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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

Pay for travel the Apple way

Apple Pay

Apple Pay

So with Apple confirming that Apple Pay is coming to the UK next month (July 2015), TfL confirmed in a press release that you’ll be able to use Apple Pay to travel on TfL services.

This means you’ll be able to tap your iPhone 6, 6 Plus or Apple Watch against a yellow Oyster pad, and pay for your travel that way.

“TfL was the first public transport provider to accept contactless payment cards and will continue this record of innovation by becoming the first to accept Apple Pay. TfL developed the contactless technology needed to travel on its services in-house and is leading the way with over 100 million contactless journeys made on its services since it launched in September 2014.”

TfL Press Release here. Lifehacker article.



09 Jun 15

Zone 1 Fares

Shoreditch High Street is is in Zone 1

Shoreditch High Street is is in Zone 1

We saw this poster at Rotherhithe Overground station the other day, and it’s always good to be reminded of what a complete lie it is.

“Please remember that fares are charged for all the zones you travel through” it says.  Which is NOT the case if you get the Overground between Clapham Junction and Highbury & Islington.

Yes – you may come through Shoreditch High Street station which is in Zone 1, but as we clarified with TfL, as they don’t know which way round the Overground ‘circle’ you travelled, they have to assume that you went via Willesden Junction – which keeps you all in Zone 2, and so you pay the lower fare.

Just something worth remembering … !

05 Apr 15

When not passing through Zone 1 …

Pink Oyster Pad

Pink Oyster Pad

The highly amusing TLF Travel Alerts posted this on Twitter, and made us laugh … overtones of course, of a classic Monty Python sketch.

There seems to be confusion around how to travel on the Overground if you’re not passing through Zone 1. It really is quite simple. Behold:

“If you are travelling on the Overground but NOT going through Zone 1 but ARE considering going through Zone 2 but NOT even thinking about a bus but you WILL be taking the Tube but for ONLY two stops and you WILL be taking a different route home but WON’T pass through any station with escalators DESPITE your need for excitement and you will ALSO skirt the borders of Zone 4 but NOT Zone 3 and you will ONLY travel in a CLOCKWISE direction then remember to touch your Oyster card on the pink reader, then the red one, then the green, the blue, the yellow the pink one again TWICE, then the purple one, recite the Sixth Incantation while turning on the spot, and then breathe. Just breathe.”

“Once your breathing has been monitored and deemed to be within acceptable limits, you will be asked 37 general knowledge questions and will then be required to compose a poem on a subject of your choice using a meter as defined by station staff. This will be judged.”

Following these simple steps will ensure you pay the correct fare. It’s really not that hard. Enjoy your journeys. We do.

24 Feb 15

New fares for 2015

TfL have today announced their new fares for 2015, and there’s something very interesting that we weren’t expecting.

The peak all-day cap for Oyster or contactless payments is actually being reduced – so much so that there’s now no ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’ cap – there is just one capped price, and it’s cheaper than it used to be – approximately one fifth of the price of the equivalent 7 Day Travel Card to Zone 1.

So if you’re someone that only travels a few days a week e.g. a flexible or a part-time worker who never buys a 7 Day Travelcard this could mean that you will be saving a fair bit of money on your journey.

New Fares for 2015

New Fares for 2015

And with the new all-day caps being so much lower than the old peak caps you can travel before 9:30am without being penalised for it as you used to. e.g. travelling in zones 1 to 3 at peak now will cost you £10.60 (vs £7.70 after 9:30am).  In 2015 this will reduce to £7.50 even if you travel before 9:30am. The TfL press release states that it estimates that ‘Over 600,000 passengers’ will benefit from paying lower fares.

There’ll also be a 5p increase on the single fare for buses – up from £1.45 to £1.50, with the daily bus cap however remaining at £4.40 – but a One Day Bus & Tram Pass (last available in 2009 when it was discontinued) will be re-introduced – it costs £5 a day and is for those who wish to travel but aren’t in possession of an Oyster card or contactless card. Tfl says the pass will be “a lightweight single use Oyster card that will not require a deposit” – we’re not quite sure if “single use Oyster card” means “use the card for one day and throw it away” (seems wasteful) or “will only be for a bus pass” though (would be more sensible).

There are though, some losers amongst the winners and those are people who travel into London off-peak from the zones further out. Download the full PDF from the website here to look at the new fares, which start on Monday 5th January 2015.


11 Nov 14

Just visiting

For the first time ever this week, we saw something that we’d only heard about before, but never seen. There is a variant of the Oyster Card called the Visitor Oyster Card.

Typically, you’d get one of you live outside of London, and you can order one online from the TfL website to have one sent to you, pre-loaded with PAYG money to spend for when you visit London.

The difference is though, is that the £3 deposit you pay to get is NOT refundable (unlike a regular blue coloured Oyster card), and you can only load Pay-as-you-Go credit onto it, you can’t load Travelcard/Seasons onto it – just PAYG.

Aside from all that they’re quite pretty too and a much more colourful than your regular blue-coloured Oyster! And here’s what they look like …

Visitor Oyster Card

Visitor Oyster Card

17 Oct 14

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

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