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Transportation Security

London's Oystercard Gets New Contract, But Same Suppliers 143

Posted by timothy
from the captain-amazing-wears-no-glasses dept.
nk497 writes "Over the summer, the London travelcard ticketing system — called Oyster — fell over twice, forcing the transport authority to offer free travel to the six million Londoners using the system. After that, it cut its contract with the supplier of the system, a consortium called TranSys. But now, Transport for London has signed a new contract to replace the TranSys one — with the same two companies that made up the TranSys consortium. Sure, that should fix everything."
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London's Oystercard Gets New Contract, But Same Suppliers

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  • Because... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cornwallis (1188489)
    Like economists, weather forecasters and politicians (feel free to add to the list), no matter how bad IT people screw up they always can get rehired.
    • Re:Because... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:27PM (#25821093) Journal

      When you get the weather forecast, since you don't know the meteorologist's job it will seem like he is incompetent when you get rained on in what is supposed to be a sunny day. Your expectations of their abilities clouds your understanding of what can really happen.

      The same things happen in the IT world. When those in charge have clouded vision (some even wear bloody blindfolds) they will have no useful understanding of how to manage an IT project. I believe that in the London area this is not the first demonstration that government types are fairly blind to how to successfully complete a major IT project. In fact, there have been so many stories of such blindness from London that it makes one wonder how they planned to use IT to manage all those cameras.

      Anyway, when you only know two companies that want to do the job... whose CEOs happen to drink in the same club that you do..... errr well, a change in name should be good enough. After all, it worked for those blokes who make voting machines in America. Right!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Emb3rz (1210286)

        those in charge have clouded vision

        some even wear bloody blindfolds

        Their lasik surgery went wrong and now the bleeding won't stop...?<rimshot />

      • Re:Because... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:43PM (#25821323) Journal
        What are they supposed to do? "Oh, these people are all stupid. Lets chuck em out and get some better ones." The problem isn't that they can't solve the problem. The problem is, they're being employed to try in the first place. Raise taxes. Make public transportation absolutely free. Watch cars on the road go down. Watch societal energy requirements go down. Watch population redistribute themselves along the public transportation corridors, reducing energy requirements further. Watch everyone get that little bit richer as a consequence. Problems solved. The strategy makers are the problem.
        • Re:Because... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hattig (47930) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:02PM (#25821603) Journal

          For the most part Oyster cards work extremely well. Two downtimes in several years isn't the worst thing ever considering the number of people with travelcards on their Oyster cards who are paying regardless of whether the system is up or down at a particular time.

          Without Oyster the entire network would grind to a halt at peak hours due to added processing time (even to put a ticket through the tube gate machines, never mind queues and buying bus tickets instead of simply swiping).

          There isn't any room to raise taxes right now, they've done it consistently over the past 11 years until people have very little spare cash. Anyway, Oyster works in London, which has the congestion charge for cars, so most people don't drive to work here if they don't have to. If they did they wouldn't ever get to work.

          The only issue is the Oyster card hack, that took years to appear. But the track record is pretty impressive, so choosing them as the supplier seems quite a sensible solution to me. At least it wasn't one of the waste of time governmental contractors like EDS who just absorb public money in return for nothing or freedom-inhibiting systems.

          • by hattig (47930)

            Oh, bollocks, EDS is part of TranSys. D'oh!

            That's probably what caused the problem in the first place.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hognoxious (631665)
              I was just going to comment that if they'd hired EDS the system wouldn't have gone down - it wouldn't have been running in the first place.
          • Re:Because... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Candid88 (1292486) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:43AM (#25830157)

            I would have to agree that the Oyster card has all-in-all been a success. I used to live in London in the late 90's and at peak times you would have 20-person queues at each barrier-gate as the millions of people who use the "tube" daily tried to insert their paper card in the the narrow slit.

            Using the tube on recent holiday to the U.K. I noticed things certainly seemed to go smoother with the majority of people swiping a card above a sensor at much greater speed than previously.

