Contactless and Oyster cards reinstated on more than 1,000 buses

22 May 2020

Transport for London (TfL) announced today that it will begin the phased re-introduction of the requirement for passengers to touch in on buses with their contactless, Oyster or concessionary card, starting with routes served by single-door and New Routemaster buses.

From Saturday 23 May, customers on 85 routes, served by more than 1,200 of these buses, will need to touch in on the card reader by the doors as they board.

This is the first step to returning all of London's buses to being able to accept payments once further safety measures have been introduced to protect bus drivers.

The requirement to touch in will follow on more routes over the coming weeks, with announcements and signage in place on bus doors to inform passengers of the requirement.

Middle-door boarding, and the suspension of the need to touch in, were temporary measures to provide greater protection to bus drivers because card readers are typically located by the front door next to where the driver sits.

TfL has since worked to return to operation card readers located by the middle doors of New Routemasters and has also introduced a wide range of safety measures, including working with its operators, suppliers and trade unions to implement changes to the protective screen around the driver. On the buses where these changes apply, all protective screens have now had the openings where cash was previously accepted sealed off, in addition to the vinyl screen that was fitted a number of weeks ago to close communication holes. This step will be taken across the network to further boost safety for drivers which, once completed, will enable customers to touch in again as normal across London's entire bus network.

TfL has a rigorous cleaning regime to kill the virus across all transport services using new, anti-viral fluid in stations, depots, bus garages, trains and on buses, including inside the driver's cab. Hand sanitiser dispensers are also being introduced across the transport network, including at all bus stations.

Following advice from the Government and the Mayor, TfL is urging all customers to use a face covering when using public transport to help control the spread of coronavirus and masks are now available for all bus drivers.

The requirement to touch in will also restore TfL's ability to collect accurate data on the number of passengers using buses. This will help with route planning to help plan for the national requirement for people to maintain a two-metre distance between each other wherever possible.

TfL has ramped up bus services over the last week, operating 85 per cent of normal services and is working to return to 100 per cent of service as soon as possible. However, the requirement to maintain social distancing means that the effective capacity of the bus network is hugely reduced compared to what it was before the crisis.

The clear advice from the Government and the Mayor is that Londoners should avoid using public transport wherever possible to free up the limited space available for those who have no alternative means of transport.

People who can continue to work from home should continue to do so. People are asked to walk or cycle if they can using the existing and extensive new cycling lanes and widened pavements.

Bus drivers are playing a vital role during this crisis and TfL asks that passengers follow signage and the advice of drivers and TfL staff when travelling on the network. Anyone using buses should help us maintain social distancing wherever possible by respecting the space of fellow passengers to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: "TfL is continuing to ramp up transport services to where they were before the coronavirus pandemic, despite a significant number of their frontline staff still being off sick, self-isolating or shielding. This week 85 per cent of bus and Tube services have been operating, while the Circle line and seven Tube stations have reopened.

"But public transport must remain a precious resource that should only be used by Londoners who have no alternative, while we are still in lockdown. So even when we are running 100 per cent services again, I urge Londoners to think of others by staying off the network and continuing to work from home. And if you have to make essential journeys, try to do so on foot or by bike.

"I am pleased that TfL have made these changes which enable Oyster and contactless payments to begin to be reinstated in way that protects passengers who have to travel by bus and our heroic transport workers. To keep us all safe, it's imperative that Londoners who have to travel on our network wear a non-medical face covering, follow the signage and avoid the busiest times."

Claire Mann, TfL's Director of Bus Operations, said: "We have made changes that allow customers to touch in safely on 85 bus routes served by more than a thousand buses. This, added to the increased services that we are now able to provide, will help social distancing wherever possible and give us a more accurate picture of the number of customers so that we plan, and if necessary adjust, the bus network more effectively.

"It is still vital to the safety of everyone that people follow advice from the Government and Mayor and continue to avoid using public transport wherever possible to free up the limited space for those who have no alternative means of transport. People should work from home if they can, and consider walking or cycling.

 "This is a phased return to reinstating payments, so please follow the instructions and signage on the bus. And whatever buses you use, please wear a face covering. This allows bus drivers, and those who need to use buses, to continue to do so safely.

"Everyone is doing their best in these extraordinary circumstances and we need the help of all Londoners. Please help us by respecting the space of others, making room to allow people to get on and off buses, and by using the top deck too of possible."

  • The new operation of buses builds on the enhanced social distancing measures already introduced by TfL after working closely with the trade union Unite. This includes signage asking passengers not to sit in the seats near the driver's cab, improvements to the protective screen that shields drivers and regular announcements to reinforce the need to keep a safe space from others.
  • London's bus drivers are now all able to access face masks.
  • Bus passengers are asked to observe social distancing at stops and bus stations wherever possible, to temporarily board buses through the middle doors and to allow other passengers to get on and off while maintaining social distancing. Bus passengers are also asked to make use of all available space, including the upper deck.  If buses are very busy, customers are asked to wait for the next bus.
  • Social distancing markers at bus stops and shelters have been installed across London.
  • TfL is funding enhanced sick pay for bus staff who are suffering from coronavirus symptoms, or have to self-isolate for up to 14 days because someone in their household has symptoms. This is to ensure drivers don't feel forced to attend work for financial reasons when they shouldn't, while ensuring there are sufficient drivers to maintain the service for critical workers.
  • Extensive daily cleaning takes place across the network, ensuring that 'touch points' on buses (including steering wheel, poles, doors and handles) are treated with antiviral cleaner (as used elsewhere in TfL) every night after the regular cleaning is completed. Bus garages and rest rooms are similarly treated daily.

Notes to editors

The written ministerial statement of 18 May 2020 covering the recent funding and financing agreement between the Department for Transport and Transport for London said: "We have also set a number of other conditions, including requiring TfL to collect fares on buses while ensuring driver safety, which it had stopped doing during the crisis."

From Saturday 23 May, passengers are required to touch in on these routes.

Single door routes:

124, 138, 146, 162, 192, 233, 273, 315, 318, 322, 336, 352, 354, 356, 367, 377, 379, 383, 385, 394, 404, 424, 434, 462, 463, 464, 481, 631, B13, B14, E5, E10, E11, G1, H2, H3, H20, H26, K1, K4, K5, R1, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7, R8, R10, S3, S4, U9, W4, W5 and W12

The first New Routemaster bus routes where passengers should touch in at the middle door:

3, 9, 11, 12, 15, 19, 21, 24, 27, 38, 59, 67, 68, 73, 76, 87, 137, 148, 149, 159, 211, 253, 254, 415, 453, EL1, EL2 and EL3

Single-decker routes 507 and 521 will also return to taking contactless and Oyster payments but will continue to use middle door boarding.

Middle-door only boarding will operate until further notice.