Bringing London’s River Bus Payments Up to Speed


To reduce the squeeze on the city’s buses and trains, the Mayor of London wanted to increase the number of passengers using the river as a means of commuting. By the end of 2014, with investment in new routes, infrastructure and fleet expansion, River Bus passenger numbers had increased to 3.8 million.

Crucial to maintaining and building on this success was improving ticket payment options though – namely, introducing services familiar to London public transport, i.e. Oyster Pay As You Go (PAYG) and contactless card payments. Transport for London therefore undertook a project with Cubic Transportation Systems to design and introduce a new instant payment solution which had contactless Oyster card readers, known as validators, installed on piers served by MBNA Thames Clippers’ River Bus.


The Challenge

To create a new and familiar contactless payment solution to encourage London’s commuters to use the River Bus, a service operated by MBNA Thames Clippers.


The Solution provided the Sierra Wireless AirLink ES450 and Panorama LPMM antenna for:

+ Persistent and reliable 4G cellular connectivity

+ Remote monitoring, management and troubleshooting

+ Long life-span of the AirLink ES450 matches that of the payment validator unit

+ Secure and PCI compliant

+ Distribution support and services that met the client’s needs

+ Easy and rapid deployment of the solution


The Results

+ 76 new contactless payment validators have been rolled out to over 20 piers to-date

+ London’s River Bus has seen an improved pre-boarding experience and flow of passenger traffic due to the instant nature of the contactless and Oyster card payments

+ Around one half of the River Bus passengers now use either Oyster or Contactless to pay as you go

+ Remote management and monitoring capabilities mean the live environment can be sustained easily by Cubic Transportation, as well as ensuring low operational costs


Using the mobile technology provided by the Sierra Wireless ES450, the validators work by the customer touching the reader with their Oyster card or contactless card; using the same “touch in, touch out” process that’s been familiar to London commuters for many years. The location on the piers meant LAN communications were not readily available so 4G LTE connectivity would be required. As well as this, the chosen connectivity solution needed to match the 5-year life cycle of the validator as updating the 4G solution in life would incur operational costs.

After reviewing the options, Cubic selected the Sierra Wireless ES450 to fill the 4G connectivity requirement of their new validator. Meeting each of the outlined requirements, it was the perfect solution and its SNMP (simple network management protocol) capabilities meant it could even integrate directly with Cubic’s existing management systems with ease.

The successful rollout of the new ticket validators on the River Bus piers have shown the new payment system to be both highly successful and reliable. With a payment solution that can be managed remotely, a secure network to protect financial data, and reliable connectivity to provide uninterrupted transactions, the future of London’s River Bus travel looks set to be a continued triumph.

“The new payment solution for River Bus services would not have been possible without reliable secure connectivity. We are proud to have supported Cubic in the successful roll out of the new contactless system and helped deliver on the Mayor’s vision for making river transport a regular choice for commuters ,” said Chris Kerslake, Senior Account Director for



“To encourage use of the familiar Oyster and contactless payments for River Bus journeys, we had to create a device that was efficient, secure and reliable. The connectivity provided by the Sierra Wireless device delivered on all of these; our testing and the results seen since the rollout have more than proved it to be the right choice. – Curtis Wheaton, Senior Project Manager, Cubic Transportation Systems.



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