            This is an example of technology making things easier and more efficient for the end-user. Exactly what technology should do.

            • by theaveng (1243528)

              I'd buy a car rather than put-up with that crap. A 60mpg Lupo TDI gets decent mileage, and you can buy one used for around $10,000. (~5000 pounds)

          • by Fred_A (10934)

            The oyster cards certainly work much better than the underground lines. They should work on fixing that instead. (What ? bl*dy Circle line is closed *again* ?)

        • Okay, comrade.

          • Ever notice how the people who make the snarky remarks about communism always have houses full of objects that were manufactured in communist countries, and yet, somehow, they still manage to feel that their society is superior, even though they're nothing but con artists and goons when you get right down to it?

            Yeah, me too.

            • by PachmanP (881352)
              Their society is superior. They have managed to subjugate the communist country and make its populace make cheap running shoes. There are but a few ways to measure societal superiority and for most of history that's been it. So there!
            • What are you doing in my house?

              Get out of here stalker.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jonbryce (703250)

          The problem is that London's transport system can't cope the the volume of passengers that use it at the moment. Make it free, and the whole system will completely melt down from the number of people using it.

          Very few people drive to work in London, as parking is way more expensive than public transport, and there is congestion charge on top.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        That's true of any bureaucracy.

        bureaucracy do complected things well. Most people only se the bureaucracy thorough a keyholes. as such often what they see makes little sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    London needs help on their series of tubes.

  • Damaged RFID cards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:22PM (#25820973) Homepage

    Why do the cards need to be writeable in a way that can cause permanent damage?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531)

      Unless I'm misunderstanding, it's not writing to them, it's overloading them. RFID works a bit like a crystal set radio, they're powered off the transmission and use that power to transmit a signal back. Transmit a powerful enough signal to them, and you fry the chip.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by djdavetrouble (442175)

        Transmit a powerful enough signal to them, and you fry the chip.

        So if I walk through a facility with my Chip Frier(TM) I can just wantonly destroy
        any RFID chip that stands in the way of me and my goal? That seems bad.

        • by autocracy (192714) *
          Well, yes... yes you could.
        • by guruevi (827432)

          Yup, you can indeed do so. Of course, you might need some protection for your 'junk'. Sure a lead apron won't cause any suspicion.

        • I'd love to know how how long someone could carry an active chip frier [wikipedia.org] on the tube before being shot by a policeman who thought it was a table leg.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chabil Ha' (875116)

      A casual look at wikipedia [wikipedia.org] reveals the following:

      The system is asynchronous, with the current balance and ticket data held electronically on the card rather than in the central database. The main database is updated periodically with information received from the card by barriers and validators. Tickets purchased online or over the telephone are "loaded" at a preselected barrier or validator./quote

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > The system is asynchronous, with the current balance and ticket data held electronically
        > on the card rather than in the central database.

        This is remarkably stupid.

        • Why is it incredibly studid?

          • by duguk (589689)
            It's relying on that the RFID card had not been tampered with, changed or duplicated. If it was stored server-side, the major problem would probably mostly only be with duplicated cards.

            I love the articles about the UK; my sarcasm detector goes off the scale.
            • by AdamInParadise (257888) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:52PM (#25822429) Homepage

              Well, with a server-side solution, you just have to make sure that every turnstile can call a central server and process a transaction in less than 200ms. This includes the turnstiles in buses and in remote locations...

              Truth is, every transportation system with more than a few fixed turnstile stores the rights of the user locally, in the smartcard chip. Of course, transactions logs are analysed every night and it is usually possible to detect incoherences between the values stored in the card and the reference value stored in the server. In that case, the ID of the misbehaving card is placed on a "hot list" and the card cannot be used anymore.

              Of course, this works only if you use real cryptographic algorithms (like 3DES or AES) to protect the content of the card instead of relying on a vendor's snake oil.

          • Off the top of my head...

            1. Anyone capable of altering the card [schneier.com] can give themselves free unlimited travel.
            2. If the card is damaged to the point where it no longer works, you lose your remaining balance.

