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Oyster Fun

With thanks to the marvellous Oyster Rail website, Station Master Geoff has been out on the network, trying out a few oddities with the Oyster system.

01 Feb 16

Using Apple Pay on the Tube

Station Master’s Geoff & Matt went out with a video camera, an Apple Watch and an iPhone to see how Apple Pay works paying for your travel using your mobile devices. Here’s the video we did for Londonist …

17 Jul 15

Contactless Card Not Authorised For Travel

Contactless Card

Contactless Card

We like TfL’s Contactless Payment System (we were there at the launch) and since day one it has worked flawlessly for us.

Until now, where we’ve uncovered a seemingly unfixable (by TfL’s technical team anyway) flaw in the whole system.

This Station Master changed banks recently and with it came a new set of cards, which were dutifully added to TfL’s online portal and all was fine.

However, when (for reasons-that-aren’t-important-to-this-story) one of the cards was replaced with a card with an identical 16-digit card number (known as the “PAN”) but with a different expiry date, things started to unravel.

While the new card was (delayed) in the post, TfL were not able to authorise a payment and marked the card as “Unable to travel” adding it to what they seem to refer as the “CNAFT” (Card Not Authorised for Travel) list.

With the new card in hand this Station Master paid off his travel and as instructed by TfL staff added the new card (same PAN, new expiry date) online (as they can’t update expiry dates).

CIrLmdvXAAA9_RU.jpg-large Here’s where the major flaw in TfL’s system shows up. The CNAFT seems to work ONLY on the card’s PAN and not the expiry date. So, while we have a valid card on the system, the “Unable to travel” card with the same PAN is being placed on TfL’s block list.  This results in our valid-everywhere-else contactless payment card being refused for travel.

We’ve spent many hours on the phone with TfL’s frontline contactless guys, who to be fair to them and to their credit do understand the problem perfectly, but don’t have the ability to remove cards from the system.

Their technical people also claim they cannot remove cards from the system and the solution is to “get a new card number” which quite frankly is not an acceptable solution.

Our latest series of telephone calls to TfL this week has resulted in an acknowledgement that they need to come up with a solution to this, but none has been forthcoming, and our account is in the state shown above.

Whilst writing this blog post we received a call from Shashi Verma’s office, who explained that TfL were misled by the banks who had told them they would never issue cards with identical PANs and that they had fixed the Tube readers with a software update to read the expiry date and that they were still working on a solution for the bus readers (with no known date for a fix).

That of course doesn’t help us when travelling on the bus to get to the Tube!  So we’ve sent them away asking again why can’t they remove cards from the online system, which would seem the logical solution to our problem…

The response to which came back that the technical team are (grudgingly) going to (we have to say “attempt to” given their efforts so far) remove the problematic card from our account, but we are told this could take up until the close of play on Wednesday (15th July).  Thanks. That doesn’t help us in the meantime however…

10 Jul 15

Card Clash

There’s really only one thing we can mention today, and it’s this …

Card Clash!

Card Clash!

It’s here! Beware the £8.60 maximum fare penalty charges on each card that you’ll get if you tap in with one card and tap out with another. TfL really want you to make sure you use the same contactless card all the time, or there will be issues!

Also, have fun getting stuck behind a whole bunch of people getting either error 70 or 71 on the tube dateline (as we did the first time we touched in with a contactless card).  The first means an NFC communications error, as it’s not sure what card to read, the second means it has detected two or more cards and (luckily for the passenger) it hasn’t charged either.

Good luck out there today … we think you’re going to need it.


16 Sep 14

Thames Clippers Tickets go mobile!

With contactless payments going live on Transport for London just around the corner in September, it seems the London River Buses don’t want to be left out of the party and have introduced a new mobile ticketing App rather than integrating into the new TfL systems.

The new App uses the JustRide platform by mobile ticketing gurus Masabi and allows you to book tickets wherever you are.  Your phone becomes both your ticket and departure board.  Once you’ve signed up you can buy and store multiple tickets, including season tickets which you activate as you board. Note, however, it doesn’t yet let you apply the discount that you get with your travel card or PAYG Oyster discounts so it may not be suitable for everyone.

The Thames Clippers Tickets App is available now for both iOS devices and Android devices.

If you’ve never used the River Bus service, you can find all about it here in Station Master Geoff’s excellent short film:


22 Aug 14

Weekly Capping now live on buses

Contactless Card

Contactless Card

With the contactless roll out for all modes of transport still set for Tuesday 16th September – TfL have got ahead of the game a little, by enabling its Monday to Sunday fare capping system for those using contactless cards to pay on buses.

