The Epsom Story (Part 1)Mar 08, 2019
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.
The eagle eyed observer may have noticed that the daily caps for Epsom (£18.30 Anytime, £12.90 off-peak) are remarkably similar to the zone 1-9 caps. In fact they are the same. So the obvious question is, is Epsom in zone 9? The answer is … yes, but. While the daily caps compare favourably with the old paper travelcards from Epsom to zones 1-6, the weekly zone 1-9 travelcard is about £20 more than either (Any permitted or Southern only) weekly Epsom to zones 1-6 travelcard. Quite simply, if you commute from Epsom you should still use paper season tickets, or smart versions stored on “The Key”. This is why you will not see zone 9 mentioned anywhere in relation to Epsom. However, if you usually use a zone 1-9 travelcard to commute from say Brentwood or Amersham, you can use this to travel to Epsom. The gates will let you in or out, without requiring any extra PAYG balance.
So, what about the actual fares. As with all out of zone 6 extensions there are winners and losers. If you are a loser you can still buy tickets the old fashioned way, or treat the difference as a price for the convenience of not having to queue to buy a ticket. We’ve already covered the fact that the daily caps are both cheaper than the equivalent paper day travelcards, so if you are travelling to London and using the tube once there you will be better off using Oyster or contactless. If you are travelling off-peak but one (or both) of your journeys are between 1600-1900 then the peak single fares charged at that time might make a paper ticket cheaper. An example is Epsom to Victoria which is £10.60 off-peak return. The Oyster off-peak single fare is £5.10, but return from Victoria in the afternoon peak will cost £7.30.
There are also some new journey opportunities for Oyster users in SW London. Worcester Park to West Croydon can now be done via Epsom using Oyster. The fare is the same as is charged by default, which in this case is extremely good value.
Given the number of new journeys that have been added to the system it’s not surprising that some errors may have crept in. The obvious one that I’ve spotted is Epsom to Stoneleigh. The fare finder says this is the same as Epsom to Worcester Park, but while the latter is in zone 4, Stoneleigh is zone 5. It’s been reported and I expect it will be fixed shortly.
That’s it for part 1. I’m waiting for answers from SWR before writing part 2, so watch this space.