Other travel during the day had almost applied an off-peak cap to my card so I took the opportunity to investigate reports of problems, both current and future, at Finsbury Park. Before I outline the full story though, the important message here is that at the moment you do NOT need to touch out or in if interchanging between Underground and National Rail. In fact, if you try to touch out you will hit serious problems.
As usual I started my journey at Crayford. I changed at New Cross onto the Overground and again at Dalston Junction for my first trip on the East London Line extension. At Highbury & Islington I changed to the Victoria line for the single stop to Finsbury Park. I then headed for the National Rail station and touched out on the validators in the subway below the NR platforms. Big mistake. I spent the next few minutes looking at the soon to be installed gatelines on platforms 1&2 and 5&6 while wondering why there are no gates on platform 3. Of course there aren’t that many trains from that platform, but when there are it may well cause issues, unless they all make their first stop beyond the Oyster area.
I decided to make Kings Cross my next port of call to see how the renovations are progressing. So, 11 minutes after arriving I ran down the steps to touch back in just as my train was arriving. To my horror the validator repeated the Exit message. No time to wonder what to do, I had to get on the train and hope I didn’t encounter any RPIs. It’s not the first time I’ve inadvertantly travelled with an un-validated card, but my next stop was a London terminal where I might well have to swipe to open gates. As it happens the gatelines were locked open, but I thought what the hell, let’s touch out anyway. To my surprise it said Exit, repeating yet again the deduction of £1 which had been shown both times at Finsbury Park. I say repeating, but it hadn’t deducted £1 again, just told me that that was what the journey had cost.
Now I had a new dilemma. If I returned immediately to Crayford this would end up as a circular journey and I’d have two unresolved journey charges. I took the card to an Underground ticket machine and checked the journey history. Sure enough there were two zero priced journeys from Crayford to Finsbury Park followed by the final effort from Crayford to Kings Cross NR. Thankfully I could afford to hang around for 20 minutes to let the OSI expire before touching in again at the Underground. The rest of the journey was uneventful.
But, winding back to Finsbury Park, what happens when the gates are activated on the NR platforms? My prediction is that it will be a confusing disaster with lots of people not sure what to do. People will come off the tube and get to the top of the stairs and then touch in again. Will that give them two unresolved journeys? Going the other way people will realise that they have to touch back in but there aren’t that many validators between the NR platforms and the stairs to the tube, so will they manage it, especially if it’s busy. And if there is the possibility that a train on platform 3 might convey Oyster PAYG holders then they really ought to provide validators on that platform. I think I may well have to write to the Oyster helpdesk to ask what is happening there.