Oyster card reader (Photo: TfL)

UK: Transport for London has begun procurement for the Project Proteus contract to operate, maintain and expand its fare collection systems, which envisages a number of changes to the business.

The contract has an estimated value of £800m over a seven-year term, which will start when Cubic Transportation Systems’ current contract expires in August 2026. Options to extend the agreement could take the total value to £1·5bn over 12 years.


Contactless payment

TfL’s multi-modal fare system currently supports legacy magnetic stripe tickets, the Oyster closed-loop proprietary smart card, contactless payment and the ITSO national smart card specification. It covers around 1 000 London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and National Rail stations, 8 500 buses, the Croydon tram network and 4 000 Oyster ticket retailers.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the fare system was handling around 4 billion journeys/year. TfL anticipates that demand will return to pre-pandemic levels before the transition to the new contract.

Planned changes during the Proteus contract period include:

  • the roll-out of new card readers at stations;
  • enabling mobile devices to be linked with payment cards to support interchangeable use of devices;
  • making Oyster an account-based system, with significant upgrades to retail assets, changes to readers to support new risk management models, software changes and decommissioning the legacy equipment;
  • replacement of handheld Android devices for revenue inspection, possibly adding the ability to check barcode tickets;
  • supporting the replacement of the iBus automatic vehicle location system;
  • a front-office and back-office refresh.

Proteus is intended to enable potential future revenue collection services, including supporting the Department for Transport’s national ticketing aspirations, Heathrow Express services, ‘emerging forms of mobility’ including micro-mobility, Mobility-as-a-Service, and commercial utilisation of revenue collection data.

Discussions are on-going with DfT around the scope and timing of Project Oval, which aims to extend contactless pay-as-you-go travel to National Rail stations across the southeast of England. Any assets delivered prior to the contract award would be included in Proteus.


Requests to participate in the Proteus procurement must be submitted by January 27 2023. Invitations to tender are expected to be issued on March 6.

The contract would be awarded in August 2024, with mobilisation and transition planning to be followed by a phased transition to full service in August 2026.