Welcome

January 2nd 2010 was the day that Oyster became accepted on almost all National Rail services in Greater London, making cashless pay-as-you-go a reality London-wide.  It should now be really simple, but in reality it is about as complicated as it could possibly be. There are three different fares structures depending on whether your route accepted Oyster before November 2009 or not, and if not whether your journey mixes National Rail and TfL rail and includes zone 1; while children sometimes travel free and sometimes have to pay.

This site has been set up to try and explain how the system works in an alternative fashion to the official TfL site.  It also exposes the alternative approach that families can take where Oyster is not the cheapest option. Plus I will highlight areas where the system is not working and list improvements that I feel need to be made.

The pages listed in the left sidebar allow you to navigate through the main information areas of the site.  Below this introduction is a latest news blog, which includes my own personal diary of experiences using Oyster cards with my family.  Please feel free to add comments to both blog posts and pages, especially if you spot something you think might be wrong.

Oyster at LM ticket offices

It’s been brought to my attention that London Midland are to cease allowing Oyster transactions at their ticket offices at both Euston and Watford Junction from April this year.  This is yet another kick in the teeth by TOCs following similar actions by Southeastern and South West Trains in recent years.

U-turn on Off-Peak Caps

There has been considerable unrest over the abolition of the cheaper adult off-peak cap, particularly in zones 4-6 where the increases are quite significant.  Of course this was part of the package which made commuting 2-3 times a week at peak times a lot cheaper, but it disadvantaged a number of people who work part-time or shifts and travel at off-peak times.

So, from April the off-peak caps of £8.00 (zone 4) and £8.80 (zones 5-6) will be re-introduced for people travelling 2 or more times a week, or 8 or more times in 4 weeks.  Refunds will be back-dated to January and then processed every month.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bus cap discounted by railcards

An eagle eyed site visitor (thanks Thomas) has noticed that the bus/tram cap can be discounted by adding a railcard to your Oyster.  The reason is that the discounted zone 1-2 off-peak cap (£4.25) is now less than the bus cap (£4.40).  Unless you have a disabled railcard, this only applies if all the bus and tram journeys are after 0930 M-F.  Obviously if you use rail outside zone 1-2 then the cap will increase to the relevant level.

Cheaper fares to zone 1 in PM peak

One of the changes introduced this month concerns journeys starting outside zone 1 and ending in zone 1 during the afternoon peak.  Where TfL set the fare it has been off-peak for a couple of years now, but from this month it is extended to all rail journeys.  Unlike TfL fares, with the NR set fares this does mean that it will be cheaper to travel to zone 1 than zone 2 at this time.  It should be noted that the dual zoned stations work as they should which will be frustrating for people using Vauxhall and Elephant & Castle NR stations.  Travel from Clapham Junction to Vauxhall will be charged peak as will travel from Vauxhall to Waterloo, but Clapham Junction to Waterloo will be off-peak.

Fares changes for 2015

The new fares take effect today and thus many of the pages on this site need updating.  I have made some changes already and will be expanding others when I am sure of the detail.  I will not be amending any comments or replies prior to 2015.

Single fare finder issues

Something seems to have gone wrong with the switching between 2014 and 2015 fares this morning.  Both results pages display fares for 2014.  Hopefully it’s just a minor glitch.

Disabled Railcard Discount

As announced in the TfL fares changes decision, from Jan 2nd next year holders of the NR Disabled Railcard will be entitled to discounts at any time when using PAYG on Oyster. This will require a new discount code to be added to the Oyster. ATOC are supposed to be writing to all holders of disabled railcards to tell them about the change, but as yet this doesn’t seem to have happened. We have done some mystery shopping at some Circle line stations and the best answer we got was that it can’t be done until Jan 2nd.

Somewhat alarmingly one station insisted that railcard discounts do not apply to tube travel at all. I’ve passed the results back to TfL so I won’t name and shame just yet.

Epsom – Off-peak travelcard loophole

Now that the National Rail booking systems have the 2015 fares loaded it appears that there is a good way to undercut the price of a paper zone 1-6 travelcard. As we know, off-peak in boundary travelcards are being withdrawn from Jan 2nd, but out boundary ones will still exist. Epsom has long been one of the cheapest places to get one as Southern offer a discounted version which can only be used on their trains between Epsom and Ewell East. Once you are inside the zones it becomes a normal travelcard. There is no compulsion to use the ticket at Epsom.

So, the £10.50 Southern only travelcard from Epsom will save £1.50 over a zone 1-6 travelcard and £1.20 over the zone 1-6 off-peak cap on Oyster. Ticket offices should sell the ticket if asked, but it can always be bought online and picked up from your local TVM.

Remember that this is only effective once the fares actually change in
January.

Boris clobbers off-peak travel

TfL has announced their fares for 2015 and there is a big surprise.  Adult anytime and off-peak caps are being combined into a new all-day cap.  This is good news for people travelling in zones 1-3 and anyone travelling a lot and starting before 0930.  But if you live in zones 4-6 and travel off-peak you are going to be clobbered for making a lot of journeys. Read the rest of this entry »

Gipsy Hill – Another Success

Edwin, a visitor to this site, found out the hard way that there is no avoiding zone 1 fare from Gipsy Hill to Notting Hill Gate.  Research on the single fare finder showed that such a fare exists from both West Norwood and Crystal Palace, the stations either side of Gipsy Hill.  Frustratingly, the train from Crystal Palace has to call at Gipsy Hill on the way, so it did seem like an oversight.

After quite a wait I’ve just received an email response from the fares team confirming that the avoiding zone 1 fare will be added from the next fares change in January.  Thank you TfL.

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