It's taken a while, but the London Transport smartcard scheme is going public. The last stage of testing before it goes properly live starts today, with 80,000 members of staff in the London Transport system being issued with Oyster cards. That's a lot of people -- no wonder the fares keep going up.
Of course, the benefits to the passenger are being touted heavily -- convenience, security and the possibilities of using the cards to get discounts on other services. It also merges nicely with the overt Big Brother attitude of Transport for London: now they don't only have you on camera, they can tell who you are from the machines that let you on the bus or tube in the first place. All very well, provided only that this information stays on the network and no bad people find a way in: it'll be a field day for stalkers and others if they can type in the name of their prey into Google and find out that they're currently on the 73 to Stoke Newington.
This also raises the potential for Uncle Ken's traffic congestion scheme -- where all drivers in Central London will incur a £5/day charge -- to be extended to pedestrians. Will readers be placed on all the entrances to the West End during the Christmas shopping rush? Never mind the human rights issues: if this rids the place of plump secretaries blocking the pavements with yard-wide bags of retail booty, entire herds of Northerners ambling slack-jawed at 0.05 miles an hour past HMV while a giant tide of annoyed humanity builds up behind them, and anyone who's ever sold or bought a roast chestnut in their lives, then I'm all for it.