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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.

Boris moves a zone boundary

I’m seeing conflicting reports that Boris is planning to move Stratford into zone 2 in January 2016 as part of the Olympic Legacy.  The BBC are suggesting that it will move from zone 3 to zone 2, while ITV think the more logical idea would be to run the zone 2/3 boundary through Stratford High Street, Stratford Regional and Stratford International.  Personally I’d say the boundary shift along the DLR seems more likely as that would not involve putting up any fares.  It’s likely to cost TfL £7million a year.

Is it too much to hope that by January 2016 the High Speed line will accept travelcards and Oyster?

Contactless is coming to Rail

This morning I attended a briefing at TfL about the soon to be launched contactless payments on rail services.  Sadly TfL wouldn’t commit to an actual date, but late summer/early autumn seems likely.  At the same time as the rail system goes live, the existing bus facility will be merged with it, offering full capping for all rail and bus journeys, including the new Monday to Sunday weekly capping.

I’ll need some time to document all I’ve learnt about the new system, but for now I can confirm that everything mentioned in my pilot diaries is accurate.  Although I haven’t yet managed to test out weekly capping, I’m informed that the final charge made will be worked out using a complex algorithm to ensure a best price is paid.  Put simply, if your regular commute is extended with the odd out of zone journey these will still be charged as extensions as they are now with Oyster.  The added benefits mean that if you make a lot of unusual journeys the system will work out if a different travelcard cap would be cheaper, and of course if you fall ill and don’t travel enough you won’t be charged for the full travelcard.

Finally, despite what some would say, Oyster definitely has a future.  It will be needed for all the youngsters who aren’t old enough for bank cards, for starters.  What is likely is that it will change from the card holding your balance to a similar system as contactless where the balance is held centrally and journeys are worked out in the back office.

Contactless Pilot (June)

My participation in the contactless pilot has been severely hampered since the end of May. First my bank decided to issue new cards which meant that I had to go through the process of registering a new card number for the pilot. Then I managed to lose the other card linked to the same account so they had to cancel everything again, even though I still had the card I was using for contactless travel. Interestingly though, when TfL came to charge the amount for travel that day, Read the rest of this entry »

Cashless Buses

While I’ve been sampling the delights of the Paris transport system over the weekend, TfL have removed the ability to pay using cash on their buses. You can use Oyster, of course, or contactless payment cards (CPC), or a paper travelcard. The only thing to note is that at present a CPC will overcharge you if you make four or more bus journeys in one day. Proper capping will be introduced later this year, along with the ability to use CPCs on rail services.

The other concession that has been introduced recently is the concept of one more journey. If your Oyster card has run out of credit you can make one more bus journey before you need to top up. This is to avoid stranding passengers making late night journeys when most ticket stops are closed.

Contactless Pilot (end of May)

I’ve decided to stop talking about journeys which have no issues as they are becoming more common.  The bottom line is that contactless works, apart from one issue that I’ll come to later on.  I’ll still be testing edge conditions, sometimes inadvertantly, and these I’ll document on here.

So, the big test this week was exceeding the maximum journey time.  Read the rest of this entry »

Contactless Pilot Days 3-9

Oh dear, I seem to have got behind updating this.  The good news is that there aren’t any show-stopping problems so far.  Comments are always welcome and will be fed back to TfL if relevant.  It’s now getting more exciting as I’ve been asked to download an app and record details of my experiences as I travel.  The app has loaded and I’ve set it up, so I’m ready to go.  But first, the last few days … Read the rest of this entry »

Unexpected transactions on May 1st

If your bank or credit card account shows an unexpected £20 or £40 debit for TfL then it’s likely that you were involved in a systems issue in February.  Around 750 Oyster cards were auto topped up on Wednesday 19th February but when TfL tried to collect the funds the next day there was a problem.  The issue has now been rectified and TfL re-processed the transactions on 1st May.

If this scenario makes sense then you don’t need to do anything, but you are welcome to contact the helpdesk with your Oyster card number and they will confirm whether or not you were involved.

Contactless Pilot Day 2

Monday was the last day of the Easter holidays so I went to North Greenwich with one of my sons.  I managed to test more features of the contactless operation, including inadvertantly missing a touch during one of the journeys.  I remain very happy with how it’s progressing so far. Read the rest of this entry »

TfL Contactless Pilot

When I signed up for this in November last year I was resigned to being told that my travel wasn’t enough to make a worthwhile contribution.  After all, around half my journeys are by bus which aren’t included in the rail trial and thus wouldn’t count towards daily capping.  Then in December the whole thing was put on hold thanks to the last minute fares revision changes.  So when I received an email last week inviting me to join the trial I was very excited.  My participants card arrived yesterday.

Read the rest of this entry »

New single fare finder

Great news!

TfL appear to have rolled out their new website this evening (the one that’s been in beta for ages).  I still need to look around properly, but the best news is that they have finally removed the button for alternate fares.  You now get all options straight away.  They still don’t describe the default route, but at least you get all the others so you can see if any of them describe the route you were planning to use.

Single fare finder: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/fares/single-fare-finder

Tube, DLR & Overground fares: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/fares

Overall fares and payments portal: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments

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