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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.

Updated Latest Comments

The latest comments block on the left has had a bit of a makeover.  My replies are again hidden so you get the last 20 questions asked.  The link in the header now takes you directly to the full comment so you can also see replies.

Brentwood off-peak fare anomaly

An eagle eyed visitor has noticed that there’s an anomaly with off-peak fares from Brentwood (Z9) to Zone 1. The off-peak single fare for Brentwood to either Liverpool Street NR or LU is £5.50 but to any other Zone 1 LU station it is £5.40. This also includes passing through zone 1 and escaping the other side.

With Oyster you need to note that if you exit at Liverpool Street NR and then go down to the Underground you will be overcharged because the Oyster system won’t refund a fare once charged. To avoid this, consider changing at Stratford onto the Central or Jubilee lines. Contactless will work properly, as will return journeys to Brentwood.

If you want Liverpool Street itself then consider either Aldgate or Moorgate as alternative nearby stations.

2018 Fares

The observant among you will have noticed a series of new pages appearing on the Fares Guide over the last week or so. Today the final link has appeared which provides access to 2018 fares in the Oyster Fare Finder.

You can find this special version here.

Online Topup – Collect on Buses

TfL has turned on the ability to collect online orders (top-ups and travelcards) on buses. At the moment it is in a test phase which means that it may not work if an issue is encountered.

Testing began on 1st September but had to be halted a few days later as there were some significant issues. It was restarted on 2nd October and so far there have been no problems. I’m aware of several people who have picked up top-ups on buses in the last week, including my son. If all goes well it is hoped to launch it properly at the end of this year.

Human Verification

Did you struggle with the maths when posting comments or logging in? Then the good news is that I’ve changed the captcha module so it now uses the Google reCaptcha service. Most people will simply need to click the “I’m not a robot” button and that will be it. Some may have to undertake a short test to prove their human credentials. There is no timeout, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve entered a long comment.

Autumn Fare Changes

This Sunday (3rd September) will see a number of changes to Oyster fares. They affect people travelling via Stratford and Highbury & Islington, from Watford Junction and in the Charing Cross and London Bridge areas. Here are the details: Read the rest of this entry »

Gatwick Simplification

I’ve just discovered that a partial simplification occured back in May with fares on the Merstham to Gatwick section. Originally Govia (backed by the DfT) had mandated that fares avoiding zone 1 should often be more expensive than the equivalent via zone 1 fare. This had the particularly nasty side effect that sometimes touching a pink reader (eg at Surrey Quays) might charge more than if you didn’t bother. That definitely contradicts the message TfL want to make about pink readers.

However, since May these fares have been revised downwards to the same level as the via zone 1 fare. One can only guess which side was the driving force behind this change, and I don’t think it was either Govia or the DfT. Better late than never, and a shame no announcement was made, from either side.

The opportunity to save money on most fares by splitting at East Croydon still exists though.

Improved Online Topup

Ordering top up online and collecting when making a journey has just been given a massive makeover. It also includes ordering travelcards. The key changes are as follows:

  • No need to specify a station to pick it up from. It’s available from any station or tramstop which accepts Oyster for travel. You still need to pick it up as part of a journey. Buses and ticket machines cannot be used. (buses will be available later in the year)
  • You only need to wait up to 30 minutes before the order can be picked up.
  • It must be picked up within 3 days or the order will be cancelled and refunded automatically. This includes travelcard season tickets even if the start date is more than 3 days in advance.
  • Only newer Oyster cards can take advantage of this facility. When you log into Oyster online you will be told whether your Oyster is a first generation card or not. As far as I can tell these were issued up to sometime in 2010. If your card is a first generation card then you are recommended to arrange a replacement with the helpdesk. The cards will still work at the moment, but you won’t be able to add products online any more but you won’t be able to use them with the new mobile app (due for release later this year).

I’ve got some serious rewriting of some pages on this site to attend to once I have full details confirmed.

Pink Readers – Interchange only

I’ve just been informed that TfL has tightened up the use of pink readers from an unspecified date in March such that they will no longer start a journey if the Oyster card is not touched in at the time. Sadly it appears as though the fact that this was an unpublished feature means that they don’t see a need to communicate it to everyone.

Minor Fare Reduction

It’s not often that there is good news on the fares front, but TfL have corrected what I suspect was an error in the off-peak single fare between zones 5-7. It was £1.90 and is now £1.80, the same as zones 5-8 and 5-9.

This affects singles between Harrow & Wealdstone or Headstone Lane and Carpenders Park, as well as stations between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Uxbridge or Pinner to Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Croxley and Watford (Met).

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