Oyster, Schmoyster.

Tell me, folks, is it just me or is anyone else suddenly finding that their pay-as-you-go Oyster card regularly fails to acknowledge that they have reached the daily travelcard rate? I’ve been long suspecting it, even though it’s hard to keep track when you touch out at a barrier and all it does is tell you to pass through, rather than telling you how much your journey was (particularly bad at tube stations) but it was blatant the day I went to the National Archives.

I took the train to Cannon Street, then the tube to Kew Gardens, which took me to just under a fiver – the tipping point for automatic top up. When I got back on, Automatic top-up stuck a further twenty quid on my card. I got to Cannon Street, and just had time to nip home before going out again. The train was advertised for Platform 2, so I went there. On Platform 2 it also told me it was a Dartford via Greenwich. I got on. First stop Grove-something – Park, End, Row – I don’t know – somewhere I’d never heard of in deepest South East London.

I was cross with myself – I thought I’d made a mistake. It was only when a small army of similarly disgruntled passengers crossed the platform to go back that I realised it wasn’t just me. Still, I kept calm and carried on.

By this point it was too late to go home and change to my evening boots and cloak, so I went to London Bridge. As I got out, my Oyster card charged me SIX POUNDS for the pleasure of wasting an hour of my life. I hadn’t tapped in or tapped out as I’d just crossed the platform at the mysterious Grove station, so it must have been some kind of fine for taking too long to go between Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Cross, but still just about keeping the Phantom temper, I went to my evening appointment. When I came home, my Oyster card charged me another two pounds. I calculate that I was charged over £15 for travel that day. That would never have happened with a paper travelcard. I’ve talked to three people since, and they’ve all noticed that their Oyster cards seem to continue charging them after the travelcard cut-off, but I’m wondering if it’s getting to be universal, and TfL are just hoping we don’t notice.

I’ve written to Oystercard about it. I’ll let you know their reply.

What’s your experience of Oysters? I was so looking forward to them being on mainline stations too – in Greenwich it does make it much more convenient but it seems we’re paying through the nose for that pleasure. My Oystercard, ONE DAY AFTER I TOPPED IT UP, needs cash again. I am seriously considering going back to travelcards.

17 Comments to “Oyster, Schmoyster.”

  1. Steve says:

    I'd ring them up Phantom. That way you can get it sorted on the spot. They are very helpful. Just be prepared to be in a queue for a while though before you get through. I love Oysters now that I can use them on all transport modes. Cheaper too.

  2. P says:

    Like you I'm suspicious of them – but over the last week I've kept a close eye on how much it debits over various journeys out of Greenwich and it stopped charging at around a fiver. It seemed to work fine & did work out cheaper than paying for the train separately.

    I suspect your extra fee was that irritating 'fine' for not swiping in and out.

  3. M.A. says:

    So glad you wrote about this Phantom. Yes, that's been my suspicion and experience too. Last Saturday I used various modes of TfL transport to get around London, and by the end of the day, my £20 Oyster was down to £3.80. I doubt they've sorted it out yet, and they're probably hoping that people won't notice. I think still buying a Travelcard is the way to go in the short term. Unless, of course, you'd like to donate to the TfL charity.

  4. The Greenwich Phantom says:

    Thing is, P, I DID swipe in and out – I swiped 'in' when I got on at Cannon st, and 'out' when I got off at London Bridge. The fact that some platform announcement sent me somewhere else on the way shouldn't have made any difference.

  5. M Goodchild says:

    I noticed that overland trains seem to charge more on the oyster at peak times. This may be the problem.

    If it is a genuine mistake they will normally pay you back. I had an email recently informing me that they had made a mistake (one i hadn't noticed)and that the next time i went through a particular station it will refund me. I was very suprised.

    You should also go to an oyster machine and check out your journeys for that particular day and see if there are any irregularities.

  6. Dazza says:

    I find that it takes nearly a week to show up the details of my journey when I check online.
    I'm lucky though as I don't seem to have been overcharged since having the card a few years ago.
    I still check to this day as I don't trust it.

  7. ebspig says:

    I wonder if it's a particular problem with the Cannon Street "readers". I had a terrible sequence (though not quite as bad as yours) some weeks ago which eventually ended up with me having the Cannon Street Underground station shut in my face. I did get my money back eventually (and the LT chap at Mansion House couldn't have been sweeter) but it was really upsetting at the time.

