Monday was the last day of the Easter holidays so I went to North Greenwich with one of my sons. I managed to test more features of the contactless operation, including inadvertantly missing a touch during one of the journeys. I remain very happy with how it’s progressing so far.
As expected, when you touch on a reader connected to gates the display shows Enter or Exit, which is kind of comforting. The lack of a balance or fare so far is still disconcerting to one who has so religiously checked these details when using an Oyster card, but I guess I’ll get used to it. When we got to Lewisham we found a DLR train about to depart, and this is where I didn’t touch properly. More on that later.
As I had my son with me and we were using Canary Wharf and North Greenwich tube stations with their expansive arrays of gates, I decided to test out how long the card needs to be held against the reader compared to an Oyster. Sadly it does appear that a contactless payment card requires more time, though not as much as double. In quiet times this won’t be a problem, but I can see it causing issues at busy stations and times.
While at the O2 we took a ride on the cable car, sorry, Emirates airline. Thankfully I remembered that I needed to use my Oyster card for this journey, and more importantly, remembered to put it away again before starting the return home on the tube.
Crayford to North Greenwich is one of those journeys where two routes are equally likely to be used. One involves travel via Woolwich Arsenal and Canning Town while the other uses Lewisham and Canary Wharf. The Woolwich route avoids zone 2, so the default fare is a zone 3-6 NR+TfL fare. As explained elsewhere, if you go via Canary Wharf using Oyster then you are sort-of overcharged one way because you touch out and in again in zone 2. The reverse is ok because the touches in zone 2 happen before you get anywhere near zone 6. Of course with contactless the charging is done after the event and with full knowledge of all the touches involved in the journey. I was therefore curious to see how the journey would be charged.
A bout of insomnia meant I didn’t have to wait too long to find out. At 3am the details had already been uploaded to the central database. The first journey had been split into two because of the missed touch at Lewisham DLR. I had hoped that they might be able to work out the gap, but the fact that the next touch was at a validator (so could be entry or exit) means they treated it as a new journey. The ‘entry’ at Heron Quays was linked to the entry at Canary Wharf LU and thus charged as a simple zone 2 TfL journey ending at North Greenwich. While this was frustrating, the extra charge of £1.50 was a lot less than the incomplete journey charge which would have appeared on an Oyster card. The return journey was correctly charged at £2.30, even though I went through zone 2. This is good because it means that it matches the single fare finder.
Alongside each entry on the history is a button to contact TfL about this journey. I clicked this and explained how I’d missed the touch at Lewisham. I sighed a bit when the confirmation screen said that they would get back to me within a week or so, however, just over 12 hours later I received a call from the contactless pilot helpdesk asking for my bank details so they could refund the £1.50 overcharge. It appears that refunds can’t at the moment go back on the payment card, but that’s not really a problem. I was also asked for any feedback, so I explained about the touch time being longer than an Oyster card.
All in all I’m quite impressed by how things are going at the moment. I’ll still need to make a proper journey from Crayford to North Greenwich without forgetting to touch en-route, but the experiences of the dispute resolution far outweigh the disappointment that that journey didn’t work as planned.