readers could 'easily' be installed on Cubic gates installed by several TOCs. The same manufacturer has developed ticket office and hand-held equipment for issuing and verifying smart cards, compatible with revenue-allocation systems inherited from British Rail.

 

  • CAPTION: Tri-Reader equipment will be retrofitted to Cubic gates throughout the London Underground network
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