Has the penny been dropped? A cashless transport network

17 April 2020

Use of cash has been decreasing in recent years, with contactless and pre-booked trips on apps now accepted widely across transport.

However, there is still a sizable minority of passengers who prefer to use cash or, in some cases, have no alternative. We know from our recently published Bus Passenger Survey that around one in five fare transactions still involves cash.

The impact of the coronavirus is changing everything. Transport staff are understandably concerned and want transport companies and passengers to do everything they can to keep them safe.

Many transport operators are now strongly encouraging passengers to pay by card wherever possible to remove cash handling as a potential virus transmission route. It’s all about the wellbeing of passengers and employees who are out there working for us all by keeping key workers moving and letting other people make their essential journeys.

Some bus companies have already removed cash as an option and others are considering a move to ‘exact fare only’ to reduce the risk. In the circumstances this is understandable. However, in other times, this is something Transport Focus would see as a passenger-unfriendly policy that makes using the bus less appealing.

Some train companies have followed suit. South Western Railway and Northern no longer accept cash in their ticket offices.

These moves pose more questions than answers:

  • How have other sectors adapted to this new challenge of handling cash?
  • What if a passenger only has cash?
  • Is now the time to be leaving potentially vulnerable passengers without a way of travelling to essential appointments?
    When we are through this crisis will it ever again be possible to use cash to pay for a journey on public transport?
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