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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.

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 »

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