The Thames Clipper is the only commuter service in Britain (that I know of) which offers commuters and tourists alike the ability to pay as you go via contactless payment. This is in addition to accepting contactless Oyster card and regular plastic payments just like on the regular Tube, Overground and London bus services. These contactless payments are only acceptable on-board the boats. Nobody at the ticket booths are equipped with the equipments necessary to process contactless payment.
|The 'I am on a boat' moment|
Now imagine this happening on the Tube.
In my experience, contactless payment appears to take anywhere between five seconds to 15 seconds to process (from tap to receipt), depending on the condition of the network and other shenanigans. An Oyster card takes a fraction of a second (300-350 milliseconds I heard). Modern NFC chipsets like the one on the Galaxy S III aren't slow, but contactless payment mechanism is as it requires authentication from the bank before the payment is validated. Yes, contactless is a good enough upgrade over chip and pin for coffee shops to take advantage of, but right now it is just way too slow for mass transit use where passenger flow is a critical factor. Even an additional 100 millisecond delay will add up considerably.
|Now that is what I call a boat|
TfL can probably fix this issue by introducing a proprietary Oyster card app for NFC-enabled smartphones that syncs credits or tokens from customers Oyster card accounts. This has nothing to do with contactless bank card payment we were talking about earlier, but it does at least allows customers with NFC-ed phones to carry one less card. Almost ten years since receiving my first Oyster card, I have yet to see a better solution than just using the darn thing. I am not saying we should not progress, but until we see a solution that is actually better, why switch? When and if contactless payments are ever deployed on the Tube, it should be because it is better and faster, not because we want to lighten our wallets by 5 grams.
Besides, you can't turn your phone into a magic Oyster wand.