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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.

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 »

Paddington Gates Overcharging

It’s come to my notice that there is a problem for travelcard holders on Oyster with the gates for platforms 2-5 at Paddington. If you travel in from the West using a ticket to the boundary of the highest zone on your travelcard, then touch out using your travelcard at those gates, you will be charged a fare from Heathrow using Heathrow Express. The same will also apply in reverse. That’s a £22/£25 interest free loan to TfL until the help desk issues a refund.

TfL are aware of the issue and I’m waiting for a response.

Bye Bye Oyster Deposit

As exclusively revealed on this website two months ago, TfL are phasing out the Oyster card deposit from February 23rd.  Cards purchased before that date will still retain the £5 deposit which can be cashed in when returning or cancelling the Oyster card.  From Sunday 23rd onwards an Oyster card will cost a £5 fee.  If the card is retained then that £5 will be added to the PAYG credit balance on the first anniversary of purchase.  Unused credit will still be refundable at any time, along with the deposit on older cards.

The main reason for making the change Read the rest of this entry »

Same Station Exit Oddity

My son stumbled across a little known oddity of making a same station exit last month.  He touched in at Crayford and after a few minutes was informed that the line was closed because of a fault.  He touched out and I drove him to nearby Slade Green where he touched in on the validators.  Further along the line his card was inspected by a Southeastern RPI and he was told it wasn’t validated.  Thankfully the RPI responded to my son’s protestations by scrolling back through the journey history and he noticed the Crayford to Slade Green journey.  He decided to let my son carry on, and on touch out at London Bridge an incomplete journey was recorded.  I called TfL the next day and they refunded the overcharge.

What actually happened was a mystery to the customer service staff at TfL, Read the rest of this entry »

Site Updates for 2020

The Fares Guide section now has pages for the 2020 fares and the fare finder is also showing the updated fares. Other pages will be updated where necessary over the next day or so.

Change to Oyster Deposit

News has leaked out that TfL are to change the Oyster card deposit at some point in the new year.  The date hasn’t been agreed yet, but it is NOT linked to the new fares.

When this change takes place the £5 refundable deposit will be replaced with a £5 fee.  This is to encourage use of contactless payments for short or infrequent visits to London.  The good news is Read the rest of this entry »

TfL Online Password Reset

At 2pm this afternoon TfL locked everyone out of their online accounts pending a password reset.  All you need to do is click on the forgotten password link and enter your registered email address.  If that address exists on the system you’ll be sent a link to enable you to set a new password.  Once done everything will work again.  While locked out, all Oyster cards and contactless cards will still work for travel, and topups can be made at stations and ticket stop shops.

The beginning of this story dates back to August when a number of TfL accounts were accessed maliciously using a list of email addresses and passwords stolen from other companies.  Where people have re-used the same password on multiple sites the hackers were able to get in.  TfL spotted something was up because there were suddenly a large number of invalid logins using email addresses that didn’t exist on their system.  The online system was taken down immediately, limiting the success of the attack, Read the rest of this entry »

Contactless to Welwyn Garden City

The final PAYG extension for the year, covering Welham Green, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City went live on Tuesday.  As with Luton Airport Parkway, only contactless payment cards and devices are accepted, not Oyster cards of any variety.  The full range of paper tickets are also still available and may well work out cheaper at times, especially at weekends.  At this time there is also no capping, so if travelling a lot in London you could well be better off with a normal travelcard.

Auto Topup – Faster Payment Delayed

I’ve now had confirmation from TfL that the payment changes to auto topup have been postponed until next year.  So all that’s currently happened is the raising of the threshold to £20.  I’d still recommend always ensuring that you have plenty of funds available on the linked bank card and make sure the emails from TfL don’t go into a spam folder.

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