Child Fare Changes

Ever since the announcement that the bailout of TfL during lockdown came with conditions, including the end of free travel for under 18s, there has been an enormous amount of misinformation pedalled by media and politicians.  The LibDems started a campaign to reverse the changes despite the fact that they still haven’t been actioned.  The i-news explained how children up to 15 enjoyed free travel on the tube – oh no they don’t!  My London also believed that the changes had already been made, and I’m sure many other news outlets fell for the same poor journalism.

The facts are that as usual with this incompetent government, an idea was put forward and agreed without any understanding of the complexity involved in implimenting it.  Never mind that the prime minister used to be the mayor and should have known better – detail was never one of Boris’ strong points.  If the idea was to generate more revenue then the fact that alternative ways to allow free travel for those children that the law says must have it will have more than wiped out any savings.  The main idea was to discourage use for short school journeys so that social distancing measures could still be in place.  I’m yet to be convinced that this will actually work.

Anyway, an internal staff newsletter has given some more detail about what is actually happening, so I can clear up some of the misconceptions that have been spread in recent months.  Firstly, the changes apply to buses and trams only.  Under 11s will still travel for free on the tube, and most National Rail in London if they have a 5-10 zip card.  There is no intention to scrap the zip card for any age group.  Under 11s will also still travel for free on buses and trams.

What will be withdrawn, temporarily, is the free bus travel enjoyed by holders of 11-15 zip cards, as well as those 16+ zip card holders who live in London and thus qualified for free bus and tram travel.  Instead they will be charged half adult fares (75p single, £2.25 daily cap) just like the 16+ zip holders from outside London.  The exact implimentation date is still to be announced.  I understand that starting it from the September fares revision has not proved possible, and BBC London suggested in a recent bulletin that it will be after the October half term.  The mechanics of providing free travel to school for those that are entitled by law is still proving a stumbling block.

As soon as I hear any further concrete information I’ll let you all know.

17 thoughts on “Child Fare Changes”

  1. I think blaming the PM for not spotting a detailed Oyster implementation difficulty with one of a series of specific requirements generated by the Treasury and DfT in the middle of an unprecedented crisis is pushing it a bit. As you point out Boris doesn’t do details, he relies on those he entrusts with implementation to do it competently and this particular SNAFU has the DfT’s now legendary bungling writ large all over it.

    In a wider context this is an excellent site, the go to place for accurate and informed information on all things Oyster/Contactless. Whilst it is your site and you can do what you like with it my preference would be that you confined it to its well established and respected strength of news and analysis of all things Oyster and kept your personal political opinions out of it.

    • Hi Simon,

      That last sentence certainly demands a response. TfL, and it’s fare decisions in particular, are sadly being used as a very political football at the moment. Londoners, of which I am one, will be the losers here. I don’t generally get involved in the politics because you’re right it’s the facts about Oyster that matter, but in this case the story is political and the lack of facts is the biggest concern.

      If you knew my personal political opinions I think you might be quite surprised.

  2. Thanks for the interesting insight into this.

    Surely someone would have pointed out the issues with this or is it that those who agree and make this statements don’t have time for those with the knowledge, so it only being apparent afterwards.

    • Hi Tim,

      The DfT team wouldn’t be expected to know the detail and it’s quite possible that senior people like the finance director at TfL wouldn’t be aware of how it would work. There should have been an agreement to revisit this condition once the detail was clear. Personally I’m hoping that the measures that TfL are putting in place from next week to cope with the return of school children to buses will work well enough that the DfT will be persuaded to back-track. Time will tell.

  3. Great opinion Mike and I’ll be very happy to read it in future with the great service you provide.

  4. Hi Mike,
    I am writing as a out of London parent for my child +16 who is required to travel to West Croydon (train) and then Tram to Coombe Lane. There is some confusion as to which is the most cost effective travel for him as this journey does go into London for this route. He currently has a +16 Zip but there is debate to which is best – Oyster, Travel Card or remain on Zip. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Hi Teresa,

      You don’t say where he’s travelling from, but assuming it’s somewhere that takes the zip card (eg Epsom) then I’d stick with the 16+. If you can be more precise about the journey then that would help.

