Cash payments may no longer be accepted across the entire Tube network under plans being considered by Transport for London.
The majority of ticket machines were made card-only in April as a Covid preventative measure and TfL chiefs are now considering making all 270 Underground stations cashless, at least on a temporary basis.
However critics today warned against introducing the move “by stealth” – and warned that secondary school pupils, who are due to lose their free travel passes in November, could find it impossible to top-up their Oyster cards if they don’t have a bank account.
It is thought that the move to an entirely cashless system had been due to be implemented from next Monday but TfL appears to have backtracked on the plans after concerns were raised.
Lib-Dem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, who was alerted to the plans by concerned Tube station staff, said: “The move to solely cashless ticket machines at London Underground stations must not happen by stealth.
“We need to carefully consider the needs of people who do not have bank accounts, many of whom are on low incomes. Soon young people will also need to increasingly use ticket machines due to the Government stripping away free transport services for many under 18s. TfL also must carefully consider the needs of tourists as well.”
Buses have been cash-free since 2014 and the number of passengers using cash to pay for Tube travel has been declining annually, and now accounts for a small minority of transactions.
But with more than a million Britons not having a bank account, there are concerns that ending cash top-ups to Oyster cards could prevent many people from being able to travel.
A TfL spokesman said: “We’re focused on making our network as safe as possible for our staff and customers and we temporarily made the majority of ticket machines on London Underground cashless in April.
“We’re now considering whether there is a case for remaining stations to be made cashless on a temporary basis.
“We realise that there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account before arriving at a conclusion and this will include a thorough equalities impact assessment covering how this could affect staff and customers.
“We are also engaging with a range of stakeholders before making a decision. In the meantime, ticket machines at these remaining stations will continue to accept cash.”