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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.

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 »

Buses to start charging again

TfL has begun insisting that people touch in when making bus journeys again.  From today, those using single door buses and the new Routemaster ‘Boris’ buses which have readers by the middle door will be expected to validate their Oyster or contactless card or device.  Other two door buses will follow once modifications to the screen between the driver and the passenger area are complete.  These modifications will block the area where cash transactions used to take place and cover the holes for speech between the driver and passengers.

Signs on the doors and announcements will make it clear when passengers are expected to validate their cards again.

Season ticket refunds

At the beginning of the lockdown the government relaxed the rules about refunding season tickets.  This meant that you could backdate your claim back to the last day you used the ticket and that the admin fee would be waived.

TfL are following these rules for refunds of travelcards stored on Oyster cards, but the process used for the refund initially follows the normal rules.  This means that you’ll get back the refund due on the day of the claim, less the admin fee.  As a separate process the applications are looked at again and a further refund of the days between last use and your claim, plus the admin fee, will be processed.  At the moment this is taking around 2 weeks.

If you’ve been waiting longer than that then you can call the Oyster helpline.  Call volumes have subsided significantly now the majority of queries have been answered so it is possible to get through.

Brief Updates

While the government stipulates that only essential travel by key workers should be undertaken, there is not a lot going on to report here.  However, there are some things still happening and this is a summary of key points:

  1. London Buses are now centre door only to protect the driver from contact with passengers who may unknowingly be carrying the Covid-19 virus.  At each stop passengers are requested to let people off first and keep their distance within the bus.  There is no need to touch in on buses at this time so journeys are now free.
  2. The sponsorship project with G-Pay at Underground stations has been put on hold.  Some stations did get the white labels on their touch pads before travel restrictions were imposed, but no further changes will be made at this time.
  3. Daily and weekly capping has been activated on the contactless only routes (Reading to Iver, Luton Airport Parkway to St Albans and Welwyn Garden City to Brookmans Park).  Full details will be published on this site once I have answers to a number of questions.  It is extremely unlikely that anyone is reaching caps at this time with the limited essential travel being undertaken.
  4. There are also a couple of other stories that I have been working on which may be published shortly.

Stay at Home – Save Lives

Evidence today shows that public transport across all modes in London is dramatically down on the levels seen just 4 weeks ago.  This is good, and must continue.  Please only travel if your journey is absolutely necessary, and when in the centre of London please try and keep your distance as much as possible.

The Oyster and contactless systems continue to operate normally.  There shouldn’t be anything different, though I am aware of one small consideration where service frequencies have been cut.  This concerns out-of-station-interchanges where, for example, tube and National Rail journeys are joined together and charged one fare.  At most London terminals you have 40 minutes between touch out from the Underground and touch in at the NR gateline to allow you to wait on the concourse until your train is advertised.  If your wait is longer then the two parts will be charged separately and will probably cost a little more.  To avoid this you might want to consider travelling to another station and waiting for your train there, for example Clapham Junction from Victoria or Waterloo, or London Bridge from Cannon Street or Charing Cross.  As long as your wait is while touched in you won’t end up paying two fares.

GPay: White is the new Yellow

If you’ve used Kings Cross St Pancras Underground station in the last 3 months you may have noticed that the yellow Oyster pads on the gatelines were changed to a white pad with Google GPay branding.  This was in fact a trial scheme in advance of a year long sponsorship deal.

Later this month over 5600 pads on gates at every Underground station will be changed to the new design (see below).  They will remain white for 12 months and Google has an option to extend the deal subject to agreeing follow on terms.  The sponsorship deal is worth around £1.5m which TfL will reinvest in London’s transport network.

Both parties want to use the scheme Read the rest of this entry »

Paddington Gates Overcharging

It’s come to my notice that there is a problem for travelcard holders on Oyster with the gates for platforms 2-5 at Paddington. If you travel in from the West using a ticket to the boundary of the highest zone on your travelcard, then touch out using your travelcard at those gates, you will be charged a fare from Heathrow using Heathrow Express. The same will also apply in reverse. That’s a £22/£25 interest free loan to TfL until the help desk issues a refund.

TfL are aware of the issue and I’m waiting for a response.

Bye Bye Oyster Deposit

As exclusively revealed on this website two months ago, TfL are phasing out the Oyster card deposit from February 23rd.  Cards purchased before that date will still retain the £5 deposit which can be cashed in when returning or cancelling the Oyster card.  From Sunday 23rd onwards an Oyster card will cost a £5 fee.  If the card is retained then that £5 will be added to the PAYG credit balance on the first anniversary of purchase.  Unused credit will still be refundable at any time, along with the deposit on older cards.

The main reason for making the change Read the rest of this entry »

Same Station Exit Oddity

My son stumbled across a little known oddity of making a same station exit last month.  He touched in at Crayford and after a few minutes was informed that the line was closed because of a fault.  He touched out and I drove him to nearby Slade Green where he touched in on the validators.  Further along the line his card was inspected by a Southeastern RPI and he was told it wasn’t validated.  Thankfully the RPI responded to my son’s protestations by scrolling back through the journey history and he noticed the Crayford to Slade Green journey.  He decided to let my son carry on, and on touch out at London Bridge an incomplete journey was recorded.  I called TfL the next day and they refunded the overcharge.

What actually happened was a mystery to the customer service staff at TfL, Read the rest of this entry »

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