Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Boris, there's a fly in my Oyster sauce

Londoners have waited years for Oyster ‘pay as you go’ cards to be valid on National Rail services but as the big day looms – this Saturday, 2 January 2010 - will the long wait be worthwhile?
No doubt London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and various train company spokesmen will merrily pontificate about their big ‘Oysterisation’ day. But hang on a mo’ though, BoJo, ol' bean, we could all do with a bit more pastry on this Oyster business and less puff.

For instance, I live almost an equal distance between two Zone 5 stops, Oakwood tube station on the Piccadilly Line, and Grange Park, a National Rail station on the Hertford North-Moorgate line. Most days I use the Piccadilly Line to get to central London but from 2 January I’ll have the choice of using my Oyster at Grange Park to access National Rail services operated by First Capital Connect.

On Monday morning – 4 January - if I commute on the Piccadilly Line from Oakwood to Oxford Circus in Zone 1 during the peak (Monday-Friday, 0630-0900) £3.80 will be deducted from my Oyster, a 10p rise on the fare up to 1 January. If I make the equivalent commute to Oxford Circus during the peak using National Rail from Grange Park, changing onto the Victoria Line at Highbury & Islington, a whopping £5.00 gets whipped off my Oyster. So I think I'll stick to my overcrowded but less expensive tube train and save myself £1.20 rather than take FCC's equally overcrowded but more expensive overground train.

Will Oyster's new validity on National Rail persuade me to travel from Grange Park during the off-peak, on weekends and public holidays? Oakwood to Oxford Circus off-peak on the tube will cost £2.40 – a rise of 20p on the 2009 fare - but £3.70 will come off my Oyster if I touch in at Grange Park and head towards Oxford Circus using an FCC train. Once again, even with the 2010 fare rise, using the off-peak Oyster option on the tube will save £1.30.

I’m forwarding this post to FCC just in case I've missed a less expensive option amongst the train operator’s bewildering array of nine ticket products that cover that journey between Grange Park and Oxford Circus. However, I did seek an antidote for my confusion with Transport for London’s helpline. The friendly operator, using TfL's useful Farefinder, confirmed Oyster is generally less expensive on the tube than on National Rail. “The National Rail companies wanted to retain their own fares," the operator explained.

So, Bozza, before you orate about Oysterisation, perhaps you might advise Londoners that, before touching in with our cards at National Rail stations, we should check with Farefinder to see whether it's the tube or National Rail that gives us the least expensive Oyster deal.

Paul Coleman, London, December 2009


Anonymous said...

Forget the tube I say, get your own jet!

Rupert White said...

Fair points all - however, for journeys where there isn't a tube alt, it's about f*cking time!