You can read the full press release here, but it’s summarised here in these two paragraphs:

“Bus customers paying for their journeys with a contactless payment card will now benefit from having their fares capped, automatically calculating the best value for their contactless travel over a seven-day period. The added benefit is part of Transport for London’s (TfL) huge range of improvements for customers making it easier and more convenient for them to pay for their travel.

“Daily fares for bus journeys are capped at £4.40, the same as they are for Oyster, meaning that after the fourth journey each day, any further bus travel is not charged. A Monday to Sunday cap now also applies for users of contactless payment cards at £20.20, the equivalent of a weekly Bus and Tram Pass.  The development of this technology is the first step towards the next generation of Oyster. “

04 Aug 14

Contactless Questions

contactlesscardOn Wednesday evening at 7pm, TFL are having a ‘#AskTFL’ session on Twitter, where you can ask Shashi Verma about new contactless payment system.  We believe though that we’ve already got the answers to the two questions which have been bugging us most:

How do ticket/revenue inspectors check you’ve tapped in with a contactless card?

Unlike Oyster, nothing is written or stored on a contactless bank card – the system just knows what card you’ve used.  So if you are stopped by a revenue inspector when on the tube, the (new) device that they use records the tap of your card and is then checked overnight to determine if that same card was used to tap in at the start of a journey earlier. If not – then a Revenue Inspection Charge (different to a penalty fare) is applied to the offending card.

This might mean though that if you have more than one contactless card, and you accidentally present the wrong one, you’ll be charged more for the journey that you are making.

(TfL wouldn’t answer our question about what the Revenue Inspection Charge would be in the #AskTfL session referenced above, so we FOI’d TfL and were told: “When, as a consequence of revenue inspection activity, we detect that a customer had not touched in at the start of their journey when using a contactless payment card, the inspection event will result in the customer being charged a maximum Oyster fare (as referenced in the TfL Conditions of Carriage available via the following link. [1]…, being issued with a Penalty Fare Notice or referred for prosecution.”)

What happens if you don’t have any money in your contactless account?

TfL are able to settle some of the transactions that the card issuer may decline, and if a card issuer declines a transaction the system will not allow the card to start new journeys.

Upon a decline, the issuer will still honour the value of the transaction up to a certain amount (on average, more than the daily charge on Oyster Pay as you Go), so the card issuer takes most (not not all) of the risk on declined cards.

All of this is is possible because of the TTM (Transit Transaction Model) that TfL and the card issuers have created to make contactless payments possible.

30 Jul 14

Contactless launch date

contactlesscardToday TfL have announced that contactless payments will launch on TfL services on the 16th September 2014.

However, don’t go throwing away your Oyster card just yet as it is what it says: TfL services only and not the current contactless travel on the buses, nor (officially) National Rail services in London (the contactless pilot has worked on National Rail).

However it appears that TfL hope to have National Rail services on board by the launch date and are working with Network Rail to enable this.

Diamond Geezer has an excellent FAQ about the contactless system on his blog.


25 Jul 14

Contactless Card

contactlesscardSo it was almost TWO MONTHS ago now that we signed up for the Contactless Payment Pilot on tube trains, back on the 13th May.

At the time it said that the membership card would follow in the next few days, and that you should carry it with you (in case a revenue inspector asks you for a valid ticket) when you travel.   So ‘a few days’ it seems turned into 55 days for us, during which we’ve been using a regular Oyster card.

Contactless Membership Card

Contactless Membership Card

They do give you a chance to give your feedback though (which we will) by pointing out that a separate market research company will be in touch when I join the pilot (what this week, or two months ago?) and then three times during it to find out out views – we’re still waiting to hear.

In the blurb provided, it states that capping now does work and that “You’ll never pay more than the price of an equivalent Day Travelcard” – but bus journeys don’t count towards that cap.

Monday to Sunday capping

It then goes onto explain that a ‘Key difference from Oyster’ is that if you make a lot of journeys with your contactless payment card from Monday to Sunday, you will be capped at the same rate as an equivalent 7 day Travelcard.


08 Jul 14

Emergency Bus Fares

Emergency Fare TicketWith the buses going cash-free from the 6th July and the fact that you cannot guarantee that your contactless payment card might be rejected as payment if your Oyster card has run out of credit, TfL have this weekend (8th June) introduced One more bus journey.

If you have no credit or pass on your Oyster card, you will now be able to make one more journey on a bus.  You then have to top up your pay as you go credit to clear the negative balance before you can use your Oyster card again.

As this Station Master boarded a bus today, we saw “One more bus journey” in action.  The Oyster card of the passenger in front made the ticket machine emit an unfamiliar sequence of beeps and the ticket machine display read “Emergency Fare £1.45”.

The driver called the passenger back and printed out a paper ticket, which the passenger kindly allowed us to photograph.

11 Jun 14