Paper tickets and data stored on the magnetic stripe

K. Lee made this Freedom of Information request to Transport for London

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Transport for London,

I would like to make a FOI request regarding paper tickets.

- In the year of 2011, what is the number of paper tickets sold, broken down by Travelcard, cash single and other ticket types issued on paper?

- In the year of 2011, what is the number of tickets which had to be replaced or recoded due to magnetic stripe failure?

- What year was the first magnetic stripe ticket used on the London Underground?

- Whether the current magnetic stripe is low-coercivity or high-coercivity?

- What is the storage capacity of the magnetic stripe? e.g. 192 bits as with NR tickets.

- How many tracks does the magnetic strip have?

- A list of all the information that the magnetic strip stores.

- Whether this is encrypted or not.

- Does the ticket barriers store any data from the magnetic stripe? If so for what purposes and for how long?

Yours faithfully,

Kent Lee

FOI, Transport for London

Dear Mr Lee
 
TfL Ref: FOI-1260-1213
 
Thank you for your email received by Transport for London (TfL) on 1
November 2012 asking for information about paper tickets and magnetic
stripes.
 
Your request will be processed in accordance with the requirements of the
Freedom of Information Act and TfL’s information access policy. 
 
A response will be provided to you by 29 November 2012.
 
In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this matter further, please
do not hesitate to contact me.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Eva Hextall
FOI Case Officer
 
FOI Case Management Team
Corporate Governance Directorate
General Counsel
Transport for London
 
 

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FOI, Transport for London

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Lee

 

TfL Ref: FOI-1260-1213

 

Thank you for your email received by Transport for London (TfL) on 1
November 2012 asking for information about paper tickets and magnetic
stripes.

 

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of
the Freedom of Information Act and TfL’s information access policy.  I can
confirm TfL holds some of the information you require. You asked for:

 

·         In the year of 2011, what is the number of paper tickets sold,
broken down by Travel card, cash single and other ticket types issued on
paper?

 

Please find the table below showing magnetic tickets issued in 2011. The
figures are in millions.

 

Cash Single Peak Day Travelcard Off-Peak day Travelcard Period Travelcard Total
30.5 10.8 53.9 6.2 101.4

 

·         In the year of 2011, what is the number of tickets which had to
be replaced or recoded due to magnetic stripe failure?

 

TfL does not hold this information.

 

·         What year was the first magnetic stripe ticket used on the
London Underground?

 

The first magnetic strip ticket was used in 1964. However, if you are
referring to the current system, then it was in 1982.

 

·         Whether the current magnetic stripe is low-coercivity or
high-coercivity?

 

It’s low coercivity.

 

·         What is the storage capacity of the magnetic stripe? e.g. 192
bits as with NR tickets.

 

It is the same as National Rail.

 

·         How many tracks does the magnetic strip have?

 

It has one track.

 

·         A list of all the information that the magnetic strip stores.

 

TfL does not hold this information.

 

·         Whether this is encrypted or not.

 

It is not encrypted.

 

·         Do the ticket barriers store any data from the magnetic stripe?

·         If so for what purposes and for how long?

 

The gates store a number of magnetic tickets used for entry or exit by
15-minute period, and the type of product on each ticket. For example,
it’ll report that between 12:00 and 12:15, ten One-Day travel cards were
used for entry, one Child Privilege single, and so forth.

 

Throughout the day it downloads the data to Cubic (our transportation
system), clearing its cache after each download. That data is currently
retained centrally by Cubic for a period of eight weeks.

 

The gates also report the times at which they changed status, i.e. from
‘working’ to ‘faulty’ and back again. This data is also downloaded
throughout the day and retained by Cubic for eight weeks.

 

If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable
to access it for some reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to
appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would
like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Eva Hextall

FOI Case Officer

 

FOI Case Management Team

Corporate Governance Directorate

General Counsel

Transport for London

 

 

 

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Dear Transport for London,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Transport for London's handling of my FOI request 'Paper tickets and data stored on the magnetic stripe'.

Thank you for your response and the time to find out the information.

