Get ready to say farewell to those sometimes baffling and idiosyncratic ticket machines which stand like sentinels on the platforms of every stop on the Croydon Tramlink network.
Transport for London has begun an eight-week public consultation on plans to make trams in London “cashless”.
Which everyone should, by now, realise that that means that TfL is intent on making the Croydon tram network cashless, and getting rid of ticket machines.
Of course, essentially, the tram network has been cashless since Day One, with no conductors on board to sell tickets, and drivers never being expected to collect fares or check passengers’ travel cards.
But according to an announcement from TfL this week, the cash ticket machines at the various trackside halts will be removed from the tram network within the next few months.
The Schlumberger ticket machines were installed when the system was opened in 2000. The machines feature an electronic display and are operated by a toggle wheel. It is a system similar in design to that used on the Docklands Light Railway and on France’s SNCF, which always gave the tram network a feeling of a slightly sophisticated, Continental otherness.
So with Brexit coming in some form or other, getting rid of this vestage of foreignness might be timely.
TfL claims that the ticket machines “only sell a small number of the more expensive paper tickets every week and do not allow customers to top-up their Oyster card”.
Which may be true.
But nonetheless, removing a cash-paying option at tram stops seems to be an odd thing to do under a Labour Mayor, as it can only make public transport less accessible for those who use or need it most.
But hey: this is the same TfL which at the weekend started removing bus stops from around the Sainsbury’s on the Purley Way, apparently uninterested in the appeals of local (Labour) ward councillors and the public about issues of transport access for those who need it the most.
Because the removal of ticket machines from tram stops will undoubtedly impact the least well-off the hardest, because they are least likely to possess all-singing, all-dancing smart phones for contactless payments. But hey, it might help to save TfL a few thousand quid on maintenance each year.
And woe betide you, even after they have removed the ticket machines, if you get caught on a tram without a valid payment device.
TfL says that, “As the ticket machines, which were installed when the tram system opened in 2000, have such low usage and have now reached the end of their useful life, it is no longer cost-effective for TfL to maintain them or have them replaced.
“It is, therefore, proposed that TfL remove the machines and ask any customers who still buy paper tickets to switch to Oyster or contactless. Customers will be able to top up their Oyster cards at Oyster Ticket Stops along the route, at ticket machines at National Rail stations or via the TfL website and forthcoming TfL ticketing app.”
TfL reckons that only 0.3 per cent of single tram journeys are paid for with a ticket bought from a tram stop ticket machine, or fewer than 250 tickets per day. More than half of these are sold from 10 tram stops, TfL says.
A paper ticket bought from a ticket machine costs £2.60 whereas the equivalent pay-as-you-go single fare with Oyster or a contactless bank card is £1.50. Customers using pay-as-you-go also have access to the Mayor’s Hopper fare, which gives a second tram or bus journey for free within one hour of touching in on the first tram or bus journey.
TfL says, “Subject to the results of the consultation…” Ha! “… a final decision on whether to remove the machines will be made early next year.” Like a decision hasn’t already been made.
The consultation runs until Sunday October 29.
To find out more, see details of our public drop-in sessions and to have your say visit www.tfl.gov.uk/cashless-trams
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