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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.

One-Way System Woes

It is with some dismay that I have to report that TfL do not appear to be coping well with preventing overcharging at stations where one-way systems are in operation.  I’m aware of issues at both Woolwich Arsenal and Finsbury Park. The problem is mainly associated with Oyster or zip cards.  As I understand it, an emergency setting has to be made each day to allow Oyster cards to keep a journey open when passengers have to leave the station and re-enter at a different entrance.  For contactless the setting is permanent in the back office.  The station setting seems to be a bit hit and miss.  I’d urge anyone using the interchanges at either station to check journey history and complain to the helpdesk if they have been overcharged. Read the rest of this entry »

One way system updates

Finsbury Park: A semi permanent EOSI has been set up so that NR to LU journeys should now be joined together.  I’m told that this arrangement is expected to last until October at the earliest.

Woolwich Arsenal: Disappointingly I noticed that the connection between NR and DLR was closed again last night.  I hope that appropriate measures are now in place to ensure that passengers are not overcharged.  I will ask questions again.

Child Fare Changes

Ever since the announcement that the bailout of TfL during lockdown came with conditions, including the end of free travel for under 18s, there has been an enormous amount of misinformation pedalled by media and politicians.  The LibDems started a campaign to reverse the changes despite the fact that they still haven’t been actioned.  The i-news explained how children up to 15 enjoyed free travel on the tube – oh no they don’t!  My London also believed that the changes had already been made, and I’m sure many other news outlets fell for the same poor journalism.

The facts are that as usual with this incompetent government, an idea was put forward and agreed without any understanding of the complexity involved in implimenting it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Broken Interchange at Finsbury Park

My attention has been drawn to the social distancing one-way system at Finsbury Park which has broken the out-of-station interchange in some cases when changing between National Rail and the Underground.  Access to the National Rail platforms is currently only from the bus station entrance.  Exit from the Underground is also to the bus station, but entry is via the new entrance on the other side of the station, a 3-4 minute walk.

The problem is when passengers arrive on platforms 1-2 from North London and Hertfordshire.  There are no gates on those platforms so you have to touch out using the validators at the bottom of the steps.  When you touch in again at the new Underground entrance your journey is not continued because the OSI has not been set up properly.  This means that your journey is split in two and you are charged two fares rather than the normal one combined fare.  TfL are aware of the issue and I hope to have an update within the next few days.

In the meantime I suggest that to join the Victoria line you should use Highbury & Islington instead where the interchange is cross-platform.  For the Piccadilly line beyond Kings Cross I’d take the Victoria line from Highbury & Islington and change at Kings Cross, or if your National Rail train is going to Kings Cross or St Pancras then stay on it until there.

There are no problems changing between the Underground and National Rail because the OSI works between the two bus station entrances.

Overcharging at Woolwich Arsenal

It’s been brought to my attention that the connection between the NR station and DLR station at Woolwich Arsenal has been closed since June 16th. Passengers wishing to change between the two stations have to exit one and walk along the street to the other entrance. Of course touching out and back in again causes your journey to be split in two and you will definitely be overcharged unless you have or will cap or are using a travelcard.

I visited Woolwich Arsenal earlier in the week to investigate.  On the Southeastern side the blue poster to the right is displayed at both the platform entrances (direct and via the footbridge).  As I was travelling well after the evening peak there were no staff present on the National Rail side, so it was just as well I didn’t need assistance!

On the DLR side the posters are a little more helpful as shown below.  Being a TfL station there are staff present at all times, and it appears as though people who require step free access might be let through.

I asked the staff at the station why the measures were in place and they replied that it was instructions from Southeastern and the DfT.  When I pointed out that people would be overcharged when exiting and re-entering they helpfully explained that passengers would be let through the barriers so they didn’t have to break their journey. Unfortunately there is nothing to say that this is allowed so people are being overcharged.

I have to say that the whole arrangement seems to make social distancing harder.  Rather than passing through a wide opening (or crossing a wide overbridge and stairs or lifts), passengers are forced through a much narrower bridge alongside the National Rail ticket office.

The whole issue of overcharging could have been resolved with a simple addition of an out of station interchange between the two street entrances.  It may not have been possible on day 1, but there is an alternative option of setting an emergency OSI which would have a similar effect.

When I asked TfL about this issue they said that they believed an EOSI had been set up.  I’m still waiting for a further response which I hope will include a promise to refund any cards which have been overcharged.  I have also asked Southeastern for comment, but so far none has been received.

As a final postscript, the person who alerted me to this issue called the Oyster helpdesk to ask about a refund.  They were told that it has never been possible to interchange at Woolwich Arsenal without leaving one station and entering another.  I’ve been assured that appropriate reminders have been issued to the helpdesk staff.

Aldgate – Aldgate East OSI

After goodness knows how many suggestions TfL have finally given in and implemented a new OSI between Aldgate and Aldgate East Underground stations.  There is a little confusion about the start date – it was either today (14th) or Tuesday (16th), so I’ll add it to the list on Tuesday to be safe.  The allowance is 10 minutes either way.

Free child fares and freedom pass rules

There has understandably been a lot of media interest in the instruction from government telling TfL to abandon free bus travel for under 18s.  Unfortunately some sections of the media seem to think that it’s happened already.  It hasn’t.  TfL are currently in discussions with the DfT about how it can be implimented and what the scope should be.  They have pointed out that if all free child fares are removed then the London councils will have to work out an alternative method of providing free travel to school for those who are entitled to it.  The costs of doing that could well exceed the savings made by charging for other child journeys.  Watch this space!

What is about to happen is that older person freedom passes and 60+ Oyster holders will no longer be able to use their passes on services before 9am.  This starts on June 15th and is billed as a temporary change.  Disabled persons freedom passes are not affected.  There is, however, no change to the message that public transport should only be used if absolutely necessary.

Blackfriars – An ‘unhelpful’ OSI

With thanks to Chris for spotting this, there is a problem using the OSI between platforms 2-4 and platform 1 at the north end of Blackfriars NR station.  If the journey being made is entirely on National Rail the system will instead charge as if you’ve used the Underground as well.  Fortunately there is a way around this because you can switch between all platforms at the south end of the station without needing to go through a barrier.

The problem is that the indicator that you’ve changed between NR and LU at London terminals is a touch on either the NR or LU gatelines.  Originally this was not a problem, but since the rebuild of Blackfriars station and the need to exit and re-enter the paid area at the north end it is now possible to need to touch in/out without actually using the tube.

As an example, a journey between Elephant & Castle and Greenwich using National Rail via Blackfriars will be charged £3.10/£2.60 if you use the southbank subway at Blackfriars or £4.70/£4.10 if you use the northbank.

Capping to Reading, Luton Airport etc

Last month (April 20th) TfL quietly switched on capping for contactless only stations.  I say quietly because with only essential travel being undertaken at the moment it is unlikely that anyone is actually reaching the caps.  They also confirmed that since January 2nd 2020 anyone who exceeded the relevant caps from those stations will have received an automatic refund. Read the rest of this entry »

Mayor seeks reversal of under 18 fares

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has written to the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, asking him to reconsider the instruction to remove free bus travel from under 18s.  The letter has been made public and is reproduced here. Read the rest of this entry »

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