£4.60 error at Paddington?

In the last week both BBC London and the Evening Standard have run stories about passengers being charged £4.60 to walk through part of Paddington station.  The reporter from the Evening Standard even phoned me up and talked through what was happening.  I suggested to him that this was a simple Same Station Exit, but sadly that didn’t explicitly make it into the article.  More alarmingly, TfL staff didn’t seem to know what was going on and promised to investigate what was happening.  In an effort to understand the issue clearly I went to Paddington myself last Thursday evening.

Fortunately I had an Oyster card with just £2.50 on it which was enough for a zone 1-2 tube journey, but not a lot more.  I touched in at the Praed Street entrance and it confirmed my balance and said Entry.  So far so good.  I then followed the signs for the Hammersmith and City line and sure enough they led me to the gateline at the exit to The Lawn on Paddington NR station.  As I touched out the system told me I’d spent £4.60 and had a balance of -£2.10.  Undetered I made my way to platforms 15 and 16.  At the next gate it confirmed my balance at -£2.10 and beeped with a green light.  Ignoring the negative balance I caught the next train to Whitechapel and went to touch out.  Nervously I placed the card on the reader, fearing the worst.  I needn’t have worried though, the system told me that my balance was 50p and I’d spent £2.00 on the journey.  Magic!

So, what are the conclusions.  On the plus-side it confirms that in the majority of cases you are not overcharged.  There are two issues which cloud the picture though.  If you take longer than 2 minutes to walk between Praed Street and The Lawn the charge becomes £2 which is not refunded.  It does count towards the daily cap, so you still may not be overcharged, but there is a chance you might.  Also, if you take longer than 45 minutes to get between The Lawn and the H&C gateline then the whole £4.60 (or £6.90 in the peak) will remain deducted and not count towards the daily cap.  Ouch!

There are a number of things that TfL could do to alleviate this issue:

  1. Train their staff (and the Paddington FGW/NR staff) to properly explain what has happened.  If the charge was a full £4.60 or £6.90 then they can re-assure passengers that it will be corrected at the next touch out.  If the charge was £2.00 then they can suggest visiting the Underground ticket office for a refund if the passenger won’t reach the cap.
  2. Change the programming so that the second entry cancels the charge before displaying the balance.  This would re-assure passengers sooner that there isn’t a problem.
  3. Longer term I believe that there should be a new facility at stations like Paddington and Waterloo where a touch out at a different gateline from the touch in incurs no charge as long as it happens within, say 5 minutes.  This could also happen when people use the platforms at Blackfriars NR as a bridge across the river.  There is a precedent where walking through Southwark station from Waterloo East to the street or vice versa does not incur a charge.

Hopefully the result of this story in the media will be some positive changes to the Oyster system, but I can’t help feeling sad that the lack of a clear explanation to the reporters has resulted in a very negative story which could damage the reputation of Oyster.


8 thoughts on “£4.60 error at Paddington?”

  1. The OSI interchange for LU gatelines at Paddington is 20 minutes, one would have thought increasing the allowance for same station exit / entrance to this level would help solve the problem.

  2. I’ve been charged the £2 for walking through Blackfriars, even though we exited the tube on the north and wanting to walk to Bankside in the rain went through the NR station to stay undercover. A particularly unwelcome charge.

    Something has changed at WAE this week and it may not be as simple as you say anymore. When the new balcony barriers went live it was still possible to walk through WAE and a London Terminals season ticket, then zero charge Oyster through Southwark to convenient bus stops outside that station, a route I have done for some time. This week however the London Terminals season ticket will not let you *exit* the NR gateline, which is very odd. It will still let you into WAE from Southwark but then not onto the balcony. I hope it’s just a glitch as it makes no sense, and due to the Blackfriars experience I don’t want to try Oyster on both gatelines.

    The £2 after 2 minutes rule mystifies me, it just seems vindictive and unfair when a travelcard doing the same thing would be fine.

    • Hi MrC,

      Can you access your journey history online? I was under the impression that if you make a tube journey at the north end of your crossing Blackfriars station then passage through the NR station is free. I’d be interested to see what you have been charged.

      As to the Waterloo East problems, I’d say that rejecting London terminals tickets is definitely an error. From the south you are allowed free passage between Vauxhall, Waterloo, Waterloo East, Charing Cross, London Bridge, Cannon Street and Blackfriars on any London terminals ticket. As to Oyster, while you can walk through Southwark for free I don’t think the same applies to Waterloo East unless you are making an journey on SWT from Waterloo. Unless they’ve changed things.

  3. Mike, thanks for the reply

    The Blackfriars incident has dropped off my history. It was actually leave tube gateline at Blackfriars North, enter Blackfriars North NR gateline, walk across bridge, leave Blackfriars South NR gateline.

    Waterloo East I am trying to essentially link my route into London that terminates at Waterloo SWT with my rout across London by bus that stops by Southwark. For months this has been fine, last week with the new Balcony gateline in operation it was fine, my London Terminals ticket would let me in and out of WAE as I walked through; this week it will let me in but not out and that behavior is consistent in both directions.

    I hope it’s an error. So far no-one has objected to manually letting me out at either end but if it is a deliberate choice that starts to be enforced that will be highly annoying…

    • It seems like an error, but perhaps you should ask Southeastern whether they agree that the setup is correct.

  4. A contributor to London Review of Books believes that Crossrail fares will be premium ones – not merely the already steep Zone 1 fare. Since the stations shared with the Underground appear to be integrated this would imply additional barrier lines. Any thoughts? At the same time a recent announcement suggested that the Oyster area would extend to the Crossrail termini at Shenfield and Maidenhead. This would in principle be no different to the Amersham /Chesham zones presumably but what migt actually be charged?.

    • I don’t normally indulge in speculation, but I’ll make some observations. On certain stretches the Crossrail services will replace existing services, so I’d be surprised if those fares become premium. They might apply the current NR+TfL premium when crossing zone 1, but as that would quite possibly just result in people changing onto the Central Line, I’m not really convinced about that either. The Oyster area will be extended to Shenfield and Maidenhead but I have no idea how the zones will be handled. I do hope that they do it properly (as at Watford Junction) and not the kludge that exists around Grays.

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