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.

The 32% cap increase

So I received a call from TfL today which confirmed my fears about the part-time worker refunds for zones 4-6 for railcard holders.  They have been abolished.  This means that young (under 26) and disabled workers using zone 6 who last year enjoyed a cap of £5.90 if all their travel was after 0930 now have to pay up to £7.80 per day.  That’s over 32% higher.  I wonder what the constituents of Uxbridge would make of this?

Zone 4 increases from £5.30 to £6.15 (16%) while zone 5 is £5.90 to £7.25 (23%).

Most Expensive Oyster Journey?

You might be thinking something like Amersham to Shenfield which is £11.00 in the peak time, or perhaps you’ve remembered that Gatwick Express now uses Oyster and charges £19.80 single.  They’re both good guesses and neither can be beaten with a single paper ticket, but the Gatwick Express one is more expensive than paper if you make a return.

However, say you’re in Stratford and want to see a friend off from the airport.  You go to Westfield for some last minute supplies and then want to travel.  One of the ways you can do this is to take Southeastern High Speed to St Pancras then Victoria line to Victoria and finally Gatwick Express.  Journey time is about 1 hour and avoids the slow Thameslink crawl through south London thanks to the London Bridge rebuilding.  Once you’ve seen your friend off you want to come back to Stratford.  How much will this cost?

Stratford Int’l to St Pancras Int’l £3.80 (off-peak)
Kings Cross St Pancras to Victoria £2.40
Victoria to Gatwick using the Express £19.80
Total one way: £26.00, both ways £52.00 assuming off-peak on HS1

or Stratford Int’l to Gatwick Airport off-peak day return £23.30

So that makes Oyster 123% more expensive.

Oyster at Gatwick

Today marks the start of the latest Oyster extension to Gatwick Airport. While there are people who will benefit, this is the most complicated extension yet, and great care will need to be taken to ensure that you aren’t overcharged.  I’ve been shown an internal briefing for Southern and Thameslink staff and some of the details of the implimentation are going to cause lots of problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Part-time workers in 4-6 clobbered

When the details for the January fares increases were published there was a lot of coverage about the average increase being about 1%.  Obviously with the need to keep adult fares rounded to the nearest 10p there were always going to be some increases above that, with the zone 1 single rising 4.3% being the most notable.  The fact that most other TfL single fares didn’t rise kept the average down.

There was, however, one aspect of the fares package that TfL kept very quiet about.  Remember last spring when the abolition of off-peak caps in zones 1-6 was found to adversely affect people regularly travelling from zones 4-6?  The response then was to re-introduce the previous off-peak caps (with a slight increase of course) and apply them to regular travellers*.  Well, guess what? The reason TfL failed to mention the rises for these caps is because they are massive.  £8.00 (zone 1-4) becomes £8.60, a 7.5% increase while £8.80 (zone 1-6) becomes £9.40, a 6.8% increase.  Ouch!  What’s worse is that many of the people relying on these refunds won’t actually realise that they’ve been cut until the first week of 2016 is processed, possibly next week or the week after.

There is also no mention of these caps for railcard discounted users so it’s not clear whether it’s been abolished already for them.  What is clear is that they intend to get rid of the feature for everyone in as short a time as possible.

* Regular travellers are defined as those exceeding the off-peak caps on 2 days in any week, 4 days in any fortnight, or 8 days in any 4 week period.  In each case a week is from Monday to Sunday.

Caution – Hokey-Cokey Issues

So today I’ve been out and about experimenting and encountered a problem with trying to break an OSI.  The OSI was broken alright, but the fare charged for the first leg was not what I expected to see.  I’m trying to track back through my journey history to see where I’ve tested this before but it’s taking a while.  So far I’ve only found where one of my kids used it to break a circular journey.  In that instance it worked just fine, but as kids fares within zones 1-6 are just a flat 75p off-peak it may have masked other effects.

Watch this space for more news.

5-10 Zip card holders with credit

From next Saturday, 2nd January 2016, holders of 5-10 zip cards will no longer need to pay for any National Rail journeys within the zones.  This is good news, but what if you already have some credit on your card.  The helpdesk can arrange a refund, but a side-effect is that the card will be cancelled.  As you need the card to benefit from the free travel that is obviously no good.  There appear to be two options available at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »

New fares available on TfL website

Over the last few days the details of the new fares have been gradually added to the fares section of the TfL website.  They seem to have taken my lead in some respects because there is now a page listing just caps and travelcards, although there is still too much duplication in my opinion.  The single fare tables have not yet been updated, and I wonder whether they actually will be.

The single fare finder tool now has buttons to display 2015 or 2016 fares for any journey.  It also includes the new fares for the Gatwick Airport extension, even though they won’t actually start until later in the new year.

I have published a new version of my caps and travelcards page with the details of the new prices.  Note that 5-10 zip card holders will no longer be charged fares and thus won’t need to buy travelcards either.  The effective off-peak caps for zones 4-6 for part-time workers and regular users have not yet been confirmed but I’ve included what I believe they will be.

Absolutely bonkers fares from Dartford

As anyone who reads this site regularly already knows, the Oyster fares system is ridiculously complicated. There are odd scenarios, particularly in the afternoon peak, where it can be cheaper to finish a journey in zone 1 than at the zone 2 station beforehand. However, this evening I’ve found a case where the cheapest route varies depending on the time of day you travel. Read the rest of this entry »

Stratford moves to zone 2/3

Today’s announcement on 2016 fares has also confirmed the news that Stratford will move to the zone 2/3 boundary from Jan 2nd 2016.  In fact, the whole of the DLR/Jubilee line between Stratford International and Canning Town will move so that all direct journeys from Central London to Stratford can be made without using zone 3.

There may be small increases for journeys from zones 3-9 ending at Pudding Mill Lane, Bromley-by-Bow and East India as these stations will all move from the zone 2/3 boundary to zone 2.

Oyster to Hertford East

Another extension of the Oyster system has come onstream today with the stations between Broxbourne and Hertford East added into the same zone as Broxbourne.  This time the fares have been added to the single fare finder and the National Rail fares pages on the TfL site, although at the time of writing the adult fares page seems to have been replaced by the railcard fares version. Read the rest of this entry »

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