Whilst I can accept that TFL does not hold information about replacement of damaged paper tickets, I find it bizarre and unbelievable that TFL does not know what information is stored within the magstripe of its own tickets used on its own system.

The answer to the next question also contradicts this fact. As you was able to reveal that the data is not encrypted, there is no reason to not know what the data is. Furthermore the answer to gate usage referred to ticket types which has to be read from only from the magstripe so one type of data stored is quite undoubtedly "ticket type".

Please can you look into this again and provide a list of all the data stored on the magstripe such as, ticket type, start date, expiry date etc...

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/pa...

Yours faithfully,

K. Lee

FOI, Transport for London

Our ref: IRV-112-1213

 

Dear Mr Lee

 

Request for internal review

 

Thank you for your request for an internal review which was received by
Transport for London (TfL) on 20 November 2012.

 

You have stated that you are dissatisfied with the handling of your
request for information under the Freedom of Information Act .

 

The review will be conducted by an internal review panel in accordance
with TfL’s Internal Review Procedure, which is available via the following
URL:

 

[1]http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/f...

 

Every effort will be made to provide you with a response by 19 December
2012. However, if the review will not be completed by this date, we will
contact you and notify you of the revised response date as soon as
possible.

 

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this matter further, please
do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Eva Hextall

FOI Case Officer

E-mail: [2][TfL request email]

 

 

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Dear Transport for London,

Can I please have an update of my request as the 18th December has already been passed. If the investigation is still on the way can I possibly add another question...?

Whether the magnetic character encoding is of ANSI/ISO character sets like in credit cards or in a proprietary character set unique to LUL?

Yours faithfully,

K. Lee

Dear FOI,

Almost two months has passed without any response.

Could I please have an update whether you are able to respond to my request or not?

If there are issues with interpreting the data, can I just simply request for a document relating to the magstripe encoding specifications and I will do the interpreting myself.

Yours sincerely,

K. Lee

Sloane Peter, Transport for London

Dear Mr Lee

Thank you for your email and my apologies that I have not been able to respond to you sooner. I can confirm that I am in the process of preparing a response to your request for an internal review and will be sending it to you early next week. However, I can confirm the key point is that you should not have been advised that TfL does not hold this information, as it does. There appears to have been some confusion on the part of the case officer concerning the advice that they were provided regarding what is held.

I will be able to provide you with some information concerning the fields that are held on the ticket, but this will be limited, as we consider that the exact details of what is encoded on the ticket and how are exempt from disclosure under sections 31 and 43 of the FOI Act. These exemptions relate to information whose disclosure would prejudice the prevention and detection of crime and information whose release would be likely to prejudice TfL's commercial interests. Both these exemptions are qualified and I will provide details of how we consider that these exemptions are engaged and the public interest factors that we consider relevant when I provide the full response next week.

Once again, please accept my apologies for the delayed response, and I thank you for the patience that you have shown in view of the delays.

Yours sincerely

Peter Sloane | Senior Information Governance Adviser (Enforcement and Complaints)
Information Governance | General Counsel | Transport for London
Windsor House, 42-50 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0TL

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Dear Sloane Peter,

Thank you for the acknowledgement. I understand that certain fields may be confidential so for those that you are unable to disclose, will it be possible to provide a redacted version? Anyhow I will appreciate whatever you are able to do. Many thanks.

Yours sincerely,

K. Lee

FOI, Transport for London

Dear Mr Lee

 

Thank you for your email. Please accept my apology for the delay in
responding.

 

Your internal review is still in process of being investigated. In the
meantime, the answer to your additional question is that no character set
is used.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Eva Hextall

FOI Case Officer

 

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Sloane Peter, Transport for London

1 Attachment

31 January 2013

 

Our reference: Internal review IRV-113-1213

 

Dear K Lee

 

I am contacting you concerning the internal review of the handling of your
request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act for details of
information that is stored on the magnetic strips of paper tickets used on
London Underground’s (LUL) services. I am sorry that I have not been able
to provide you with this outcome sooner.

 

As indicated in my email of 25 December, the response should not have
informed you that TfL doesn’t hold this information, and this seems to
have arisen out of some confusion relating to the information provide by
our Fares team.

