Elizabeth Line Fares and The Woolwich Story

The Elizabeth line may be futuristic, fast and convenient, but it’s fare structure is anything but simple. Historically there are three sorts of lines: National Rail charging Underground fares (eg C2C, GWR, LO), National Rail late adopters (eg Southeastern, SWRailway) and Underground or DLR lines. The National Rail fare scale applies to journeys using late adopting companies along with any other National Rail services. If your journey uses a late adopting company and Underground/DLR and involves zone 1 then you are charged a premium on top of the normal fare. It’s complicated, but just about understandable.

The Elizabeth line (Paddington to Abbey Wood bit) adds further complexity. It’s a National Rail line, it charges Underground fares, but in conjunction with late adopting National Rail lines it’s treated like an Underground line so the premium applies. You can understand why when an awful lot of previously unconnected National Rail lines are now connected such that the revenue loss to TfL would be huge. Except Farringdon in the middle also has a National Rail line running North-South so a lot of the fares to there are just National Rail. And Farringdon to Moorgate has previously been treated as a National Rail line because of the former Thameslink branch, so with Moorgate now connected to Liverpool Street, that station also sees some National Rail fares. It’s all a bit of a mess and I’m still not confident how to show the new line on my fares guide map.

Now looking at the new stations, TfL obviously had to populate fares to all existing stations on the Oyster and contactless list. Most of them were easy because they already had fares (Paddington to Whitechapel and Abbey Wood) so just needed a bit of tweaking where new opportunites existed. Canary Wharf and Custom House both had adjacent stations which could be used as the basis for fares from the new stations. Which leaves Woolwich.

Unlike Canary Wharf and Custom House, the nearby Woolwich Arsenal station has a lot of fares based on late adopting National Rail. Obviously Abbey Wood was the same, but the difference is that Woolwich and Woolwich Arsenal are completely separate stations and Woolwich has no need for many of the fares available from Woolwich Arsenal. The DLR fares did prove useful in some ways, so the decision was taken to copy Woolwich Arsenal fares onto Woolwich and use that as the base. Looking at the outcome carefully I don’t think that was necessarily the best idea.

There are just over 1800 destination and route combinations from Woolwich to other PAYG stations. I’ve analysed the differences between Woolwich Arsenal and Woolwich and found only the following:

  • New route from Woolwich via Liverpool Street to Stratford and stations to Shenfield plus Lea Bridge and Emerson Park.
  • New route from Woolwich changing between National Rail and Underground at South London terminals to DLR stations between Island Gardens and Heron Quays. This makes no sense to me at all.
  • New route from Woolwich via Whitechapel to Queens Road Peckham and stations to Clapham Junction.
  • No fares at all from Woolwich to King George V and stations to West Silvertown, or Custom House DLR, or Victoria NR.
  • New fares from Woolwich to Abbey Wood, Canary Wharf and Custom House EL stations.
  • 10p reduction in all fares from Woolwich to Broxbourne and stations to Hertford East compared to Woolwich Arsenal.
  • Removal of the route changing between National Rail and Underground at South London terminals for Woolwich to West Hampstead Overground station. Makes sense, but why only that one station?
  • Change of route description for Camden Town and Kensington Olympia which may have happened to Woolwich Arsenal fares after the base was split a few years ago.

What this still leaves are hundreds of fares from Woolwich involving changing at New Cross or Waterloo East, neither of which are obviously reachable from Woolwich unless you double back via Abbey Wood. And still more involving changing to the Underground at South London terminals, again unlikely as evidenced by the removal of the fares to Victoria NR. Also, as noted by a site visitor, they seem to have forgotten to add via Whitechapel fares for Overground services to West Croydon and Crystal Palace.

It is possible that there will be some changes incorporated in the June fares revision next weekend, although I don’t think many anomalies will have been spotted in time.

3 thoughts on “Elizabeth Line Fares and The Woolwich Story”

  1. What irks the most about the EL fares mess is that the line was supposed to open 4 years ago so it’s not as though they didn’t have much time to think about it. I appreciate that the Oyster system is mind blowingly complicated but the state of play now does rather give the impression to a lay observer that they just threw it all together at the last minute.

    • I think we really need to park the “it was supposed to open 4 years ago”. It has now opened and in view of it’s name and the opening just before the jubilee weekend, some would say it was perfect timing.

      It’s quite possible that they thought through the new fares four years ago, but until the line opened and the general public started to see the fares the issues didn’t really show up. I remember when National Rail fares were converted to zones back in the 2000’s in preparation for PAYG there were several anomalies created. All the ones I spotted were corrected at the next revision.

  2. Even going by 2018 standards, the omission of ELL to West Croydon and Crystal Palace via Whitechapel is a glaring omission when they figured out the SLL line stations should be TfL Zones 2-4.

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