Published: 07/08/2020

The Case for Cashless Transport

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The Case for Cashless Transport 

The number of councils in England that describe themselves as ‘cashless’ is rising. This means that they no longer accept notes and coins when it comes to paying for services such as waste collection, parking tickets and fines. In some areas, bus routes are no longer accessible to those who want to pay by cash and bus companies, such as First Group, offer cheaper fares to those who opt to buy their tickets online. Go Ahead, the UK’s leading public transport company, has moved to contactless, smartcards and mobile tickets in 2019. 

Many people question if our society is ready for a fully cashless transport system. However, it is easy to understand what the benefits of a cashless public transport system would be. 

  • Faster transaction times Picture this. You’re late for work so you hop-on a later bus than usual. In theory, you should still be able to sit down at your desk on time. But, as more and more people queue up to buy a ticket, it’s clear that this won’t be the case.

A cashless payment system on all public transport would result in faster transaction times. Queues to board the bus would move must quicker as there would be no need to fumble around for change. This would increase the efficiency of the transport system across the UK. 

  • Tracking sales A digital payment system would enable operators to look more closely at how people use trains, trams and buses as it would provide in-depth data about how, when and why people use that particular mode of transport. The benefit? Operators would gain a deeper understanding of how to improve the system for customers.
  • Reduce running costs Handling cash comes as a price. Purchasing a train, tram or bus ticket using cash can require manned stations to be in place producing more overhead running costs. There are also bank charges for depositing cash. For bus networks, in particular, banking small amounts of cash is not cost-effective. So, operating a cashless transport system and reducing the handling of cash would save transport operators money in the long run.
  • Price flexibility The price of tickets for trains, trams and buses can alter frequently. For example, train fares have increased year on year in line with inflation. A cashless payment system would mean that operators would have the flexibility to change the price easily and can charge rates that are not limited to coin denominations.

So, what’s the issue?

There are clearly many benefits to a cashless transport system, so what is stopping it from being the norm? The issue is that in the UK, not everybody is set up for digital payments. The fear is that if transport systems go cashless, millions of people could be socially excluded from accessing services. Research conducted by Access to Cash revealed that

‘cash dependence is disproportionately linked to poverty, age, disability and vulnerability.’ A cashless society would leave over 8 million adults struggling to cope. 

So what about those areas of the country that have already adopted a cashless system on some of their transport links? 

For vulnerable people in those communities, many of them rely on services such as ours. Convenience stores with a Payzone terminal give customers the option to top-up their travel cards as well as pre-purchase and collect their train, tram and bus tickets. Other bill payment services aside from ticketing and transport include utilities, mobile phone top-ups and online gaming. 

 Access to Cash reported the following findings:

  • 34% of people like to have a choice when paying for things
  • 20% of people feel more in control of their money when they use cash
  • 16% of people find it easier to manage their household budget using cash

So for retailers, Payzone will continue to be a popular service with their customers.


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