            It's the RFID equivalent of storing all your Internet banking data (accounts, balances, etc.) on the client side as a browser cookie.

            • 1. Anyone capable of altering the card can give themselves free unlimited travel.

              Yeah, sure. That's why transport operators with half a clue use standard cryptographic algorithms to protect the content of their cards instead of proprietary, unpublished algorithms like the Oyster card.

              2. If the card is damaged to the point where it no longer works, you lose your remaining balance.

              Storing the data in the card does not prevent you from mirroring it on a server.

              The objections you rise are valid. Thankfully the smartcard industry knows how to handle them.

              • The objections you rise are valid. Thankfully the smartcard industry knows how to handle them.

                Yeah, because they've been doing a great [theregister.co.uk] job [avirubin.com] so [computerworld.co.nz] far [avirubin.com]...

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  The first link is related to the Mifare hack. Mifare cards are insecure, this has been known for a long time. Now I will grant you that the response from the MTBA and NXP have been distateful but predictable.

                  The second link is an "Analysis of an Electronic Voting System" so it has nothing to do with the security of smartcards per se. If Diebold doesn't know how to implement a secure voting system, this cannot be blamed on smartcards.

                  The third link points to a PR from the Smart Card Alliance ("a nonprofit in

              • > Storing the data in the card does not prevent you from mirroring it on a server.

                What's the point of doing both?

                • Its a bit tricky for a bus far away to contact a central server to validate everything in a reasonable amount of time.

        • It has to work like this in order to work on buses. The buses upload their data to the central database at the end of their route. AFAIK the other forms of transport (underground & train) use 'live' data.
        • This is remarkably stupid.

          Oyster was designed for very high transaction rates spread across a large number of access points (not all fixed, the same cards are used on the buses) with low value transactions, querying the server at every transaction would only slow the process of getting onto public transport slower for negligible gain.

          Oyster is basically designed to query the card, deduct the amount needed for the ticket and check the ticket is used to get out at the right station.

          • by jonbryce (703250)

            For trains / tube, you are charged on exit, or if you don't exit. Otherwise it would have to ask you where you are going when you enter the station, and that would take time.

            Buses have a flat fare to anywhere in London, so you are charged on entry there.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by djt (30437)

          It's really not stupid given that the oyster card has to work across the whole tube, bus, DLR and train networks, on hand-held devices that conductors carry around the busses as well as barriers, turnstiles and 100 different ticketing systems. The Oyster card system works exceptionally well given the millions of transactions that occur daily. Changing suppliers would be an incedibly difficult move to make given the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" rule.

        • What would be your solution?

  • Two Things: (Score:5, Informative)

    by wild_quinine (998562) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:24PM (#25821009) Homepage
    1) The new contract excludes one of the original parties in the consortium.

    2) The renegotiated contract includes 'significant savings'.

    Sounds like the government decided five nines wasn't as important as cutting the bill in half... as well as one of the former parties to the contract. ;)

    • Well if they save more than 2 days worth of fares then it is worth it for them.
    • Never under estimate the power of a backhander.
    • by jimicus (737525)

      Sounds like the government decided five nines wasn't as important as cutting the bill in half... as well as one of the former parties to the contract. ;)

      Probably because each extra guaranteed nine adds a phenomenal amount in cost, and there is nobody on Earth who can change that.

      Sooner or later, you have to be pragmatic and say "We may have the occasional bit of downtime, but accepting that will be a damn sight cheaper than trying to reduce the downtime any further".

  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:25PM (#25821039)

    TranSys is a consortium of four global companies:

    • Electronic Data Systems (EDS)
    • Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS)
    • Fujitsu Services Limited
    • WS Atkins
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Electronic Data Systems (EDS)

      Well theres yer' problem!

  • Bank station (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:29PM (#25821115) Homepage

    So, who here from London has the misfortune of having to use Bank or Monument Stations? I'm staggered how they can fuck something like replacing an escalator up.

