Automatic Fare Collection

and automatic ticket checking

London Transport (LT) and its predecessors have long realized that self–service ticket issuing was an essential adjunct to the traditional purchase of tickets from ticket offices. LT was at the forefront in developing self–service machines which were also very simple and quick to use.

With the arrival of the Underground's Victoria Line in the 1960s it was thought that further automation was necessary to avoid the need for huge numbers of additional staff. This led to the proposal to automate ticket inspection as well as the ticket issuing process.

This Essay tells the story of all this from the earliest day until AFC (Automatic Fare Collection) was developed as an all encompassing concept in the late 1960s. The task should not be underestimated as station-based computers were just a dream and all examination had to be undertaken using then novel diode-diode technology. The article covers the scale down in the late 1970s (for the technology wasn't really up to the job.

It has now been possible to include a brief survey of the attempt to introduce Automatic Fare Collection on London buses in the 1970s and 1980s. The problems and technologies were very different to those on the Underground.

Finally it has been possible to include, briefly, the emergence of smartcard technology and the ability to harmonize ticketing practice across Underground and buses and the various other transport modes, firstly using Oyster and now Contactless.

Any comments, or additional information, will be especially welcome.

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Useful links

Oystercard website

Cubic Corporation history

The Underground's first ticket gate (newsreel)

London Transport (Underground) AFC promotional film

New Red Arrow buses, 1966 newsreel showing AFC equipment

Working of London Transport Passimeter Ticket Office film, shows Rapid Printer in operation

Harrow Smartcard Experiment video (and other smartcard videos)