Baffled by Oyster Complexity

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ClivePage

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On Saturday my wife and I did the following return trip (with these specified tickets,). [we have Railcards loaded on our Oyster Cards, by the way].

1. Luton - St.Pancras (Luton - London Thameslink Stations, FCC super-off-peak day return)

2. St.Pancras - London Bridge via Northern Line (FCC ticket valid on tube because of Thameslink closure, but exit barriers at LBG did not work and we were delayed while arguing the point with the barrier assistant).

3. London Bridge - Greenwich (SE Trains) - Cutty Sark (Docklands) using our Oyster cards. This got charged as £1-30, even though we used a combination of NR and TfL services.

Returning the same way the fares were higher.

1. Cutty Sark - Greenwich - London Bridge (Oyster). My wife thinks she saw the sum of £1-30 provisionally charged on NR exit at London Bridge.

2. London Bridge - St.Pancras (Northern Line): given the hassle on the way out we decided to continue our Oyster Journey rather than invoke the special case on the FCC tickets, and fully expected this leg not to add to the Oyster charge, as LBG and King's Cross St.Pan are both in Zone 1. But the exit charge was £2-05, so we had to pay 75p for what should have been free.

I've tried the TfL single ticket fare finder but it is not obvious which route they assume you use. It does seem to charge £1-30 Cutty Sark to LBG and £2-05 to King's Cross, but I think assumes use of Docklands via Bank in some cases, but I could not work out which.

Does anyone understand why we got charged more on the return leg?
 
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robbob700

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Yes, these fares are correct as Oyster charges a premium for mixed National Rail and TfL journeys that use TfL services in zone 1.
You would only have been charged £1.30 for the return journey if you used solely DLR and London Underground between Cutty Sark and King's Cross St Pancras.

London Bridge to Cutty Sark is only £1.30 as it does not use TflL services in zone 1.
 

ert47

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Also if you are using Out of Station Interchange (OSI) with an Oyster, be aware that the final gate will show the full amount that you have been charged.

eg. Z5-Z1 NR Off Peak comes to £1.85 - Say between East Croydon and Waterloo, the gate on exit at Waterloo will show £1.85. Then if you want to transfer to Waterloo East to get the train to Charing Cross/London Bridge, the barriers will again show £1.85 on exit. As long as you made the interchange with enough time, you would have been only charged once.
 

bb21

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I have changed the title of the thread as it was misleading. The OP was correctly charged and not "ripped off" as claimed.
 

MikeWh

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Yes, these fares are correct as Oyster charges a premium for mixed National Rail and TfL journeys that use TfL services in zone 1.
You would only have been charged £1.30 for the return journey if you used solely DLR and London Underground between Cutty Sark and King's Cross St Pancras.

London Bridge to Cutty Sark is only £1.30 as it does not use TflL services in zone 1.
This is almost correct. The premium is also charged whenever a mixed journey uses zone 1 regardless of whether the TfL part is in zone 1 or not. London Bridge to DLR stations between Lewisham and Poplar seem to be a special case because there is an alternative option via the Jubilee line. So London Bridge to Island Gardens is £1.30 with the railcard but Waterloo East to Island Gardens is £2.05.

The £1.30 fare from Cutty Sark to Kings X St Pancras is either via Bank or Canary Wharf and London Bridge LU. That way you are only using TfL charged rail services.
 

ClivePage

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I have changed the title of the thread as it was misleading. The OP was correctly charged and not "ripped off" as claimed.
Well that's a matter of opinion. I was clearly charged more than I should have been, had I used the FCC ticket for the LBG to King's Cross leg.

This was mainly the fault of TfL, since if the Northern Line exit gates at London Bridge had accepted our valid FCC tickets on the way out, we would have used our FCC tickets there on the way back and accepted the likely delay. Then we would presumably have been charged only £1-30 for the Cutty Sark to LBG journey. You can say that was because of my own lack of knowledge of the fare structure, but I still think it is incredibly complex and opaque to users. I know now, and shall not get overcharged again

It does not seem to be widely known that it costs extra to travel in Zone 1 on an Oyster card if you have already arrived in Zone 1 having used it on a mixed journey (DLR+NR). Or maybe it's not the mixed nature of the journey that is the problem - I still have no idea on this.

It would be useful if TfL made that more prominent in their fare information (and perhaps the owner of the website oyster-rail.org.uk, which is a mine of useful information).
 

bb21

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Well that's a matter of opinion. I was clearly charged more than I should have been, had I used the FCC ticket for the LBG to King's Cross leg.
Alternatively it could be argued that you were undercharged on the outbound journey as you used a mixture of LU and NR services but were only charged for the NR Only fare as the system assumed that you used the Jubilee Line.

