27 January 2010

Oyster PAYG on all London trains

From the start of the year, Transport for London's (TfL) Oyster card's pay-as-you-go (PAYG) variant became valid on all rail services within Greater London. This represents years of wrangling between TfL and the train operating companies (TOCs), initially instigated by former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Oyster PAYG is what the casual traveller on TfL's surface transport network typically uses. Generally, the Oyster card is loaded with a pre-determined sum of money which then permits travel on virtually all buses, Tubes and trams within Greater London. Over the past couple of years, Oyster card holders who load on weekly, monthly or annual ticket types have been able to use their cards on a selection of TOCs train services radiating from central London termini.

Pre-2010, these sections were only: Amersham-Marylebone, Finsbury Park-King's Cross/Moorgate, Greenford-West Drayton-London Paddington, Stratford-Liverpool Street, Tottenham Hale/Seven Sisters-Stratford, Upminster/Rainham-Fenchurch Street/Liverpool Street via Barking, Walthamstow Central/Tottenham Hale/Seven Sisters-Liverpool Street, Watford Junction-Euston (London Midland), Watford Junction-Clapham Junction (Southern), West Hampstead Thameslink-Moorgate/Elephant & Castle/London Bridge and West Ruislip-Marylebone/Paddington. London Overground also accepted Oyster PAYG across its entire network and journeys between Watford Junction-Euston/Clapham Junction on trains provided by London Midland or Southern were also included.

With the introduction of the Oyster PAYG on all TOC's services, most Off-Peak Return fares have been discontinued; Anytime ('peak') fares are in operation, though as you can imagine, cost considerably more than their Oyster PAYG counterparts, which will simply reflect standard TravelCard zonal prices - click here for all the different TravelCard prices that can be loaded onto an Oyster PAYG.

Virtually all TOC's services on the National Rail network can now be accessed by those in possession of an Oyster PAYG. Just 'touch in' at the ticket gates.

Oyster PAYG comes into its own during the off-peak periods, which TfL define as all times except on weekdays between 0630-0930 and 1600-1900. However, TfL's rigidity on these times has enabled passengers to take full advantage around the start/cut-off times. For example, if you 'touch in' using your Oyster PAYG at 1559, your journey will be classed as 'off-peak', despite your train departing post-1600 (i.e. during TfL's designated 'peak' period).

However, the peak restrictions cover all trains at all times in all directions, so an inbound journey from Elstree & Borehamwood, for example, at 1610, will incur a peak payment and the amount debited from your Oyster PAYG will reflect this.

If you first 'touch in' by Tube at, say 1530 and remain in-the-system beyond 1600, boarding a 'peak' train service, your journey will be classed wholly off-peak, provided you remember to 'touch out' wherever it is you end your leg.

Both TfL and the TOCs should be congratulated for the agreement, planning and relatively swift instigation of this boon to travel in the Capital. Can there be a city elsewhere in the world, with some many different transport modes that offers an integrated swipe card ticketing system as straightforward as Oyster? We think not.

Click here to see a definitive map of all National Rail and Underground lines within Greater London and details of which different zones they fall within. You might also remember a post The LEYTR Stig brought us last year, in which he stated that an Oyster PAYG can, on some occasions, be beaten in value by those able to purchase One Day TravelCards as part of their train ticket to London.

Oyster PAYG is not valid on the Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect services between Hayes & Harlington-Heathrow or on Southeatern's 'Javelin' trains between St. Pancras-Stratford.

1 comment:

Tom said...

"their Oyster PAYG counterparts, which will simply reflect standard TravelCard zonal prices"

Not quite - the system is vastly more complex than it should be owing to the existing of four separate fare scales depending on which line you use and whether you switch to a line with a different fare structure during the journey. Most of the time the difference is a few pence, but on trips into Zone 1 it can be £1.10.

There's been no indication from TfL over this, nor over the difference in conditions of carriage where TfL lines allow children to travel free up to 11 while TOCs stop at 5, requiring you to get a child's Oystercard, which requires passport photos, a trip to the post office and a two week wait - hardly the normal Oyster experience.

Then there's the OEP farrago, which I'm not even going to get into.

Yes, it's a step forward, but it's only about 75% as good as it could be, due to the lack of single control over the capital's rail services.