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According to Andrew Mc Crum, now of Appella brand name consultants, who was brought in to find a name by Saatchi and Saatchi Design (contracted by Tran Sys), Oyster was conceived and promoted because of the metaphorical implications of security and value in the component meanings of the hard bivalve shell and the concealed pearl, the association of London and the River Thames with oysters, and the well-known travel-related idiom "the world is your oyster".
It is promoted by Transport for London and is valid on travel modes across London including London Underground, London Buses, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground, trams, some river boat services, and most National Rail services within the London fare zones.
A standard Oyster card is a blue credit-card-sized stored-value contactless smartcard that can hold single tickets, period tickets and travel permits, which must be added to the card before travel.
The card is designed to reduce the number of transactions at ticket offices and the number of paper tickets.
Usage is encouraged by offering substantially cheaper fares than with cash though the acceptance of cash is being phased out. The card was first issued to the public in July 2003 with a limited range of features and there continues to be a phased introduction of further functions.
By June 2012, over 43 million Oyster cards had been issued and more than 80% of all journeys on public transport in London were made using the card.
The Oyster card was set up under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract between Tf L and Tran Sys, a consortium of suppliers that included EDS and Cubic Transportation Systems (responsible for day-to-day management) and Fujitsu and WS Atkins (shareholders with no active involvement).
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The Oyster name was agreed on after a lengthy period of research managed by Tran Sys and agreed by Tf L.
Several names were considered, and Oyster was chosen as a fresh approach that was not directly linked to transport, ticketing or London.