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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.

Heathrow Express and Young People

Heathrow Express began accepting Oyster and contactless last month. As with the Gatwick Express, convenience is the word rather than value for money. The fares are the same as walk up singles. If you plan ahead then advance fares can be significantly cheaper. Heathrow Express has always operated on a kids go free basis, so there is no charge to holders of zip 5-10 or zip 11-15 photocards. The problem comes with zip 16+ photocards.

Holders of zip 16+ photocards travel at half the adult rate almost everywhere in Oysterland. For this reason you can’t add a 16-25 railcard discount to a 16+ zip photocard because you are already getting 50% off. Unfortunately Heathrow Express decided to charge adult fares to 16+ zip photocard holders on their services. This means that whilst adults and 18+ students get 1/3rd off off-peak if they have a railcard added to their Oyster, railcard holding zip 16+ photocard holders can’t.

It’s undoubtedly an oversight, and quite understandable, but I hope someone somewhere comes up with a solution. In the meantime it’s getting added to the When not to use Oyster page.

PS. The Epsom story (part 2) is still coming, very soon.

The Epsom Story (Part 1)

Before we get into the nitty gritty, a little background which might help to explain why Epsom took so long. Epsom station is managed by Southern, part of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). Trains are operated by Southern and South Western Railway (SWR), and SWR are designated as the lead operator so they set the majority of the fares from Epsom. One of GTR’s franchise commitments with the DfT was to enable Oyster PAYG at Epsom. To do this they had to provide the infrastructure at the station, liaise with SWR and TfL over what fares to charge and how these could be integrated into the existing Oyster system, and run the whole thing past the DfT for a final sign-off. Anyone with any experience of big companies liaising over projects will realise that this was not an easy task.

With that out of the way, now we come to what’s actually been agreed. Read the rest of this entry »

Oyster at Epsom

STOP PRESS!!!!!!!

Oyster will be accepted at Epsom from Monday 25th February.  Details are a bit sketchy at present, especially as the fares are not yet in the publicly available fare-finder.  However, we do have a quote from TfL:

Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at Transport for London said:

We are delighted that, working with the DfT, GTR and South Western Railway, we have now been able to expand Oyster and contactless to cover services to Epsom station. Pay as you go with contactless and Oyster has helped revolutionise travel on Tube, rail and bus services across London, making them more convenient for all. We are now working with the DfT and train operating companies on expanding pay as you go to more stations across the GTR network, including Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City and Luton, throughout 2019.

Oyster and Heathrow Express

A little over 9 years after Oyster PAYG began being accepted on most National Rail services in London, the last rail service has finally joined the family.  Yes, you can now use Oyster and contactless on Heathrow Express.

Just like the Gatwick Express, the fares charged are determined by which platform you use at Paddington to touch in or out.  If it is platforms 6 or 7 then the higher Heathrow Express fares will be charged.  The single fare is exactly the same as the cash fare on the day, while if you return it will cost more than cash.  There are also very reasonably priced advance tickets available from the Heathrow Express website.  Thus just like Gatwick, Oyster is very much provided for convenience and not value for money.

Adult fares are charged for standard blue cards, Student, Jobcentre, Apprentice and zip 16-18 Oyster cards.  Holders of both 5-10 and 11-15 zip cards are not charged, in line with the Heathrow Express policy of not charging kids.  These fares do not count towards any caps and travelcards are not taken into account.

Examples of Capping Scenarios

I’ve added a long awaited new page to the site explaining how capping works using real examples. You can find the page in the menu to the left, or here.

Wandsworth Town fares

A recent visitor queried why fares from Wandsworth Town to Southeastern destinations did not offer a zone 1 avoiding option via Clapham Junction and Peckham Rye when similar journeys from Putney did have the option.  I’ve queried this with TfL who were already aware of the anomaly and they have confirmed that it should be fixed with the May fares revision.  The issue dated back to 2010 when cash fares from Wandsworth Town did not exist avoiding Waterloo.

Gatwick Fares – A New Twist

A last minute change of mind saw the Thameslink/Southern off-peak fares for National Rail only services from Gatwick to and through zone 1 held at last years price of £8.30.  That’s good isn’t it? I hear you ask.  Well, yes and no.  The problem arises where you want to continue onto the Underground, or indeed if you want to avoid zone 1.  Once you mix the Underground into a journey involving zone 1, TL/SN add £2.40 to the fare being the zone 1 tube single.  But off-peak they are adding £2.60 because they thought the basic fare was going to be £8.50.  Hence Gatwick to Bank is £10.90 off-peak, but hang around at London Bridge for 20 minutes and you’ll be charged £8.30+£2.40 = £10.70.

Avoiding zone 1 is even worse.  After initially setting the fares greater than the via zone 1 equivalent in 2016, they matched them in 2017 so there was no benefit in avoiding zone 1 from Gatwick.  This year the avoiding zone 1 off-peak National Rail only fares have all gone up to £8.50, so we’re back to being charged more to avoid zone 1.  Clearly whoever decided to freeze the fare to zone 1 forgot to do the same to the avoiding zone 1 equivalents. And it gets more complicated because at peak times it is cheaper to avoid zone 1.  What a mess!

It should be noted that National Rail Enquiries states that the off-peak fare is £8.50 for Gatwick to London terminals, so GTR even forgot to update the definitive source of fare information for National Rail services.

So, until such time as the confusion gets sorted out, don’t avoid zone 1 if your off-peak journey to/from Gatwick can be made entirely with National Rail.  And if changing to the Underground at a terminal you will save money if you can wait 20 minutes after touching out before touching in at the Underground station.  Sadly the other way is more difficult because you have to wait 40 minutes before touching in to the National Rail platforms to split the journey in two.

Note: This article has been updated on 29th January with new information recieved from TfL.

Site Crashed by a YouTube Video

If you tried to access this site on Friday evening there is a fair chance that you found it unavailable.  This obviously wasn’t planned, but coincided with the release of a new video from Geoff Marshall (aka @geofftech).  With almost 100K followers of his YouTube channel, this site recieved an unprecedented spike in demand.  Thankfully all was fixed by the early hours of Saturday morning.  Want to know what the fuss was about?  Take a look, and subscribe to Geoff’s channel if you haven’t already.

2019 Fare Tables

We have today published our fare tables with the 2019 details. The caps and travelcards page has also been updated for next year. All pages can be found on the Fares Guide page. I am waiting on the zonal range data from TfL before being able to provide access to the fare finder for next year.

Bank (Walbrook) to Cannon Street OSIs

Now that the new entrance to Bank Station, within the Bloomberg building on Walbrook, has opened, TfL have added a new OSI between Bank and Cannon Street LU.  The OSI still works with any entrance to Bank station, but the Walbrook exit is far and away the nearest.  This entrance takes you down to the Waterloo and City line platforms and has access to the rest of the station from there.

The details have been added to my OSI list, and to the map page for Bank to Cannon Street.

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