  8. badwitch says:

    I've heard so many people complaining about this sort of thing that I normally buy an old-fashioned travel card when I know I'm going to do that amount of travel

  9. Old China says:

    I'm sure my Oyster goes on happily charging me ad infinitum so if I know I'll be making several journeys in one day now I buy a paper card. I'm sure my Oyster has no limit.

    I've also had the 6 quid penalty for using the side exit at Lewisham station – I didn't know that no Oyster card reader had been installed for that exit. I exited the station and couldn't be bothered walking all the way round to the front to buzz out again and got charged 6 quid for my crimes. My fault I guess, but annoying.

    I use my (t)rusty bike whenever I can. Way more reliable (and cheaper) than SE trains.

  10. Creekside8 says:

    Yes, I'm quite suspicious of this.
    Can anyone tell me what the fare should be for one-day use of Oyster in zones 1 -4? I seemed to get charged over £7 when I travelled the other day which seems a bit steep.

    With the paper card you can also include bus travel. Can Oyster cope with that?

  11. darryl says:

    I keep meaning to post on Oyster, there's a few little niggles. I've generally got on okay with Oyster, but there's two little catches that can get people (other than the not-touching-in/out charge):

    1) There are some dodgy readers on the SE network – I got caught out by one at Lewisham a few weeks back and had to call to get it refunded. (I think SE wants shot of that side exit at Lewisham, it's far too handy for people.)

    2) Changing at Cannon Street for Bank is counted as two separate journeys, even though the stations are on top of each other.

    3) Despite what posters on the DLR tell you to do, if you change at Greenwich (or Woolwich Arsenal), don't touch your card there because it'll "end" your journey there, meaning when you touch out at the end, you'll technically have started a new one.

  12. andrekabu says:

    See, this is precisely why I'll never get an Oyster. Yet people didn't believe me when I said "It'll never work…"

  13. Emily Bishop says:

    That happened to me once a couple of weeks ago, and before I got round to doing anything about it I got an email from TFL saying they'd noticed I'd been overcharge and I'd be refunded next time I touched in! I was mildly flabbergasted. Still loathe TFL with a passion, but the extra overcharging-induced hatred got cancelled out :)

  14. Anonymous says:

    And does anyone know how the Oyster Extension Permit works? I started the year congratulating myself for reading up on it but couldn't find the option on the WP ticket machine, the guy at the station was baffled till he remembered an email about 'OEP' and said it'd be on the machine in Feb (it isn't). The local Oyster newsagents also didn't understand. I did manage to load one at the tube station today, but that was after travelling outside my travelcard zone.
    So, in summary, Oystas on trainz is all a bit messed up, init!

  15. Clare says:

    There's also the out-of-sync gates at Waterloo East/ Southwark issue which has you touching in at Southwark before you've left Waterloo East. Clearly impossible, but it charges you extra which you then have to claim back so beware!

    If you get charged the max fare it isn't included in any capping. This happened to me when sone confused readers meant I was charged two separate lots of £6 plus one normal journey. I've still to claim that one back! Need to try today and hope they'll do it.

    But generally I think it works well and is so much more convenient than queuing for a ticket and missing your train in the process.

  16. DD says:

    I needed to catch the DLR at Greenwich and change at Canary Wharf for the Jubille line. As I haven't used my Oyster card much I checked with the DLR ticket man to ask when I should tap out. He told me to make sure that I tap out on exit of DLR and then start again with the Jubilee line part of my journey. However, he also told me that you only get half an hours grace when changing services on your jouney, as after that it is classed as a new completely different journey and you end up getting hit with a £6 charge. But, this information dosen't appear to have been made widely public. It certainly was news to me.

  17. How are you all getting on with your oyster cards now? Take a look at my website for the answers to a lot of your queries. You’ll see that Cannon Street to Bank is now a valid OSI so it charges as just one journey (unless you take too long). That’s also what the staff meant about changing at Canary Wharf too. Your Cannon Street to London Bridge via Grove Park journey fell foul of the single zone maximum journey time which is why it charged some penalty fares. Did you ever get them back?