14 August 2008

Oyster name in dispute

Tuesday's London Standard reports that, since the two incredibly costly failures of the Oyster Card system last month - which say hundreds of thousands of passengers travel free, Transport for London has sacked private sector contractor TranSys from the £100million-a-year Oyster card deal, using a "break" clause to terminate the 17-year contract in 2010.

TfL, however, wants to retain the Oyster brand name, owned by TranSys - and the sacked company does not appear to be giving it up willingly. It could force TfL to issue new cards to the current six million holders with another brand name applied. Senior TfL sources have told the London Standard the legal battle could cost "tens of millions of pounds".

It's always struck me as a rather odd name to give such a scheme - Oyster. Think of 'oyster' and my mind conjours up expensive mollusks in exclusive restaurants. 'Exclusive' and 'expensive' are not two associated words I ever thought an operator would want to be lumbered with. But then this is the very much regulated London transport system and TfL have arguably made cash payment so difficult and expensive now that people are forced to use an Oyster in order to save money. Perhaps, in so doing, TfL has actually reversed the fortune of the term 'oyster' and that people now see it as a money-saving, hassle-free word? Type 'oyster' into Google and the first page is awash with the London cashless scheme, not the expensive and exclusive mollusk.

The cost involved in altering notices and signage for the Oyster Card is likely to be vast, too; well worth TfL's time and effort to take TranSys to court!