A last minute change of mind saw the Thameslink/Southern off-peak fares for National Rail only services from Gatwick to and through zone 1 held at last years price of £8.30. That’s good isn’t it? I hear you ask. Well, yes and no. The problem arises where you want to continue onto the Underground, or indeed if you want to avoid zone 1. Once you mix the Underground into a journey involving zone 1, TL/SN add £2.40 to the fare being the zone 1 tube single. But off-peak they are adding £2.60 because they thought the basic fare was going to be £8.50. Hence Gatwick to Bank is £10.90 off-peak, but hang around at London Bridge for 20 minutes and you’ll be charged £8.30+£2.40 = £10.70.
Avoiding zone 1 is even worse. After initially setting the fares greater than the via zone 1 equivalent in 2016, they matched them in 2017 so there was no benefit in avoiding zone 1 from Gatwick. This year the avoiding zone 1 off-peak National Rail only fares have all gone up to £8.50, so we’re back to being charged more to avoid zone 1. Clearly whoever decided to freeze the fare to zone 1 forgot to do the same to the avoiding zone 1 equivalents. And it gets more complicated because at peak times it is cheaper to avoid zone 1. What a mess!
It should be noted that National Rail Enquiries states that the off-peak fare is £8.50 for Gatwick to London terminals, so GTR even forgot to update the definitive source of fare information for National Rail services.
So, until such time as the confusion gets sorted out, don’t avoid zone 1 if your off-peak journey to/from Gatwick can be made entirely with National Rail. And if changing to the Underground at a terminal you will save money if you can wait 20 minutes after touching out before touching in at the Underground station. Sadly the other way is more difficult because you have to wait 40 minutes before touching in to the National Rail platforms to split the journey in two.
Note: This article has been updated on 29th January with new information recieved from TfL.