Couldn't it?

there is a useful indipendant website about Oyster but i have lost the link. I am sure the webmaster will eb along soon :)
It is in the signature two posts above yours. :)
 

OwlMan

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Well that's a matter of opinion. I was clearly charged more than I should have been, had I used the FCC ticket for the LBG to King's Cross leg.

.
And if you had done you would have been charged what you expected, you did not choose to use the tickets and therefore paid a higher price which was correct.
 

ClivePage

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Alternatively it could be argued that you were undercharged on the outbound journey as you used a mixture of LU and NR services but were only charged for the NR Only fare as the system assumed that you used the Jubilee Line.
No, because I touched in my Oyster card on the NR barriers at London Bridge, so the system should have known that the route I was using was via South-east Trains to Greenwich and then changing to Docklands. I have again used the TfL single fare finder, and it shows the fare as £1-30 which is what I was charged. What this site does not show, of course, is the route it is assuming, and there seems no way to find this out. But when touching in at the NR barriers at LBG, it's hard to think any other route would make sense, after all one would then need to touch out and in again at LBG to use e.g. the Jubilee line to get to a Docklands station. But of course, the system has no perceptible logic to it, so how would I know?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
And if you had done you would have been charged what you expected, you did not choose to use the tickets and therefore paid a higher price which was correct.
I still disagree. I did my research in advance using the TfL single fare finder and this told me that King's Cross to Cutty Sark would be £1-30 and the same in reverse; but my guess is that this assumed the use of Bank not LBG as an interchange point and therefore the use of TfL services only but there seems no way of determining this from the web-site. Indeed I really don't see how any customer can find out the information that is needed to use Oyster tickets wisely.

The lesson I have learned the hard way is to use Oyster only if it absolutely impossible to do the trip using paper tickets only.

Incidentally I take a dim view of the owner of this forum changing my subject line. I still feel I was unwittingly overcharged, even it was because of lack of information, but the information I needed isn't provided anywhere. If that isn't being ripped-off, what is it?
 
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clagmonster

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The £2.05 fare does show on the single fare finder if you click 'show alternative fares'. I can see why you thought it would be £1.30, however in my opinion you have been correctly charged.
 

OwlMan

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I still disagree. I did my research in advance using the TfL single fare finder and this told me that King's Cross to Cutty Sark would be £1-30 and the same in reverse; but my guess is that this assumed the use of Bank not LBG as an interchange point and therefore the use of TfL services only but there seems no way of determining this from the web-site. Indeed I really don't see how any customer can find out the information that is needed to use Oyster tickets wisely.

The lesson I have learned the hard way is to use Oyster only if it absolutely impossible to do the trip using paper tickets only.

Incidentally I take a dim view of the owner of this forum changing my subject line. I still feel I was unwittingly overcharged, even it was because of lack of information, but the information I needed isn't provided anywhere. If that isn't being ripped-off, what is it?
See the link below for details of Oyster card fares on national rail

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14414.aspx
 
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bb21

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I still feel I was unwittingly overcharged, even it was because of lack of information, but the information I needed isn't provided anywhere. If that isn't being ripped-off, what is it?
TfL single fare finder clearly shows a single fare of £2.05 between Cutty Sark and Kings Cross St Pancras [London Underground] if you click on "Alternative fares" and investigated your route fully. I fail to see how the information "isn't provided anywhere".

Just because your assumption turned out to be false does not mean you were ripped off. You used National Rail services on a route that has no inter-availability with LU, therefore it was absolutely correct to charge an NR+LU fare.
 

ClivePage

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Thanks for the various posts. I agree that the "correct" charge was applied to my journey back from Cutty Sark to King's Cross via London Bridge, but my gripe with TfL is that it is virtually impossible to find out in advance what the charges are by the various routes involved, which is why I didn't use the right ticket for the journey.

The strong impression given by TfL and the railway companies is that Oyster is a zonal system, so that the fare will be the same for any reasonable route between two points. This, I now know, is completely false - but I doubt if most Oyster Card users realise this.

The second but related problem is that the TfL fare finder shows the default fare but does not reveal the route that it assumes. If you click on "Alternative Fares" it shows some alternative routes, which may have higher fares, but not the default route or routes which allow the lowest fares. You may be able to guess the default route by elimination, but that's not always easy in cases where there are several possible routes. The excellent website http://www.oyster-rail.org.uk/ admits that this is a serious flaw in the system.

