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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.

Journey History page re-write

After way too many years I have finally got round to updating the journey history page. The heading now includes queries as that is TfL’s prefered method of contact when querying a contactless journey. A series of screen shots explains how to get to the form to do this.

Hertford Travelcards

In my earlier post I looked briefly at some of the single fares and caps for the new Oyster extension to Hertford North.  This time I’m going to explore the number of options for travelcard season tickets from the town of Hertford itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Oyster to Hertford North

The latest Oyster and contactess extension started today and brings Cuffley, Bayford and Hertford North into the Oyster system.  Cuffley is in zone 9 while Bayford and Hertford North are in the same pseudo zone as the Broxbourne to Hertford East line.  Fares to London Terminals will be cheaper than currently, and holders of zip 16+ cards will also enjoy half adult rate fares.

The fares have been set by GTR.  An initial analysis has revealed some unfortunate scenarios between Hertford North and Southeastern stations.  The default fare assumes travel via London Bridge and St Pancras and is National Rail only.  Avoiding zone 1 fares have been set up via Stratford and Highbury & Islington but these cost more than the default because they include Undergorund and/or DLR travel.  They also require you to touch the pink readers at both stations, but if you ignore this you’ll be charged the default fare (ie less).  It’s a bit of a mess.

Another anomaly is that zip 5-10 holders travel free from Hertford East, but they are charged child fares from Hertford North.

George Street Resolved

Further to my earlier post I can confirm that TfL customer services have resolved all the issues with the faulty reader at George Street tram stop.  The reader is now working and they have worked to refund anyone charged an incomplete rail fare at Wimbledon as well as anyone who received a revenue check which could have been down to the faulty reader.

They’ve also provided some screenshots demonstrating how to raise an issue with them from the online journey history.  I’ll be adding these to this site shortly.

Faulty Tram Reader – George Street

I’ve received several reports about a faulty reader at George Street tram stop (see the Wimbledon page comments). I’ve been in conversation with TfL about this issue and can confirm that it was one of the readers at George Street and that it has been fixed now.  As I understand it, the reader appeared to work as normal, but nothing was sent back to the central system. However, it has raised some interesting questions about TfL’s systems which I’m also seeking feedback from TfL on. Read the rest of this entry »

Heathrow Express and Young People

Heathrow Express began accepting Oyster and contactless last month. As with the Gatwick Express, convenience is the word rather than value for money. The fares are the same as walk up singles. If you plan ahead then advance fares can be significantly cheaper. Heathrow Express has always operated on a kids go free basis, so there is no charge to holders of zip 5-10 or zip 11-15 photocards. The problem comes with zip 16+ photocards.

Holders of zip 16+ photocards travel at half the adult rate almost everywhere in Oysterland. For this reason you can’t add a 16-25 railcard discount to a 16+ zip photocard because you are already getting 50% off. Unfortunately Heathrow Express decided to charge adult fares to 16+ zip photocard holders on their services. This means that whilst adults and 18+ students get 1/3rd off off-peak if they have a railcard added to their Oyster, railcard holding zip 16+ photocard holders can’t.

It’s undoubtedly an oversight, and quite understandable, but I hope someone somewhere comes up with a solution. In the meantime it’s getting added to the When not to use Oyster page.

PS. The Epsom story (part 2) is still coming, very soon.

The Epsom Story (Part 1)

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Oyster at Epsom

STOP PRESS!!!!!!!

Oyster will be accepted at Epsom from Monday 25th February.  Details are a bit sketchy at present, especially as the fares are not yet in the publicly available fare-finder.  However, we do have a quote from TfL:

Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at Transport for London said:

We are delighted that, working with the DfT, GTR and South Western Railway, we have now been able to expand Oyster and contactless to cover services to Epsom station. Pay as you go with contactless and Oyster has helped revolutionise travel on Tube, rail and bus services across London, making them more convenient for all. We are now working with the DfT and train operating companies on expanding pay as you go to more stations across the GTR network, including Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City and Luton, throughout 2019.

Oyster and Heathrow Express

A little over 9 years after Oyster PAYG began being accepted on most National Rail services in London, the last rail service has finally joined the family.  Yes, you can now use Oyster and contactless on Heathrow Express.

Just like the Gatwick Express, the fares charged are determined by which platform you use at Paddington to touch in or out.  If it is platforms 6 or 7 then the higher Heathrow Express fares will be charged.  The single fare is exactly the same as the cash fare on the day, while if you return it will cost more than cash.  There are also very reasonably priced advance tickets available from the Heathrow Express website.  Thus just like Gatwick, Oyster is very much provided for convenience and not value for money.

Adult fares are charged for standard blue cards, Student, Jobcentre, Apprentice and zip 16-18 Oyster cards.  Holders of both 5-10 and 11-15 zip cards are not charged, in line with the Heathrow Express policy of not charging kids.  These fares do not count towards any caps and travelcards are not taken into account.

Examples of Capping Scenarios

I’ve added a long awaited new page to the site explaining how capping works using real examples. You can find the page in the menu to the left, or here.

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