Londoners, time to put your Oyster card in a different wallet

You could be in for a nasty surprise tomorrow.

Londoners, if you don't have separate Oyster card holder, it might be time to get one. A new feature introduced by TfL will make it a lot easier to get around if you don't have your card on you – but could end up costing you a lot of money if you aren't careful.

According to an email posted by BorisWatch, TfL is enabling support for contactless card payments on London buses from tomorrow.

This will let you pay for bus journeys with a card, which is useful in a pinch or if you don't have an Oyster card. Better still, you will only be charged the Oyster rate, not the full cash fare.

But in order to speed up boarding, it does not appear that TfL plan to require card users to confirm that they want to pay cash (we're waiting for confirmation on this). So if, like me and many others, you carry a contactless card in the same wallet as an Oyster travelcard, you run the risk of paying for trips which you didn't mean to do.

So time to decant that Oyster into its own holder, if you haven't already. That "Sack Boris" wallet hasn't outworn its usefulness just yet.

We are also waiting on comment from TfL to explain the discrepancy between today's email, which says the change will happen tomorrow, and the website explaining the feature, which still says "later this month". Hopefully, not too many people will be caught out if the change does take them by surprise tomorrow.

Update:

To clarify, as TfL says in the link, if the reader senses two cards, it will return an error message, as it has done for a while. The problem comes if it doesn't. For instance, this is (roughly) my wallet: the right-hand side contains my debit card, the left contained my Oyster card. Tap the wrong side to the reader, and you've accidentally spent money.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.