A third problem is that the fare information on the TfL website at is misleading or incomplete - or at least disagrees with what is charged in practice. For example, some replies above suggested that in going from London Bridge to Cutty Sark by NR+DLR I should have been charged £2-05, but I was charged only £1-30. But the Oyster system knew that I had touched in at London Bridge on the NR barriers, and then out at Cutty Sark, so it cannot possible have thought that I had got there via tube and DLR, as it's simply not possible without passing through two more sets of barriers at London Bridge. My wife is certain that she also saw the sum of £1-30 shown on the NR exit barrier at London Bridge on our return. If these two anomalies are the result of a bit of bad programming, how confident are we that there are no anomalies elsewhere that happen to charge passengers too much rather than too little?

The whole fare system is also horrendously complex. Taking adult fares only, and ignoring bus and tram fares: the tables that one needs to consult are: TfL only: 75 rows by 10 columns, NR only 39 rows by 2 columns, TfL+NR combined 39 rows by 9 columns, total 1179 entries. Then there are separate tables for young people and for railcard holders, all of them of similar size. I haven't counted, but there must in total be over 10,000 entries in the London fare table. I suppose many people just trust the system, well I certainly don't as I've been overcharged, and eventually got refunds, too many times before.

It's very loyal of those of you who have replied to be so supportive of the fares regime of TfL and the railway companies, and I'm sure they are very grateful. I happen to think these flaws and anomalies are a serious blot on the Oyster system. I am very much not looking foward to having Oyster extended more widely, and indeed have expressed my opposition in my response to the current DfT consultation on rail fares. Fat lot of good that will do, of course.
 

yorkie

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Welcome to the forum Clive. :)
...The whole fare system is also horrendously complex....
I agree, however it's not the fault of Oyster! If TfL and the TOCs all agreed to have a standard zonal charge for all journeys regardless of mode, none of the issues described in this thread would occur!

So the blame lies not with Oyster, but with the greedy companies who want to charge differential pricing and premiums for mixed-mode travel. I see this as a serious barrier to true integrated transport & ticketing.
It's very loyal of those of you who have replied to be so supportive of the fares regime of TfL and the railway companies, and I'm sure they are very grateful....
I can't see anywhere where the fares regime has been defended or supported! What you will see here is people trying to provide accurate explanations, and facts where at all possible. Incorrect information, when reported to us using the report button (
), is removed. This ensures that people asking for advice or explanations get accurate answers.

Sometimes accurate answers are not what people want to hear (e.g. it may be preferable to hear it was an error in the system rather than the charge was correct due to premiums being charged for combining modes), but providing accurate information does not equate to supporting the policy decisions made by the organisations/companies who make them.

As for whether or not it is a "rip-off", depending on the definition you use, the term normally means someone has been charged considerably more than the true price for something and is highly subjective.

I hope that goes some way to satisfying your concerns. If anyone here really does think the current charging system is fair, sensible, and a good way forward, then that's their choice entirely, but I'd be most surprised!

And one final thing, the "Title" field when posting is only really intended for original threads, not replies. Anything entered into this field on any subsequent post is in a very small font for most people and will be completely invisible for anyone using our mobile theme or our mobile apps (and yes, it would be much better if the software we used hid that field for replies!) so it's best left blank :)
 

MikeWh

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I'll echo what yorkie says above. The lack of default route information where alternatives exist is poor design. It would be better if they displayed all the alternatives straight away because at least then you'd see if your proposed route had a higher fare.

Alternatively it could be argued that you were undercharged on the outbound journey as you used a mixture of LU and NR services but were only charged for the NR Only fare as the system assumed that you used the Jubilee Line.

Couldn't it?
I think you'll find that the system knows exactly which way you've been, but because of the dual priced routes TfL have chosen (possibly under pressure from London Travel Watch) to charge the lower fare on both routes.
 

bb21

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A third problem is that the fare information on the TfL website at is misleading or incomplete - or at least disagrees with what is charged in practice. For example, some replies above suggested that in going from London Bridge to Cutty Sark by NR+DLR I should have been charged £2-05, but I was charged only £1-30. But the Oyster system knew that I had touched in at London Bridge on the NR barriers, and then out at Cutty Sark, so it cannot possible have thought that I had got there via tube and DLR, as it's simply not possible without passing through two more sets of barriers at London Bridge. My wife is certain that she also saw the sum of £1-30 shown on the NR exit barrier at London Bridge on our return. If these two anomalies are the result of a bit of bad programming, how confident are we that there are no anomalies elsewhere that happen to charge passengers too much rather than too little?
How is it misleading? Single fare finder clearly shows that the fare is £1.30 whether you touched in at NR or LU gatelines.

It can be argued that you should be charged the NR+LU fare if touching in at the NR gateline in my opinion as the system is more consistent that way does not mean that it is the fare TfL have decided to charge, for a number of reasons, one of which is mentioned by MikeWh above. Can you explain how it is misleading if TfL charges you exactly the fare it says?

