London transport operator dumps card-payment contractor

LONDON – Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will end its contract with TranSys, the consortium in charge of maintaining the cross-network Oyster smartcard system.

The announcement comes after the Oyster card system collapsed twice in July.

The Oyster card was introduced across the TfL network in 2003. There are now more than six million cards in use and 38 million journeys are made each week using Oyster. The cards are accepted across London Tube, bus, DLR, London Overground and parts of the Greater London rail network.

Also last month, a Dutch judge ruled that the hacking techniques needed to copy Oyster cards could be published. The security flaws were uncovered in March 2008 by Professor Bart Jacobs and colleagues at Radboud University, Nijmegen. The flaws impact Mifare Classic RFID, the main technology used in many e-ticketing systems, including the London Oyster card.

TfL is terminating the contract with TranSys, the consortium whose principal partners are EDS and Cubic, by exercising a break option in the contract. The contract is for developing, installing, managing and maintaining London’s automated fare collection system and will end in 2010.

In a statement, TfL said it is looking for “enhanced services for less money, driving significant savings.” TfL was unable to add further comment on the cause of the system failures at time of writing.

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.”

A TranSys spokesperson said: “TranSys, the consortium responsible for delivering Oyster, has received official notification that TfL has invoked the break clause which forms part of the Prestige contract. As with the majority of PFIs, the Prestige contract, which has been in existence since 1998 and includes Oyster, incorporates a 10 year break clause element. The London transport system has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. For the benefit of all stakeholders, contract negotiations have been taking place over the last year between TranSys and TfL. The TranSys consortium will continue to operate and deliver for the next two years.”

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