 

I can confirm that the information contained on the paper tickets includes
the following:

·         Ticket type

·         Fare value and origin/destination for journey or
zonal/line/station availability, depending on ticket type

·         Passenger/discount type

·         Off-peak time restriction (as appropriate)

·         Last use date/time/location

·         Start date/expiry date

·         Cancelled ticket indicator

 

I can confirm that the tickets do also contain some additional fields and
information. However, we consider that any more detailed information
concerning the details of what is contained on the tickets is exempt from
disclosure by virtue of the following exemptions of the FOI Act:

 

·         section 31(a) – information whose disclosure would be likely to
prejudice the prevention and detection of crime

·         section 43(2) – information whose disclosure would be likely to
prejudice TfL’s commercial interests

 

In both cases, we consider that the exemption is engaged as the disclosure
of this information would be likely to facilitate fare evasion using the
paper tickets. In part this is because detailed description of the data
fields held on the tickets would make it substantially easier for those
seeking to avoid paying LUL fares, including by providing details which
could be used to support attempts to reprogramme magnetic strips in a
fraudulent manner. As you have previously been advised, the data on the
magnetic strip is not encrypted, so provision of detailed information
about the fields contained on the strip would make it substantially easier
to decipher the meaning of the binary data contained on the disc. Any
increase in fare evasion would clearly have a negative impact on LUL’s
commercial interests by reducing the revenues obtained from ticket sales.

 

Both these exemptions are qualified, which means that we must consider the
balance of the public interest in determining whether an exemption should
be applied. We recognise that there is an inherent public interest in
openness, but it is not apparent that there are any other public interest
factors in favour of disclosing this information.

 

On the other hand, there is an inherently strong public interest in not
disclosing information that would be likely to facilitate the commission
of fraud and fare evasion offences. We consider that there is a strong
inherent public interest in not prejudicing TfL’s commercial interests by
not releasing information that would be likely to decrease TfL’s fare
revenue. Although TfL does obtain revenue from other sources, including
central government, it is unlikely that these could be increased to make
up for any shortfall, particularly in the current climate. This would put
increasing strain on TfL’s limited resources and TfL would therefore be
likely to have to consider difficult options, such as decreasing its
investment in developing and improving the integrated transport system for
London or applying for an increase in fares, none of which would be in the
public interest.

 

Once again, on behalf of TfL, please accept my apologies for the delay in
providing you with this internal review. However, if you are dissatisfied
with the outcome of this internal review, you can refer the matter to the
independent authority responsible for enforcing the Freedom of Information
Act, at the following address.

 

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

 

A complaint form is also available on the ICO’s website
([1]www.ico.gov.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Peter Sloane | Senior Information Governance Adviser (Enforcement and
Complaints)

Information Governance | General Counsel | Transport for London

Windsor House, 42-50 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0TL

E: [2][email address]

 

[3]http://source.tfl/images/LU150_260.jpg

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
2. mailto:[email address]

Dear Sloane Peter,

Thank you very much for your time to research the information and to draft the reply. I am happy with the response and I agree with your reasoning behind not disclosing the full content of the magstripe, particularly as it has no form on encryption, unlike the Oyster Card.

The purpose of this request is not to facilitate others to commit fraudulent acts but rather to see the differences between what's stored in the chip of an Oyster card (which was revealed in another FOI request within this website) and the magstripe of a paper ticket given the huge difference in storage capacity between the two technologies.

Yours sincerely,

K. Lee

Sloane Peter, Transport for London

Dear K Lee

Thank you for your email and confirmation that you appreciate the reasoning. I should emphasise that we had no reason to believe that you would have misused the withheld data, and I should have made this clear in my response to you. However, all disclosures under FOI are considered to be made to the general public, rather than just the requester (and this is directly true in the case of requests made via WDTK), so we had to bear in mind the consequences should the information get into the wrong hands. My apologies for any unintentional implication regarding the purpose of your request.

Yours sincerely

Peter Sloane | Senior Information Governance Adviser (Enforcement and Complaints)
Information Governance | General Counsel | Transport for London
Windsor House, 42-50 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0TL
E: [email address]

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