Imagine rummaging for spare change down the back of your sofa and coming up with £53 million. Well, that’s the situation Transport for London found itself in as nearly 20 million lost Oyster cards, each holding an average credit of £2.67, have drifted out of circulation like pennies down a drain. Clearly, TfL needs to make reclaiming these funds easier. But we’d like to see this cash blown on pampering the city. TfL, if you’re reading, here are some suggestions.
Why not give back to London, little and often? We’ve all been suddenly stung for a fiver after neglecting to touch out, and as there’s enough in the coffers for £6.48 per Londoner, wouldn’t it be nice if the process were reversed? Particularly if the money zipped straight on to your Oyster card when you touched in, accompanied by a chorus of ‘Thank You for Being a Friend’.
The leftover cash could buy more than 12,000 tons of Nutella. Sweeten the humdrum morning tube journey by programming the gates to launch unexpected chocolate crêpes into customers’ mouths. For added drama, one lucky commuter a week could trigger glitter cannons, party streamers and an animatronic mariachi band as they touched in. Or maybe reward a few travellers with an upgrade to the Victoria Line’s Executive Plus Platinum carriage, where drinks, canapés and complimentary massages await.
A budget of £145,000 a day is enough to hire a host of the hottest bands to play us home in a carriage based equivalent of ‘Later…’. Or TfL could employ around 1,630 actors (at Equity day rates, naturally) to transform the travel network into a year-long piece of immersive theatre, where every journey promises whispered intrigue, seduction and dark comedy – not least because everyone would start to assume everyone else was part of the cast.
Pointless national occasions
If the embedded theatrical antics sound a bit too ‘Truman Show’, TfL could just throw us two more Olympic Opening Ceremonies, lack of subsequent sport be damned. It turns out £53m is just enough to bury five former prime ministers too! Unfortunately not all would actually be dead in time. Now that really might be enough to make you glad you lost your Oyster Card. Guy Parsons