Met with Cubic – the company who deliver Oyster – yesterday. I met them at Alexandra Park Station where they said that Oyster compatibility for such train services would be coming to in mid 2009. Hurrah! Having a joined up system will bring much benefit to local travellers!
But their bigger quest is to get Oyster-compatible ticketing across the nation. Their problem – it is low on the Government’s priority list – and no one in the Government transport team seems to want to champion it, even though it would be cheaper and more effective in the long run to do it as a complete scheme now – rather than piecemeal as and when franchises come up.
Of course – Cubic have their own interests in seeing Oyster go national, but seeing the benefits it has brought to public transport use in London, it is in all our interests to see it spread.
Its especially of interest to the police…I’m sure that the ID Card supporters will like it too. Link you Oyster to your ID Card and you have the potential for even better population movement tracking.The technology is good, but the controls to prevent abuse of information are not strong enough.
The Dutch government have commissioned a review into the use of RFID transport cards after the computer security group at Raboud University in Nijmegen managed to gain access to the encryption key of the MIFARE classic chip that is the basis of the ov-chipkarrt used in Dutch public transport RFID cards, and the London Oyster cards. Both have other security features but most security experts think this is the first step to beating the cards.
Oyster technology as it stands doesn’t scale much further than it stretches at present, its a monolithic system (so a Manchester Oyster scheme would run separately from the London scheme), and its security is fragile, but DfT says that it is supporting layering of the national spec, scalable ITSO methodology onto London’s Oyster. DfT unfortunately (supported by consultants who got the job through Framework Contracts rather than proven competence) did the sums wrong and thus we have stalemate. TfL has said that it will use the break point in the Transys contract (2011) to shake up the Transys PFI contract, and the price tag is going to be around £100M. Central govt mutterings suggest that PFIs are now not really a good thing (far too expensive), and the whole idea of the ITSO technology (spec and some IPR is Crown Copyright and owned by the Crown) is to bring competition to the supply of equipment and services as well as giving interoperability of tickets and the cards that carry them.The Dutch scheme is a single national one, based on Hong Kong Octopus technology (and upgradable to get it out of the Mifare problem, which has been predicted for some time) – but Holland manages its public transport in a proper partnership between public sector and private sector.Coming along is first some staff changes in DfT (end of this month) that should result in a clearer voice from that direction, and the Transport Bill allows for the creation of new Integrated Transport Authorities and the conversion of PTEs/PTAs to ITAs – Nottingham, Southampton area and perhaps Greater Bristol are likely to be first in the queue, adding to the current Metropolitan Counties that already have PTEs/PTAs.Watch this space.