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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.

Contactless might cost more than Oyster

We’ve all heard the annoying announcements at tube stations. Why not use contactless? The fares are the same as Oyster and there’s no need to top up. In fact, as described elsewhere on this site, contactless can often be cheaper than Oyster thanks to the way it compares all combinations of caps and extension fares. However, TfL have unwittingly introduced an issue which means that sometimes contactless may cost more than Oyster.

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New Northern Extensions

There’s been a bit of excitement since the publication under FOI of an internal staff magazine by TfL. One of the topics covered was upcoming extensions on Thameslink and Great Northern. Sadly the original publication date was quite a while ago (early May) and there was also a shocking geographical error mixing up the positions of Brookmans Park and Potters Bar stations. The article and other sources suggested that extensions to Radlett and Potters Bar would be live imminently. A more cautious approach was being suggested on the Thameslink and Great Northern websites, so I sought clarification from both TfL and Govia Thameslink Railway.
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St Pancras Resolution of Overcharge

I’m delighted to be able to report that the issues at St Pancras over the two bank holiday weekends in May are being resolved.  A GTR spokeswoman said:

We apologise to the passengers impacted by this charging error. As soon as we were alerted to the isolated issue our revenue team worked with the technical team at TfL to ensure that everyone who was overcharged would be refunded automatically. These refunds should all be issued early next week. A permanent fix will be applied as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have agreed a process to avoid any impact to customers.

Overcharged at St Pancras?

Potentially hundreds of Thameslink passengers may have been overcharged over the two bank holiday weekends in May.  On both weekends the line between West Hampstead Thameslink and St Pancras (low level) was closed for engineering work.  Trains from Bedford/Luton terminated in platforms 1-4 at St Pancras (high level) and passengers wanting to continue south had to walk down to the low level platforms (A-B).  The problem is that there was no internal out-of-station interchange (OSI) set up between the Oyster validators for platforms 1-4 and the gateline for platforms A-B.  Thus a journey from Elstree to Blackfriars was charged as two journeys; Elstree to St Pancras and St Pancras to Blackfriars.

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Oyster Not Always Cheaper

Thanks to a keen visitor I can confirm that in certain circumstances a pair of full adult peak singles is more expensive than the paper anytime return.  The journey must be in a single zone (2, 3, 4, 5 or 6), be priced on the NR1 fare scale (see guide to fare scales) and both directions must be made at peak times (0630-0930 or 1600-1900).  There are some quite reasonable length journeys, especially in zones 2 and 6, like Caterham to Purley or Lewisham to Clapham Junction via Denmark Hill.  The peak Oyster single is £2.30 making £4.60 for a return while the paper return ticket is £4.40. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello Meridian Water

Monday 3rd June saw the opening of London’s newest station, Meridian Water.  It replaces the old Angel Road which has already seen quite a lot of demolition work since the last trains called there on Friday 31st May.  For the time being the service will be the same as that at Angel Road, but later this year a new shuttle service between Stratford and Meridian Water will start, providing an all day service, rather than the current peak hours only.

TfL’s single fare finder now includes Meridian Water which means that my fare finder can also show the fares.  As my station list is a simplified one (cutting out duplicates where two modes serve the same station) I have now removed the entry for Angel Road.

Revenue Protection

While travelling around London last weekend I came across this poster detailing the results of some targetted enforcement earlier in the year.  It’s a timely reminder that both TfL and the TOCs take revenue loss (fare evasion) very seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

Most Used OSIs May 2019

TfL have very kindly provided updated data showing how many journeys made use of each OSI in the system. The data was recorded over a four week period in April/May 2019. The top 3 remain the NR to LU interchanges at South London termini, though London Bridge has overtaken Victoria.  The accessible route OSI at Woodford has now started being regularly used while no-one now walks between Hackney Downs and Central other than by the  footbridge linking the two stations. The slightly lower figures for many entries is probably down to the fact that there were 3 bank holidays in the period.

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New fare database from 19th May

As far as I know there are no major changes at this intermediate fare change date.  However, the error with zip 11-15 fares from Epsom has been corrected, as has the fares between Epsom and Stoneleigh which is back in zone 5 where it should be.  Fares for Meridian Water (replacing Angel Road) are ready, but not visible yet because the opening (and closing) has been delayed a bit.

The Epsom Story (Part 2)

OK, I’ll come clean, I had forgotten about this.  In part 1 I explained how difficult it must have been to get agreement between the various companies involved.  I’m now going to express my frustration in trying to get information. For both the Epsom and Hertford North extensions TfL pass pretty much every query over to GTR.  This includes infrastructure questions like will gates at a station operate with a particular travelcard loaded on an Oyster card. Now to me the answer is either yes or no, and I’m sure someone at TfL can confirm that.  It’s not breaking any confidentiality because it’s confirming what will actually happen in a technical scenario.  With Epsom it’s even worse because while GTR lead the project, the fares are set by SWR.  So, rant over, on with the story. Read the rest of this entry »

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