    Just for everyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, here's the lowdown:

    TFL are replacing the escalators that connect Bank and Monument stations together. How long do you think this should take? 2 weeks? 1 month? Nope, here's how long:

    18 months.

    18 months to replace a fucking escalator. The building opposite where I work was put up quicker than that! Meanwhile, the poor bastards who have to use the station all have to walk down a corridor that's been designed to only take a 1/4 of the volume it's experiencing now.

    I love the advert projectors too, especially the one they've placed right in front of the LCD screen so you can't tell when the next train is due.

    Greed, nothing but.

    • by Kenshin (43036)

      18 months? I'm amazed. I thought the TTC (Toronto) had lengthy escalator repair times.

      They always put signs up with the date it should be back in service, and week-to-week they extend that date by another week. (Some of the damn things are broken more than they're working.)

      • I noticed that too in Toronto, but I also noticed that the escalators in a lot of other places (notably a bunch of Chapters locations, stores, etc) seemed to also break down quite frequently. The stores tended to get things fixed a bit faster than the TTC, but overall I'm wondering if there's a shortage of escalator repair-persons or perhaps the parts are in short supply (I've heard that many parts come from overseas - Germany I think - and are available only from a very small number of suppliers).

        • I used to work for a company that made control panels, for the new york subway one of the requirements was they had to be bullet proof - literally.

          Ther e wasn't many places that we wouldn't work but the new york subway and sierra leone were two that we decided to give a miss.
            so yes it could be escalator repairmen could be in short supply.

      • by PachmanP (881352)
        An escalator can never break! It can only become stairs!
        http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/index.jhtml?videoId=41938&title=mitch-hedberg-wall-knocking [comedycentral.com]
    • by paulius_g (808556)

      They changed some escalators in the Montreal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) metro too and it seemed like it took forever.

      I recall the escalator change at the Guy Concordia station taking at least 12 months, more like 14 I believe.

      Now they also have their new Opus system, which looks very similar to the Oystercard system. It's ridiculous. It's slow, their refill terminals are running Windows XP and I've seen them crash, and all the seniors using the subway are utterly confused.

    • by Timmmm (636430)

      "I love the advert projectors too"

      I hate those too. And the LCD adverts. Sadly they don't seem to have been stupid enough to leave the infrared bit of the projectors exposed...

    • Re:Bank station (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:03PM (#25825549)

      I have a friend who is an engineer working on this project.

      The back story is that TFL awarded this contract to Metronet. After a year of delay, Metronet went bust. So TFL took a few months to rethink, and re-awarded the contract to Tubelines.

      My friend has spent the last three months trying to get the basic design information out of Metronet and their sub-contractors. They are refusing to provide any, or dragging their feet so slowly that they get the same effect. So Tubelines are having to design the new escalator again from scratch.

      That's why it's taking so long....

    • At least you weren't relying on Mornington Crescent
  • My My... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:32PM (#25821153) Journal
    The great ship Titanic certainly does seem to be on a much more even keel since we moved these deck chairs around...
  • Tracking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Better not mention that this card will enable the authorities to track all travel. They have already got rid of paying by cash on a lot of bus routes, forcing cash payers to pay twice as much as the Oyster payers to "encourage" the card use. To aid this, they have recently got rid of the pre-pay paper *1 tickets under disguise of mass fraud *2. Also children under 16 get "free" *3 travel using Oyster whilst data is actually being secretly collected for the governments ID card system.

    *1: They were offering t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nogginthenog (582552)
      You don't have to register an Oyster card to an address (mine isn't, but I do use a credit card to top it up so...). I heard they are available pro-loaded from vending machines at airports.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)

      Better not mention that this card will enable the authorities to track all travel.

      I depend on the public transportation infrastructure of New York City, and I wish "the authorities" (ooo, spooky) would start tracking all travel here already.

      Right now, what does the MTA know about subway usage patterns? They know how many people get into the system at each station (thanks to electronic fare control gates), and have a pretty good idea of how many people exit the system at each station (not all exit gates hav

      • > If every passenger's entrance and exit points from the system were recorded
        > individually, that data could be analyzed to make the entire system more efficient.

