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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.

TfL Online Password Reset

At 2pm this afternoon TfL locked everyone out of their online accounts pending a password reset.  All you need to do is click on the forgotten password link and enter your registered email address.  If that address exists on the system you’ll be sent a link to enable you to set a new password.  Once done everything will work again.  While locked out, all Oyster cards and contactless cards will still work for travel, and topups can be made at stations and ticket stop shops.

The beginning of this story dates back to August when a number of TfL accounts were accessed maliciously using a list of email addresses and passwords stolen from other companies.  Where people have re-used the same password on multiple sites the hackers were able to get in.  TfL spotted something was up because there were suddenly a large number of invalid logins using email addresses that didn’t exist on their system.  The online system was taken down immediately, limiting the success of the attack, Read the rest of this entry »

Contactless to Welwyn Garden City

The final PAYG extension for the year, covering Welham Green, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City went live on Tuesday.  As with Luton Airport Parkway, only contactless payment cards and devices are accepted, not Oyster cards of any variety.  The full range of paper tickets are also still available and may well work out cheaper at times, especially at weekends.  At this time there is also no capping, so if travelling a lot in London you could well be better off with a normal travelcard.

Auto Topup – Faster Payment Delayed

I’ve now had confirmation from TfL that the payment changes to auto topup have been postponed until next year.  So all that’s currently happened is the raising of the threshold to £20.  I’d still recommend always ensuring that you have plenty of funds available on the linked bank card and make sure the emails from TfL don’t go into a spam folder.

New Fares for 2020

In amongst all the election stuff and other sensational news stories, the Mayor released his decision on fares for next year.  It’s pretty much as expected – bus, tube, dlr, most London Overground, most TfL Rail and National Rail inter-available single fares all frozen for the 4th year.  Other National Rail fares and caps/travelcards all rise in line with DfT advice to the TOCs which is an average of 2.8% this year.

Arrangements for the TfL Rail extension to Reading are confirmed with Freedom Passes, Veterans Oyster cards and under 11s free travel commencing on December 15th, but only on TfL Rail services.  The contactless only fares for stations beyond West Drayton to Reading will start on January 2nd and will be valid on both TfL-Rail and GWR services.  Buried in the small print in the annexes is the news that daily and weekly capping will be supported.  Hopefully that also means that capping will be extended to the contactless only sections of GTR services.

Changes to Auto Topup

Anyone using auto topup on an Oyster (or zip) card will have received an email yesterday.  The key points are:

From Sunday 17 November 2019, the Auto Top-up threshold will change to £20. From this date, your Oyster card will be topped up with your chosen value when your balance falls below £20.

You will also see Auto Top-up charges more quickly in your bank account. If we are unable to collect payment for your Auto Top-up, your Oyster card will be stopped.

I have seen some comments already on other forums expressing disgust which I must say surprise me somewhat.  My first reaction is great, or why has it taken so long.  At a stroke it will solve the issues with auto topup at Gatwick Airport and Victoria platforms 13/14.  There might still be problems at Paddington HEx platforms but they will be reduced and TfL probably thought increasing the threshold to £25 was a step too far.

The second paragraph appears to be somewhat draconian, but it is in fact similar to the current procedures.  At present the auto topup amount is requested as part of an overnight process the day after the credit was applied to your Oyster card.  Back in the day many details of touches were only transferred to the central system overnight, but that has long since been superceded by transmission within 30 minutes.  Again, it’s perhaps surprising that TfL have taken this long to update the auto topup process.  Remember that the credit is applied to the Oyster card and can be used immediately, meaning that TfL take a revenue risk.  By claiming the funds quicker they reduce the risk.

The big change is that TfL will no longer send an email if a collection fails offering you the chance to correct the issue within a few days.  This is a shame, but is almost certainly due to increasing misuse of the system by fare evaders.  You won’t actually lose the upto £20 legitimately on the card, but you will have to liaise with the helpdesk to regularise the issue.  It should also be noted that you won’t be trapped in the system if your card is stopped as exit gates are programmed to allow exit on stopped cards.  The key is to always ensure that your account has enough money to cover your £20/£40 topup at any time.

Finally, if you aren’t happy with these changes you can always deactivate auto topup.  And if you pay full adult fares then using a contactless payment card/device is a better solution than auto topup anyway.

PAYG to Reading – What is Accepted

The press release from TfL outlining the extension of PAYG to Reading from Jan 2nd 2020 certainly raised a number of questions and talking points. I’m not going to cover discussion about zones and Oyster here, but rather concentrate on the cards which will and won’t be accepted. Nothing changes between London and West Drayton, so this list solely applies to people using stations between Iver and Reading inclusive, and only on TfL Rail services. Read the rest of this entry »

Tap, Tap, Fly, from Luton Airport

Tuesday saw the launch of contactless payment at St Albans City, Harpenden and Luton Airport Parkway on the Thameslink route. Note that it is not accepted at Luton or beyond. With contactless payment already accepted on the shuttle bus from Parkway to the Airport it means that Luton becomes the 4th airport accessible from Central London using just a contactless payment card.

At the time of writing TfL still haven’t made the fares available either on their single fare finder or my fare finder (yellow button at the top of every page).

As with Brookmans Park, only contactless is available at these stations. No Oyster cards are valid at all. The full range of paper tickets are still available and will sometimes be cheaper, particularly at weekends when super off-peak tickets are valid. In the main single fares will be cheaper on contactless which is particularly useful for the airport. Remember that these out of London contactless extensions are for convenience first, rather than value.

The other important point to note is that there is currently no capping when making journeys that start or end at the three new stations. Depending on the other travel made within London a day travelcard may well work out cheaper.

Brookmans Park in Action

So my friend Geoff Marshall (of All the Stations fame) decided to try out some scenarios using contactless out to Brookmans Park.  You can watch the video here. Read the rest of this entry »

TfL Rail to Reading – No Oyster

Yesterday TfL announced their initial plans following takeover of the GWR suburban services between Paddington and Reading on December 15th.  In contrast to any other TfL takeover, neither Oyster nor contactless will be available on day 1.  To ensure a smooth introduction, contactless PAYG will be introduced from January 2nd 2020.

The big news though is that Oyster PAYG will NOT be valid between West Drayton and Reading.  This means that adults with railcards, 11-15 and 16+ zip card holders will not be able to make use of PAYG.  And holders of Apprentice, 18+ Student and Jobcentre Oyster cards will not be able to seamlessly transition between using a travelcard stored on the card to PAYG.  On the plus side, under 11s accompanied by adults will be able to travel free, but only on the TfL Rail services.

Read the rest of this entry »

Radlett, Potters Bar & Brookmans Park

Last Thursday, 29th August, PAYG was extended to Radlett, Potters Bar and Brookmans Park.  Both Oyster and contactless are accepted at the first two, while Brookmans Park is the pilot for a new breed of stations accepting contactless only.  The official launch took place at Radlett in the morning with the local MP, the new transport secretary and other GTR senior staff.  More detail about fares follows, but first some quotes on the day:

Read the rest of this entry »

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