Passing through Gunnersbury station earlier, I spotted a) a man who couldn’t get his Oyster to swipe and b) a big sign with the following message on it, presumably explaining why he couldn’t get his Oyster to swipe:

Date: Monday

Time 24th May

Customers from Richmond or Kew with Pre-pay Oyster may experiance difficulty.

Please see Booking Office Staff

This is due to an ongoing computer fault.

Today’s reports of £108m demanded cuts by the DfT from Boris’s TfL grant rather sum up the feeling that we’re seeing the start of a crumbling edge of quality regime in London.  It’s not the only bit of shoddiness I’ve seen lately, but that’s another issue.

Meanwhile, my occasional trips using Oyster PAYG on NR have thrown up another overcharge:

Story: Thursday evening I went to have a drink with Dave Cole (and, originally, Adam Bienkov and Martin Hoscik, who couldn’t make it on the day).  This involved a pub in London Bridge, thus making the decision easy – NR to Waterloo, walk to Waterloo East, NR to London Bridge, thus avoiding the £1.10 surcharge for daring to use the tube after an NR trip into Zone 1.  Unfortunately I was deemed to be a bit too clever and the following happened:

  • Starting balance £13.30
  • Chiswick (Z3) – Waterloo (Z1) = £2.60 deduction, the correct peak Z3-Z1 NR fare
  • Balance now £10.70
  • Walk to Waterloo East over the bridge, on a route with no barriers and no obvious touch-in points, but lots of Southeastern revenue people, one of whom duly checked my Oyster and declared it valid.  I thus proceeded…
  • …to take a train to London Bridge, correctly touching out at the barriers and heading to the pub
  • On concluding three pints and a chat about politics and things with Dave, we parted at London Bridge tube…
  • …whence I took the Jubilee to Westminster, then the District to Gunnersbury and walked home, a Z1-Z3 offpeak TfL £2.40 journey

My next journey was on Saturday morning, a bus to the tube station, where, hearing the train arriving, I ran in confidently expecting to swipe through the barriers and catch it.  Red light.  Try again.  Red light.  Conclude Oyster is screwed, check balance – £1.10.  I’ve apparently used £12.20 for three journeys costing £6.20, I’ve missed my tube and am now pushing it to get to Marylebone for the 9:45 to Birmingham.  Cheers, Boris.  Angry tweets ensued, resulting in more moderate responses along the lines of ‘it’s not Boris’s fault if you can’t put money on your Oyster/touch in and out correctly’.  Hmm.

Now, immediately your Oyster cognoscenti will spot the £6.00 difference and conclude that there’s an incomplete journey in there, which turned out to be the case – the Waterloo East – London Bridge NR journey was marked as incomplete on the journey history and thus the system charged me the full £6.00 penalty.   Fortunately Turnham Green was staffed at 7pm on a Sunday evening so I could get my money back, although I’m not sure for how much longer that’ll be the case.

The complete history reads:

  • Description – Deducted – Balance
  • Chiswick – Waterloo NR – 2.60 – 10.70
  • – London Bdge NR – 6.00 – 4.70
  • London Bdge LU – Gunnersbury – 2.40 – 2.30
  • No. E3 Bus – 1.20 – 1.10

Essentially, then, if changing from one side of Waterloo to the other, it’s wise to find out where to touch in – there are touch pads but they’re on the other side of the passage, for passengers (presumably) getting off at Waterloo East.  Next time I’ll make sure to get in everyone’s way and touch in.  There could, of course, be pads somewhere else, but if so I’ve not noticed them and considering the system knows full well I’m at Waterloo anyway I’m not sure why it should be bothered.

All in all it’s another reminder that a) the fare scales are screwy (if I’d got the Jubilee I wouldn’t have been overcharged £6.00, merely legitimately charged £1.10) and b) the implementation is non-intuitive at key interchanges where it’ll affect people.  Waterloo NR to Waterloo East is a genuine Out-Of-Station-Interchange (OSI) with a 30 minute grace period, but if it’s not obvious where you touch in or that you need to to avoid overcharging, what’s the point?

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