        And think of the targeted advertising possibilities were your name, address, and banking details attached to that complete record of your travel patterns (not to mention the opportunities to detect "suspicious behavior").

        • And think of the targeted advertising possibilities were your name, address, and banking details attached to that complete record of your travel patterns (not to mention the opportunities to detect "suspicious behavior").

          Who said anything about my name address, and banking details? All the transit card needs to contain is a GUID and a balance of how many credits I have left.

          Targeted advertising? Bring it on. I'd much rather stare at ThinkGeek posters while I wait on the platform than Dr. Zizmor's patient

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:40PM (#25821273)

    Comments here that gripe about the UK, always seem to focus on privacy and the state. But transport in London and the rest of the UK is our real embarrasment.

    Entirely foreign owned, manned by minimum-wage slaves who can't speak a word of English and run by greedy, grossly incompetent asshats the UK public transport system is a disgrace. It's a dirty, unreliable, overcrowded, polluting, expensive, piss poor apology for a public transport system. On a good day.

    Roads and railways close at random. Everything is at a halt while speed cameras, penalty travel fines and congestion zones rob any traveller of money to feed the machine. We have a war on travel in the UK.

    It has a staggering downtime. On any random day, particualrly at weekends, you will find whole subnetworks of the UK public transport system closed off due to 'engineering works'. You'll often get stranded in some back of beyond town and need to hire a taxi, hitch-hike, sleep in a hotel (or if you have no money in a station). Surely no other system in the world is this much of a fucked up, crumbling mess.

    The airport and railway authorities are laws unto themselves, still wielding ancient bylaw legislation from the days when it was a National state run transport system. Passengers are just unwanted cattle. The fare structures are unfathomable, even if you have a degree in maths and logistics just try working out the best ticket to buy. They change the names of products and prices at random to stop any customers or intermediate sellers getting settled. They misrepresent contract law, making specious pseudo-legal announcements telling lies about where and when you must buy a ticket in order to maximise their profits. Station staff who could once help you have been sacked and replaced with machines and ticket barriers.

    Lord only knows what it costs our economy! The UK government and the private companies that run our roads and railways are a complete and utter failure at transport policy. I honestly think they have an agenda to halt the entire country and make sure everyone stays in their homes.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DavidTC (10147)

      At least you have fucking mass transit.

    • by LackThereof (916566) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:45PM (#25823193)

      You have a system in London that supports 4.5 million riders a day, in a city of 7.3 million. That's nearly 2/3 of the population.

      Here in America, most of our major metropolitan areas have abortive mass transit systems that support closer to 1/10th of their population. Diesel buses are the workhorses of our transit systems and carry the vast majority of our transit commuters. Most are standing-room-only, thanks to the gas prices of the past few years and infrequent service. Most of our metro areas are just now starting to build small light-rail transit lines to supplement the bus service.

      Be thankful you don't live in the Atlanta or Phoenix areas. At least you can get to "some back of beyond town" on your system. On ours, you're lucky if it's even theoretically possible to do a weekday commute.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by teh kurisu (701097)

      I'd say that the vast majority of your post doesn't apply to the London transport system. I've visited a couple of times this year and was amazed by how efficient and useful it was. Everything seemed to be within walking distance of a Tube or DLR station.

      Compare with Glasgow where the subway has never, ever been expanded from the single circle line, which doesn't really go anywhere now that the shipbuilding areas have collapsed. They've been talking about extending it for a while now but nothing seems to

    • by drspliff (652992)

      Don't get me started on the slave labor... after all this terrorist shizzle they removed all the wastebins from the big stations so would-be terrorists couldn't plant bombs in them.

      What did they do about all the rubbish collecting on the floor? Hired hundreds of minimum wage foreign nationals with no security vetting from countries which see terrorism far more frequently than the UK.

