Today, Transport for London announced that they would be terminating their support contract for the Oyster fare card at the 10-year opt-out anniversary:
Transport for London to terminate £100m a year Oyster contract.
The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) are convinced that any new contract will deliver enhanced services for less money, driving significant savings.
The Mayor is keen to improve the Oyster card to make it even more attractive for Londoners and TfL will work to make sure this happens both quickly and in a way that represents the best value.
Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Fares and Ticketing said: ‘Transport for London is committed to delivering value for money across all of its services.
‘As part of this we are looking at more cost effective ways to manage and develop the Oyster card system that we expect will save millions over the next few years.
‘The savings will be reinvested to deliver further improvements in London’s transport system.’
TfL took pains to emphasize that they think the Oyster card is a great thing, but that the cost of providing the service can be reduced from the £100-million annual cost to a consortium of private contractors. Issues have already surfaced about ownership of the “Oyster” brand and other components of the system.
Meanwhile, Torontonians continue to hear about the wonders of Presto as the salvation of regional travel. I must emphasize that I don’t object to technology per se, but in London’s case there was an overwhelming need to replace an antiquated and complex fare structure and fare collection system. Toronto does not face the same level of complexity.
An odd thing seems to grip advocates for technologies in various guises: all of that private sector, value for money, keep an eye on the taxpayer’s dollar stuff flies out the window the moment someone wants to sell a system. Metrolinx and Queen’s Park seem to be big on “alternate financing”, a scheme by which we keep the cost of infrastructure off of the public books by having a private company own and operate it under a long-term service agreement.
Will they turn the same eagle eye on Presto, or will we simply be dragged into the new system without understanding its true cost? The last time I heard, the cost to implement just for the TTC was approaching $250-million, plus annual costs to operate the system of at least $10-million greater than the current elderly but simple token and pass scheme.
Will there be a option to get out of the Presto contract at, say, a 10-year anniversary as there is in London? Will the contract be written to ensure that the infrastructure, the trademark and any valuable side-agreements such as the use of a fare card as an electronic wallet stay in the public realm? Will we just give away the store like Highway 407 to the salesman with the best song-and-dance who offers a quick solution, don’t fret about the details?