The whole fare system is also horrendously complex. Taking adult fares only, and ignoring bus and tram fares: the tables that one needs to consult are: TfL only: 75 rows by 10 columns, NR only 39 rows by 2 columns, TfL+NR combined 39 rows by 9 columns, total 1179 entries. Then there are separate tables for young people and for railcard holders, all of them of similar size. I haven't counted, but there must in total be over 10,000 entries in the London fare table. I suppose many people just trust the system, well I certainly don't as I've been overcharged, and eventually got refunds, too many times before.
Complex it certainly is, and that is simply down to the fact that some National Rail companies wanted differential pricing and could not reach a compromise with TfL as to what price to charge, thereby resulting in a two-tier system depending on whether the assumed route is on NR, LU or a mixture of the two.

Programming of the Oyster system is massively complicated because of this, and errors do occur when you then throw in OSIs, continuous exits and many other features, sometimes due to system error and sometimes due to inadvertent mistakes by the user.

It's very loyal of those of you who have replied to be so supportive of the fares regime of TfL and the railway companies, and I'm sure they are very grateful. I happen to think these flaws and anomalies are a serious blot on the Oyster system. I am very much not looking foward to having Oyster extended more widely, and indeed have expressed my opposition in my response to the current DfT consultation on rail fares. Fat lot of good that will do, of course.
I think you will find that none of the people who replied above are in support of the fares system currently in place. Most of us agree that there are serious flaws in the system. There are advantages for people who live on the fringes of the Oyster boundary when the Oyster system is extended, however that brings with it its own problems.

As for smart-ticketing on National Rail nationwide, I am very sceptical as to how it might work, but that is for another discussion.

However what I cannot accept is your assertion that it is somehow a rip-off because fares information is not available or because TfL lied about the charges. There is certainly an argument that the default route can be clearer, and that is something you are more than welcome to contact TfL about so that the design of the website can be improved.

I'm sorry that I do not agree with the statement that it is a rip-off because TfL was at fault for not displaying the fares properly, because TfL did not lie and the information is publicly available, although could be improved in terms of the format in which it is shown. Your title was amended as it was simply untrue, and it is unfortunate if you do not agree.
 

island

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Yes to part 1. There's a surcharge for using both red National Rail routes and any other rail/underground/overground/DLR service in the one journey if your journey uses zone 1. Red National Rail routes refer to a map that I can't find at the moment; they were the routes where Oyster pay as you go wasn't valid before January 2010.
 

Deerfold

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Yes to part 1. There's a surcharge for using both red National Rail routes and any other rail/underground/overground/DLR service in the one journey if your journey uses zone 1. Red National Rail routes refer to a map that I can't find at the moment; they were the routes where Oyster pay as you go wasn't valid before January 2010.
And although the surcharging is annoying and more complex than the ideal it's still cheaper than using paper tickets.
 

34D

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Surprised noone has said, but I would complain over the issues at the London Bridge barriers with the Thameslink paper tickets, and how you felt that it would be quicker to use oyster on your return leg - you'll probably get a voucher.

Re the £1.30 versus £2.05, I'm guess that (on the day in question, which I don't believe we know) it was actually possible to travel exclusively by TfL via Bank? If the northern line or DLR were suspended on the date in question, I can see a logic that the cheaper fare be available over an alternative route.
 

MikeWh

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Surprised noone has said, but I would complain over the issues at the London Bridge barriers with the Thameslink paper tickets, and how you felt that it would be quicker to use oyster on your return leg - you'll probably get a voucher.
Good point.
Re the £1.30 versus £2.05, I'm guess that (on the day in question, which I don't believe we know) it was actually possible to travel exclusively by TfL via Bank? If the northern line or DLR were suspended on the date in question, I can see a logic that the cheaper fare be available over an alternative route.
The cheaper fare is shown permanently in the single fare finder.
 

ClivePage

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Surprised noone has said, but I would complain over the issues at the London Bridge barriers with the Thameslink paper tickets, and how you felt that it would be quicker to use oyster on your return leg - you'll probably get a voucher.
I had a go at this a couple of years ago because FCC consistently sells London One-day Travelcards which simply do not open barriers at a whole lot of stations around London where such cards are valid. I complained to the railway companies, they said it was the fault of FCC for wrongly coding the tickets. I complained to FCC who said it was the fault of the railway companies for not updating the software in their barriers. I complained to London TravelWatch to get them to try to bang the various heads together and get a consistent story. They were as useless as (in my experience) they always are. Over a year after my initial complaint FCC promised to try to notify all the other railway companies again of their ticket encodings, and (nearly a year after that) nothing has actually been done as far as I can tell.

Since this is just an inconvenience and didn't generally lose me money, I didn't qualify for any compensation and I've wasted a lot of time on the issue without getting anywhere at all.
 
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