Passenger watchdog London TravelWatch is urging transport users in the capital to check they are getting the best deal on fares before buying their season ticket for the New Year.
The body, which is funded by the London Assembly and represents the interests of transport users in and around London, has issued advice about the best tickets for passengers to buy once Oyster Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) becomes available on rail services in London in January.
Sharon Grant, Chair, London TravelWatch said: “We want regular passengers to get the best deal they possibly can, but it is not as simple as it would first appear. Many people think that Oyster PAYG will automatically be the cheapest option from January, but that is not the case. Annual Travelcards and season tickets still offer the best value for money and have added benefits.
“However, Oyster PAYG will be the best option for some people – especially those who don’t travel every day – and brings with it added convenience such as automatic top-up which means less queuing. We hope the advice below will help people make the right choice about which ticket is best for them.”
The body is also warning passengers not to travel without the new ‘Oyster Extension Permit’ which is needed whenever they wish to travel on national rail services beyond the zones covered by their Travelcard.
Grant said the watchdog was “concerned that innocent people will be caught out by the introduction of this confusing system. Oyster PAYG is designed to be more convenient, but for Travelcard holders to have to check if they need an extension permit each time they make unfamiliar journeys makes a mockery of that convenience.”
Generally, annual Travelcards and annual season tickets offer the best value for money, as the price means that you get two to three months more travel for the same price than the equivalent weekly or monthly tickets. Additionally, these come with added benefits such as only having to queue once during the year, and the Goldcard discount which gives you one-third off other off-peak rail journeys throughout London and the south east. You are also entitled to a part-refund on an annual ticket if your circumstances change throughout the year. For holders of annual Gold cards, Family and Network Railcards, it will still be cheaper to buy paper tickets on rail services, rather than convert to Oyster PAYG.
Oyster PAYG will now be available on all national rail services within London, including the service to Grays on c2c, except for services to Heathrow and the High Speed service on Southeastern.
Passengers need to be aware that there will be a difference in price between peak and off-peak introduced on national rail between 1600 and 1900.
Also, daily ‘capping’ rates will be increased to the equivalent of a One Day Travelcard, or One Day Bus and Tram pass prices.
Some Underground or Docklands Light Railway users travelling within zones 1 to 4 will find that, in some cases, it will be cheaper to switch to adjacent or parallel national rail services. For example, using Clapham High St instead of Clapham North to go to Victoria and London Bridge, or Lewisham to Cannon Street on Southeastern will be cheaper than Lewisham to Bank via DLR.
Oyster PAYG also provides an auto top-up service, which means you can avoid the queues at ticket offices and ticket machines. Most train companies, except South West Trains, are offering a top up facility at ticket offices and machines, so our advice for South West Trains PAYG customers is to use auto top up on their Oyster card.
Weekly, Monthly and Annual season tickets
As well as following the general advice given above about value for money and added benefits, holders of point to point (meaning one station to another station rather than zonal) season tickets will probably see a freeze or a slight decrease in their season ticket prices, so we advise waiting until after 2 January 2010 to renew. However, Southeastern passengers outside the London Travelcard area will see a rise, so they should renew before the New Year.
People who currently have point to point season tickets wholly within the London Travelcard area are also advised to look carefully at their travel patterns, as they may be better off switching to Oyster PAYG rather than renewing their season ticket.
Travelcards are largely unchanged this year, so should be bought when most convenient for you, not necessarily before January 2010, which is London TravelWatch’s usual advice. So if your Travelcard expires on 31 December 2009, and you are off work for the first few days of the New Year, you are better off using Oyster PAYG and buying a new ticket beginning 11 January 2010.
However the price of any two-zone Travelcard will rise, so you should buy it before fares rise on 2 January 2010, or consider changing to Oyster PAYG.
Child One Day Travelcards for £1 when accompanied by an adult are being scrapped. We advise some Oyster PAYG credit to be added to the child’s zip card.
Single and Day Return cash fares
In the Travelcard area, single and day return fares in the peak are remaining the same. People should switch to Oyster PAYG as this will work out cheaper. However, Off Peak (or Cheap) Day Returns are being abolished in the Travelcard area, so only peak will be available. This means cash fares will increase substantially, so switching to Oyster PAYG will see fares reduce or stay the same off peak. Passengers should also note that some train companies are adding restrictions in the evening peak, meaning that they will need to check that their ticket is useable in the evening peak time between 1600 and 1900. Those using Oyster PAYG will also pay more returning in the evening peak.
Minimum zone 2/3 cash fare on DLR and London Overground
This will rise dramatically from £1.60 to £4. Passengers are advised to switch to Oyster PAYG, where the cost for a single trip is £1.30.
Fares on London Overground, London Underground, DLR, bus and tram
Oyster PAYG fares will rise, and some cash fares for journeys between zone 1 and zones 5 and 6 will increase, as will journeys outside zone 1.
The paper One Day Bus and Tram Pass will be withdrawn, and the Oyster PAYG will increase to match the price of a One Day Pass.
Oyster Extension Permits
If your Travelcard is on Oyster, and you wish to travel outside your zones, but still within London by national rail, you will now be required to ‘set’ an Oyster Extension Permit before the start of your journey at a ticket office or machine. If you do not do this, you will liable for a penalty fare of £20, even if you have ample credit on your card. If you have an annual ticket (Gold Card) it will be cheaper (and equally as inconvenient) to get a paper extension, as you need to currently.