Forcing Change Through

Sometimes change takes place whether it is popular or not. At 04:30am on the 6th of July, London Buses stopped taking cash.

Transport for London (TfL) ran a consultation period, and while 67% of respondents (customers) were against the idea, it was implemented anyway.

The changes mean that customers need to have a valid Oyster Card, or contactless debit card in order to use the bus.  TfL outlined the benefits of doing so as follows:

  1. Savings of £140m over ten years that would be re-invested into the network
  2. Customers would benefit from always having the best value fare
  3. Boarding times would be decreased, reducing travel time
  4. Increased driver safety for not having to carry cash

When I’m looking at a change initiative, I’m always thinking those two well used phrases “what’s in it for me” and “what’s in it for them”.  I think of change really embedding at the sweet spot where those two overlap.  With the change to remove cash fares, I see the benefit for TfL (not having to deal with cash, lower costs), but I don’t see the main advertised benefit (that of the saving of the money) as being for me, and certainly not negated by my perceived dis-benefit, ie, that my fall back option of using cash on a bus has been removed.

For the proposed changes to be implemented, they had to be approved by the Mayor’s office.  The Mayor’s office had concerns, but approved on the condition that TfL promised to do some things in mitigation of problems outlined by stakeholders in the consultation period.  Namely:

  1. A campaign to raise awareness of the impending change, both on buses and elsewhere, so that people knew it was coming
  2. An update to the technology around Oyster Cards to allow one trip without credit
  3. A review and reiteration to its drivers around its policy regarding vulnerable people
  4. A review of the number of “Ticket Stops” (locations, usually newsagents where Oyster can be purchased / topped up).

TfL budgeted £700k for marketing in year one and two of the implementation.  They updated the software to allow a trip without credit at a cost of £9m.  Drivers were reminded of their policy on vulnerable people and 19 additional ticket stops have come into the network.

Was this a successful change?  There is no doubt that you cannot use cash on London buses any more.  Were passengers encouraged to embrace the change?  Did TfL do enough in their mitigation?  Or was the change, in a way, forced upon passengers?

It would be fascinating to see, if consulted now, what percentage of passengers support the change.



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