      *facepalm*

    • by jrumney (197329)

      On any random day, particualrly at weekends, you will find whole subnetworks of the UK public transport system closed off due to 'engineering works'. You'll often get stranded in some back of beyond town and need to hire a taxi, hitch-hike, sleep in a hotel (or if you have no money in a station).

      Alternatively, you could make use of the Rail Replacement Bus Service which is provided for you by the rail companies during engineering works.

      The biggest problem with the UK travel system is the whiners who have

      • I have lived in several countries and thus experienced various public transport systems.

        If they stopped full lines of the underground, in lets say, Mexico City, the politicians in charge would walk out of their jobs faster than you can say London Olympics.

        In Spain fast trains are contractually obliged to pay you back your money if they arrive late.

        In Barcelona underground trains do not stop at 23:00 or 00:00 and continue until the small hours in the morning (it wasn't me who tried to sell London as a 24 ho

        • by jrumney (197329)

          They seldom stop full lines on the London Underground either, except the Circle line, which has to keep going around in the same direction and is covered by other lines along all four sides, and the Waterloo and City, which has only two stations. Your example of the Jubilee line is only a short section between Stratford and North Greenwich, and if other underground rail operators are able to run for 7 years with trains up to every 3 minutes 5am - 1am without major maintenance, then they are asking for heada

    • To be fair railway track replacement takes place over weekends to minimise the disruption to commuters and contractors face massive fines if the track isn't ready to be returned to service at the end of a blockade. Worn out track is dangerous and has to be operated at reduced speed at best.

      Roads wear out too, although to be fair the biggest disruptions are caused by accidents. The last couple of days has seen a couple of fatalities on the A1 and massive tailbacks near Doncaster for example.

      To be frank if pe

      • Honestly, I have lived and travelled extensively. The UK must be the only country in the world (ok, I don't know this, but golly, it feels like that) that closes the transport systems in Xmas and New Year's day.

        And that is only for starters.

  • a lot of people use the tube.
    I wonder if it would be cheaper to subsidize it and make it 'free' to use.

    The reason I bring this up is becasue I ahve seen instances where the fee's collects just barely cover the cost of collecting fees.
    If your goal is to get cars off the road, this seems ideal.

    Note: I know nothing about the London system, my experience is in areas in the US.

    • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:08PM (#25821683) Homepage
      The instances where the fee barely covers the cost of collecting are always in less urbanized areas. In major cities, like New York and London, the fees cover most of the cost of transportation. In fact one of the things NYC's MTA is always complaining about is that the State and Federal government give huge amounts to subsidize suburban and rural public transportation and give practically nothign to the city
    • Back-of-the-envelope calculations:

      * 1,037,000,000 [tfl.gov.uk] passenger trips a year.
      * Ticket price varies roughly in a range of 2-4 GBP per trip.
      * That comes to maybe 3,000 million GBP annual revenue.

      Yes, that's 3 billion pounds (American billion) give or take a bit, which is more than the GDP for most of the smaller African nations. Apparently this is all used to cover operating costs [google.com], although annual operating cost is actually in the region of 1.2 billion pounds [tfl.gov.uk] (PDF warning, see section 3).

      Sounds to me like they're

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        It's £1.50 on Oyster, and most people have Season tickets which cost even less per journey.

      • by jimicus (737525)

        Back-of-the-envelope calculations:

        * 1,037,000,000 [tfl.gov.uk] passenger trips a year.
        * Ticket price varies roughly in a range of 2-4 GBP per trip.
        * That comes to maybe 3,000 million GBP annual revenue.

        Not quite as simple as that, because of things like travelcards (1 ticket good for unlimited travel for a day/week/month) and season tickets, but yes, I'm sure it pays for itself.

        Having said that, I don't believe London would continue to exist as a reasonably successful city for more than a week or so if the system were to completely collapse.

    • Note: I know nothing about the London system, my experience is in areas in the US.

      When it comes to transport, the UK has a lot of firsts. And especially, as that relates to rail transport.

      Ever wonder why continental europe has sexy trains on two levels, but we don't in the UK?

