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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.

9 Responses

  1. If I were to travel from Luton Aiport Parkway to London using contactless and use the tube in zone 1-6 (multiple journeys), would I then pay the contactless fare up to Radlett (and back) plus the zone 1-6 daily cap…or would I be charged the contactless fare to St Pancras plus the zone 1-6 daily cap?

    I have a feeling it will be the latter and if so any ideas when a daily cap may come into effect from Luton Airport Parkway and other stations not within zone 1-9?

  2. TfL have updated the Single Fare Finder and so it is now possible to calculate the fares between Central London and, Luton Airport Parkway, Harpenden and St Albans.

    As you know, the system currently charges single fares between stations if you are traveling from and to Luton Airport Parkway, Harpenden or St Albans. No caps currently apply.

    From my calculations you can travel wholly by contactless and Oyster if you travel to and return from West Hampstead Thameslink (using contactless). You can still hit the £7 cap for Zones 1 and 2 (using Oyster) and for the fare to still be cheaper (anything from a 40p to a £5.70 saving) than a Super Off-Peak, Off-Peak or Peak Day Travelcard. This applies to all three stations.

    If you wish to travel through and alight within the Thameslink Core (from Luton Airport Parkway etc.) and use the Underground it is still cheaper to buy a paper ticket.

    Mike, I can provide further details if you require them.

  3. I think it is generally true that for offpeak travel a paper ticket will be cheaper for day return, and propably for offpeak single if you have an eligible railcard (eg network card, gold card, f&f railcard etc.) Even more so if you need a day return and can get railcard discount.

    What isn’t clear from what has been publicised at stations and elsewhere is child fares for 5-11.

    What I would expect is if station takes oyster children are free up to 11 as long as they have a zip 5-11 oystercard.

    Contactless only stations will need a child fare ticket, subject to operator promo discounts for off peak leisure travel in groups with children or F&f railcard.

    But expect lots of confusion and penalty fares, and mumsnet posts on this one, more perhaps than previous extensions, and even more for Tfl rail extensions to Reading with another slightly different set of policies

  4. Alex, travelling from Luton Airport Parkway to West Hampstead Thameslink costs £7.80 one way, a zone 1-2 PAYG cap is £7, thus a return journey to Luton Airport Parkway, alighting/returning at/from West Hampstead Thameslink and then travelling within zones 1-2 would cost £22.60.

    A super off peak travelcard from Luton Airport Parkway is £17.40, an off peak travelcard is £23.00.

    So, I would say on weekends a paper travelcard is still the most economical option (super off peak). Even on weekdays, a 40p saving is probably not worth it, especially considering not all trains from Luton Airport Parkway stop at West Hampstead Thameslink and more tube lines serve King’s Cross St Pancras underground station.

    Bottom line, if you have a railcard and/or travel on weekends making a return journey, contactless will be more expensive. However, at other times, you may be able to make savings. One thing is for sure, it would be very confusing for the average rail user and the sooner caps are introduced, the better.

  5. Hi, Nik, Alex, Miles,

    Apologies for the joint reply, I’m struggling with a slipped disc at the moment which is severely curtailing the time I can spend.

    Any journey starting or finishing at St Albans, Harpenden or Luton Airport Parkway will be charged in full, regardless of any other caps already or subsequently reached. There is no need to use a different card though, unless you need to block an OSI. It’s fine to re-enter West Hampstead Thameslink and proceed to the greater choice of Underground lines at Kings Cross St Pancras. But if you wanted the Jubilee from West Hampstead you will either need to touch on a bus (if you’re going to cap in zones 1-2 anyway) or use a different card.

    The issue with children aged 5-10 is complex. Within zones 1-6 with a 5-10 zip card they are free whatever. They are also free on Underground, Overground, TfL Rail, Greater Anglia, C2C and Southeastern extensions to Amersham, Chesham, Watford, Watford Junction, Hertford East, Shenfield, Grays, Dartford and Swanley. They are NOT free on GTR/SWR extensions to Epsom, Gatwick Airport, Potters Bar, Hertford North or Radlett.

    The latest news I have is that contactless caps beyond the zones to the north and west will be introduced sometime next year. I’d hope that it happens on January 2nd to co-incide with the Reading extension, but I’m not holding my breath.

    As for penalty fares, I understand that there will be an amnesty for a period post introduction. That’s certainly the case at Brookmans Park. When that comes to an end I can forsee many angry postings on a variety of forums, including this one, RailUK, MSE, and I’m sure mumsnet will join in too.

  6. Hi Mike, thanks for the response.

    This is getting complex (and may not simplify that much next year)–I’ll use my travels as an example.

    In my specific situation I often make a weekend day trip between St John’s Wood and Harpenden. I currently have zone1-2 covered by a citymapper contactless pass* and have a network card.

    At the moment, for weekend day trips, I pretty sure the cheapest option is paper ticket, super off peak, £6 with network card discount, using my citymapper to get to West Hampstead Thameslink. Potentially also for PAYG

    I haven’t worked our yet whether at the moment paper ticket is overall the best approach for a weekday trip (network card not applicable or saves at most 60p due to network card min fare) When capping comes in then contactless may be better than paper weekdays (for network card railholders) but not weekends. The answer may be different for other railcards.

    The complexity of this deserves a crib sheet where you can look up starting zone, end station, time of day, and which railcards you have to work out paper or contactless.

    (*I just break even on the citymapper pass at £31 per week with my usual travel if I make journeys at the weekend and/or 1 extra journey midweek, whereas I wouldn’t generally make the contactless cap. I have other reasons to favour the citymapper pass even if I don’t quite break even.)

  7. Seeing as Thameslink uses TfL prices south of West Hampstead, would it work to touch out-in-out at West Hampstead Thameslink before touching in at the Jubilee line station?
    As I understand it, that would leave you with a Luton Airport Parkway to West Hampstead Thameslink journey (as before), and a journey from West Hampstead Thameslink further into London (which ought to cost the same as one from West Hampstead LU), thus potentially allowing you to break a journey without requiring two cards or paying a bus fare. I suspect I may be missing something here given the complexity of the system though.
    Thanks very much for all your research into this – this website is a very helpful resource to try and understand these sorts of issues!

  8. Hi Miles,

    You’re right, it is very complicated. The problem with a crib sheet is covering all possible journey opportunities with the myriad of tickets and railcards, where the decision might change depending on whether you make any other journeys that day.

  9. Hi Daniel,

    It might work. You’d need to compare the prices for West Hampstead LU to your destination with those from West Hampstead TL to your destination. Off the top of my head I can see issues in some places, particularly if you change at Finchley Road and go back north.

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