Oystercard - the problem is when the man meets the machine

 by Martin Belam, 16 October 2003

I had my first practical unsatisfactory Oystercard experience today. I tried to get the 212 bus (franchise holder First) to Walthamstow Central this morning, and the card would not swipe on the bus driver's ticket machine. As I walked away there was a tap on the plastic grill that separates the driver from the public. I told him that the card didn't expire until next week. I tried the card another couple of times. It didn't read. He wasn't rude, but he insisted that I paid a cash fare for my journey. The card was valid and I used it fine at every other stage of my journey, so it looks to me like the fault was with the card-reader on the bus.

As with most technological systems, it is usually the interface with the humans that causes the problems. The bus driver was obviously getting no feedback that the reader wasn't working. Or hadn't been trained to understand it. I hadn't thought to carry print-outs of the emails that confirm the purchase of the ticket and the successful download of the ticket onto the card. And the Oystercard website doesn't have a clear route for claiming a refund when you've had to pay a cash fare because there has been an equipment failure, although I have emailed them...


So you're against ID cards, but are more then willing to let Ken track you with an Oyster card?

Ive been using a smartcard on the tube for years.

It's called a Visa card (and they have a nice file on you). Because of my travelling habits its cheaper for me to use two singles every work day. So the foolish LUL pays authorisation fees for my Visa being swipped twice every day.

I would love to get that Oyster, but their ordering system has just broke down. And the website stinks.

Jump the gates if you card doesn't work on the tube, and those saver tickets are cheap on the busses anyway - you can buy them from a real person in a newsagent, who usually smiles and is at least civil.

There's another way to use the Oystercard http://www.theoystercard.co.uk

Why do you not accept American Express? Are there any plans to in the near future?

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