      Because our century and older railway bridges are too low.

      We don't have steam trains any more, but our entire infrastructure was built around them.

      Work on a London underground railway began in 1854 - although it wasn't really the London Underground till the 1930's.

  • Why has it suddenly gotten so bloody difficult?

  • Over here it's called "Snapper" (continuing the nautical theme). I'm pleased to report that while it hasn't actually anything up much as originally intended, it hasn't slowed anything down either. In other words it's not a big shambling mess like the UK version.

    I am still trying to figure out why they put it in in the first place, with its inspiration being plagued with issues.
    • ...hasn't sped* anything up much...
    • Oh -- and they're fairly benign in the privacy department. Your personal details are only linked to your card if you register, and most people don't -- they just buy the card over a counter.
    • by Timmmm (636430)

      You seem to have the impression that the oyster card is no good. Actually it is great - much faster, more convenient and cheaper (artificially admittedly) than using paper tickets. It also has high uptime (only down two days in the last several years, and it's not like that was bad for anyone because they just made transport free).

      As for the security flaws. They have only managed to change the 'cached' cash value on the card. When the back-end notices the discrepancy then the card can be banned. Although it

      • Hmm, I read an article in an NZ paper (prior to Snapper's implementation) that Oyster was riddled with problems. I guess I shouldn't believe everything I read ;)
    • Queensland, Australia has had the Go card system for awhile now.

      IMHO it works brilliantly. Its sped busses up a lot and there havent been major problems.

    • by Petrushka (815171)

      it hasn't slowed anything down either.

      Well, apart from the process of getting off a bus.

      And not mentioning the fact that, contrary to how they were initially advertised, there is no prospect of being able to use them with more than one bus company, or on any other form of public transport (e.g. suburban trains, cable cars).

      In spite of that, I don't really have anything much against them, except that I would very much like to have the choice of whether to use them or some other form of money-saving advance purchase (such as those that used to be

  • by lancejjj (924211) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:43PM (#25822273) Homepage

    So the Transport organization formed a new contract with the same parties that failed them before. HOWEVER, the new contract is much more robust, with many more protections for the transport authority, and many more penalties for the provider if and when they fail.

    So what exactly wrong with this? That someone who screwed up got a new contract?

    Let me say that there are very few organizations that have the ability to deliver ANY service in this area. Having a contractor with a track record and some history of failure doesn't mean that the contractor aren't the best choice for the job.

    Is this corruption or stupidity? Likely not. This is simple business.

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:49PM (#25825305) Homepage Journal

    should be free. It'd take a large, complex function out of running a transit system, and simplify travel. I wonder what percentage of a fare dollar goes to managing the fare collection?

    Of course, outfits like the AAA don't like the idea of transit riders getting, er, a free ride. But you don't pay to drive on a freeway, and that's pretty expensive to keep up. You don't pay the cost of the pollution you emit either. A big city like London ought to do everything it can to reduce the impact of cars: the traffic, pollution, parking problems and so forth.

    I'm not saying this is a solution for smaller cities , but for huge cities, especially old huge cities like London or New York, cars just aren't a reasonable solution to moving people around; the density of the cities makes them impractical. You could try to keep them out, of course, with high bridge tolls, but I think it makes much more sense to make public transit really, really easy to use: no fare zones, no fare cards, no toll collectors, nothing.

    • by Doug Neal (195160)

      But you don't pay to drive on a freeway, and that's pretty expensive to keep up. You don't pay the cost of the pollution you emit either.

      we do [direct.gov.uk]...

    • by drspliff (652992)

      I live in London and I'm well aware of the problems and benefits of driving through it compared to using public transport.

      One of my friends who drives everywhere thought it'd be a good idea to drive to Kings Cross from surrey, so me, another friend and the driver set off and get to about Croydon quite quickly, at this point I suggest we park the car somewhere safe and go there by public transport.

      He refused even though we both tried to tell him about how much hell London is on a friday rush-hour, so the oth

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