I went shopping in Covent Garden today (thermal underwear, if you’re asking).  As is the way of these things, I went from Chiswick to Waterloo on South West Trains which, owing to the train being late, skipped every stop after Barnes and arrived in 16 minutes.  So far so good – off-peak Z3-Z1 Oyster NR/TfL farescale is £3.10, which was duly deducted on emerging at Leicester Square.

On the return journey things weren’t quite so smooth.  I walked back to Waterloo for the exercise and the view down the river, arriving at 17:35 for the 17:37 train, which is a bit tight.  Racing through the barriers (touching in, of course), the train left as I got up to it, clearly early.  Hugely aggravating, of course, and since there’s a 15 minute interval service I could either kick my heels on the platform for quarter of an hour or go back through the barriers and take the tube.  The latter being the quickest option, I touched out again (noting that the gate display showed £5.00) and went through the Underground barriers, caught the Bakerloo to Piccadilly Circus, Piccadilly to Hammersmith (rammed with Arsenal fans, had to wait for the second train) and District to Turnham Green.  On touching out, I was then charged £3.20 for this.

I checked the Oyster journey history, which confirmed that I’d been charged £3.20 for a ‘Waterloo Pl12-19 – Turnham Green’ NR/TfL fare, then went to the ticket office, where the bemused chap informed me that he couldn’t refund me the difference as, so far as he could tell, I’d been *undercharged* £1.10.  He also mentioned ‘pink validators’, although I hadn’t been near one (nearest would be Richmond).  I left, and caught a bus home – the overcharging having put me over my cap this was at least free.

Now, what on earth had gone on here?  Here’s the journey history printout as handed to me by the ticket clerk:

  • 14:31 Chiswick – Waterloo NR12-19 £0.00
  • 14:40 Chiswick – Leicester Square £3.10
  • 17:36 Pre Pay Exit Waterloo NR12-19 £0.00 < proving that SWT left early, as it had gone by the time I got back to the barrier and touched out
  • 18:18 Waterloo NR12-19 – Turnham Grn £3.20
  • 18:18 *** cap applied ***

The relevant fares here are:

  • Chiswick – Leicester Square : £3.10 (NR/TfL off-peak Z3-Z1, correct)
  • Waterloo [underground] – Turnham Green : £1.80 (TfL off-peak Z1-Z2)
  • Waterloo [NR] – Turnham Green : No fares were found for that journey (!)
  • Z3-Z1 daily off-peak cap  : £6.30

So where on earth did £3.20 come from?  I reckon I was actually charged the full £5 deduction for going in and out at Waterloo, and this triggered the remaining-to-cap amount of £3.20 at Turnham Green on touch-out there – the £1.10 the clerk mentioned is baffling, though, it’s not what I would have been charged extra for going Waterloo NR – Richmond [touch pink] – Turnham Green, if such a thing existed (should be £3.40, I reckon).

To find out how much TfL owe me, it should have worked thus:

  • Chiswick – Leicester Square £3.10
  • Waterloo – Turnham Green £1.80
  • Bus home £1.20
  • Total 6.10

so I’m 20p down.  It does show that the apparent idiocy of having multiple farescales for the same journey has tangible, real world consequences which make the system look arbitrary and unhelpful.  I think I’ll ring the helpline and see what they make of it.

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