UK nearer national contactless payment system for travel

The UK government is backing a smart-ticketing initiative, under which contactless cards and mobile devices would become the primary payment method for transit journeys across the country.

The framework for a national contactless system, which could be similar to the Oyster card that Londoners already routinely use for travel, has been developed by the UK Cards Association (UKCA).

It would enable transport operators across the UK to introduce contactless payments on local pay-as-you-go journeys, including single trips such as a bus journey, as well as combined travel on more than one type of transport.

Additional funding has now been provided by the rail operators for a joint project between the card and rail industry. This will review how contactless cards and devices could be deployed for long-distance train tickets or season tickets, replacing the printed ticket still used by many passengers.

“Payment cards play a key role in our lives and we believe this work contributes to making public transport more convenient for millions of passengers,” said Melanie Johnson, chair of the UKCA.

“Our collaborative project with the transport industry aims to transform the way customers pay for their travel and supports the government’s objectives.

“This framework sets out how contactless payments can be used to support any journey, whether a single bus ride or a cross-country trip. It is pleasing so many people from different organisations and industries have joined us today to mark the collaborative achievement. We are excited we have been asked by the transit industry to continue the project to help them understand how payment cards can be used for advance purchases and season tickets.”

Paul Hampton, senior product manager at digital security company Gemalto commented: “Implementing contactless payment technology for local travel makes logical sense for the transport industry – the time it will save commuters is further evidence to back up the ‘cashless society’ the UK is gravitating towards.

“But operators looking to roll this out nationwide should do with caution. The sheer number of contactless journeys made will create an overwhelming amount of data that hackers could gain access to if security levels are not up to scratch. It’s therefore imperative that transport providers do everything they can to protect this data at every single level, encrypting all customer payment data from the moment a card or smartphone is tapped, right through to its storage in the database.

“This technology might enable your bus to stay on time, but if transport providers delay with cybersecurity and don’t put security at the heart of the roll out, it could have detrimental consequences.”


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