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South Eastern still targeting OEPs

In a day over two months time the OEP will be no more, but this is not stopping South Eastern from making a fast buck.  They are blatantly targeting people who are about to have the correct fare for their journey deducted from the PAYG balance on their card.  And these are people with travelcards stored on their Oyster card, often expensive annual ones.  The phrase “biting the hand that feeds you” springs to mind here.

Here’s what happens.  A passenger has a travelcard which doesn’t cover zone 1 and makes a journey into Central London.  They probably haven’t heard about OEPs because very few people have.  They go to touch out at Charing Cross and the gate rejects their card instructing them to “Seek assistance”.  When they do they are issued with a £20 penalty fare.  The gateline programming has been altered because Revenue Protection staff are present.  At other times the gate would let people through and deduct the correct fare.

South Eastern, like all TOCs, have made very little effort to publicise OEPs.  They were only bought in in January 2010 along with the roll-out of Oyster PAYG to National Rail in London.  Many of the people being targeted will have had Oyster cards long before then because travelcards on Oyster have been accepted on National Rail for many years.  They will not have received a leaflet telling them about OEPs.  There are no posters at stations explaining about OEPs.  Just how can issuing penalty fares for a requirement that has not been sufficiently publicised be fair?

Furthermore, OEPs were bought in to protect revenue when passengers were travelling out of London to where many stations are ungated and unstaffed.  They were not intended to target people who would be forced to touch out anyway because the stations are fully staffed and gated.

Roll on May 22nd when this odious bunch of parasites will be forced to find a different way of making a mint.

See also this earlier post including a comment received this morning.

9 Responses

  1. Following your piece on South Eastern getting heavy on OEP, I wondered what the situation was in respect of journeys that take you out of zone and then back in again without getting off the train. For instance, take a Zone 1-4 season ticket holder who wishes to travel from New Malden to St. Margarets (both in Zone 4). The obvious route is to take the direct train via Kingston however en-route this train serves stations in Zone 5 and 6 before returning to zone 4. I was wondering if the ticket holder is obliged to take the much longer route via Clapham Jn to remain within their designated zones, and what the attitude of a travelling RPI would be if your ticket were to be inspected say between Kingston and Hampton Wick?
    Similar scenarios also exist on the Hounslow loop and Wimbledon-Sutton loop.

  2. Hi Simon,

    That’s a good question. Without the travelcard season it’s easy, they are both 3-zone journeys outside of zone 1 so it’s the same price. I don’t know how they’d charge it with a season including zones 2-4. If you go via Clapham Junction it shouldn’t cost anything while the other way should only be a 2-zone journey. If you were going via zone 6 before May 22nd I’d definitely set an OEP to be safe, then clear it again afterwards if the system assumed you’d gone via Clapham. Really I need someone in that situation to try it out and report back.

  3. Mad Traveller

    The answer is simple, if you travel in zones beyond your travelcard you have to pay or risk a fine. Just as you would have to pay to travel through Zone 1 even if you didn’t get off the train (eg New Malden to Kentish Town via Wimbledon and City Thameslink.

  4. It’s not often that I get angry with site visitors, but you are so far off the mark it is untrue. Firstly, you don’t buy an OEP. It is a setting on your card. Secondly, people getting caught out by South Eastern in this way are doing the exact thing that they need to do to get the correct fare deducted from their card. No-one is trying to evade the fare. They are actually prepared to pay what is due. It’s just that the greedy money grabbing low-lifes (masquerading as Southeastern senior management) have decided to take advantage of this technicality that they themselves have neglected to publicise in any adequate fashion to sting these unsuspecting loyal customers (who are regular travellers paying huge amounts for season tickets) with an additional penalty fare.

  5. Hi,

    Today it happened with me at London Bridge. I have 2-5 Monthly travelcard and when I touched at LB(boarded train from East Croydon, Zone 5), message came ‘Seek Assistance’. I then went to the man standing there and he checked my travelcard and showed me printout of OEP pasted on the access fare/penalty fare counter. He was kind enought and told me to pay 2.60(single fare from East Croydon) and didn’t ask for Penalty fare. Although it was a relief but I had to pay 1.1 extra because NR extension would have been for 1.5(off-peak).

    I was amazed by this useless rule of OEP. I doub’t this OEP should be there when you are travelling b/w zones 1-6.

    Also, I’m amazed why ticket checker who had come on the train didn’t find that I was without OEP as next station would have been London Bridge? Any idea.

  6. Hi Rahul,

    So they’re still playing around with less than 2 weeks to go? You were lucky they only charged you £2.60 then. As to why the man on the train didn’t query it, I’ve no idea. Perhaps he’s gearing up for when OEPs are withdrawn on May 22nd? I assume it was a First Capital Connect train you were on, which is different to Southeastern who man the barriers at platforms 1-6?

  7. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the reply. It was 1-6 platforms only. I guess they had a change of heart or may be so many complaints.

    Another interesting thing happened was last weekend we went to Wimbeldon by Tram from East Croydon. My wife is PAYG, so we didn’t know to touch at Wimbeldon Tram touch and came out of Station. We took bus till W’don Park and then came back to W’don by Bus and took the train. When we cam back to home, I registered by wife’s card and saw the balance as 0.60. When I went to EC for recharge and asked for history, I was charged 4.60 or something like that for not touching on Tram touch at W’don. So, actually we were charged 4.6(full underground charge)+1.3(From Sandilands to W’don)+1.3*2(Bus from W’don to W’don Park & Back)+1.3(W’don to Sandilands)=4.6+4(cap on Bus+Tram)=8.6. Oyster 1-6 Zone cap is 8.0 and they charged me 8.6. Any idea, why this happened? Is there any chance for refund of 4.6 underground fare?

    Regards,

    Rahul

  8. Hi Rahul,

    What you’ve said you did seems ok. Do you have a printout of your history? I’ll send you an email then you can reply with a scan if you can. Which gate did you use to get out/in at Wimbldon? If you touched the tram board reader at Sandilands and touched on an exit gate at Wimbledon within 70 minutes then it shouldn’t have charged an exit fee at Wimbledon. Similarly, if you touch in on an entry gate and then touch the tram board reader on platform 10 it should refund the entry fee. I have heard that there are problems if you touch the validator next to the wide gate when exiting because that can’t tell which way you’re going and assumes an entry if you’re not touched in on a rail journey.

    Anyway, if you call the helpdesk and explain what you did then they should arrange a refund.

  9. Thanks for the printout, Rahul. I don’t know why it’s charged you the £4.40 entry at Wimbledon. It’s clearly realised that you didn’t make a rail journey, but for some reason it hasn’t cleared the charge when you touched on the tram boarding validator. The only thing I can think might be an issue is whether the clocks on the two readers were synchronised. They both say the same time in hours and minutes so I wonder whether the tram touch in appeared to be before the rail entry. Were you running to catch a tram that was about to leave?

    Anyway, I would definitely call the Oyster helpline and request a refund, if you haven’t already. While you’re talking to them, ask them whether time might have been an issue. Let me know the outcome as well if you can.

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