  5. Thank you Mike, Yes you are correct Epsom or Epsom Downs are the 2 main stations he departs from but as you state above this is the best option at present, correct?
    Thanks again.

    • Hi Teresa,

      OK, that inadvertantly makes the advice more complicated. Epsom Downs is in zone 6 (the boundary was moved to include several branch lines years ago) while Epsom is sort-of in zone 9. It’s outside the zones as far as the train companies are concerned, but Oyster caps and travelcards which include zone 9 are valid there. A central London commuter using train and tube/bus is better off buying Epsom to zones 1-6 travelcards, while a day traveller is better off using Oyster or contactless rather than a day travelcard.

      16 and 17 year olds have several options for train travel. They are eligible for a 16-17 Saver card at £30/year which gives them half adult rate tickets including seasons. They’re also eligible for the 16+ Zip card for travel in the London area which is £20 (and you’ve already got that). There is also the 16-25 Railcard at £30/year but that’s not as good as the saver so largely irrelevant. Without any of the saver/zip/railcard they pay full adult fares.

      Can your son stick to Epsom Downs? If yes, then all you need is a zone 5-6 travelcard at the 16+ rate which is £13.50/week or £51.90/month*. If he sometimes wants to use Epsom instead then the extension sinlgle fare is £1.10 (£1.05 off-peak).

      If you want the flexibility to use Epsom most of the time then it gets complicated. An Epsom to zones 5-6 travelcard is £28.40/week adult (£109.10/month*), or £14.20/week with a 16-17 Saver card (£54.55/month*). These cannot be put on an Oyster or zip card. The zip card equivalent is a zone 4-9 travelcard at £28.60/week or £109.90/month*). If this is the preferred option then I’ll have to revise my advice because a 16-17 Saver card will make that worthwhile.

      It’s worth noting that if the issue with Epsom Downs is the infrequent service then Tattenham Corner is also in zone 6 with more trains to East Croydon which has a quicker interchange onto the trams as well.

      * you can buy season tickets for any period between 1 month and 1 year. Odd days are charged at 1/30th of the monthly rate. For a school student it might be most cost-effective to buy for a half term.

  6. Thank you Mike, very detailed and much appreciated. Will try to get my son to stick with Epsom Downs and if not utilise Tattenham Corner more as normally resort to Epsom if service there is not in operation there. Thank you for your time again.

  7. Hi again Mike.
    My son has recently just turned 18 but is still in school and travelling from Epsom Downs (sometimes Epsom) to Croydon east or west to get him to coombs Lane for school. He informed me today his zip card is no longer working. As per your advice above, would it be best to now get him an Oyster card for travel? Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Teresa,

      Yes, an Oyster card with a zones 5-6 travelcard would seem to be best. Have some PAYG credit loaded in case a last minute diversion to Epsom is needed. If it’s a new Oyster card then there’s now a £5 fee (instead of the previous deposit), but this will get added to PAYG credit after a year if he’s still using the card.

  8. On doing some homework earlier we can apply for an 18+ Student Oyster card for him, is this the correct one and the same as you mention above? It is also asking me for a Student enrolment (ID) number and is compulsory – i have asked his school and they are not aware of this and they think it is mostly for state schools. Any advice welcome as I am unable to progress with out this. Again thank you.

  9. Also, sorry, my son had only just topped up his old Zip and I am wondering what the process is to get this transferred to his new card if possible. Thanks again

    • Hi Teresa,

      I’m not 100% certain about the eligibility criteria for the 18+ Student Oyster, but I thought you needed to live in a London Borough during term time. It’s usually for universities and colleges. The 16+ zip card expires at the end of September after the 18th birthday if the holder lives in London. I’m not saying you’re not eligible, but if the zip card expired after the 18th birthday then that would suggest you might not be.

      When my son’s 16+ zip card expired recently the helpdesk arranged a refund to my bank. A transfer to a new Oyster is also possible.

  10. Yes you are correct his card just stopped working the day of his 18th (Fri) Will just get the Oyster card you suggest and if possible do you know the best number for the helpdesk to arrange this refund or can he do it at one of the desk at the station when purchasing his new card?
    Thanks again

    • Hi Teresa,

      Helpdesk is 0343 222 1234. I don’t think a station is likely to be able to do it.

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