Gatwick Simplification

I’ve just discovered that a partial simplification occured back in May with fares on the Merstham to Gatwick section. Originally Govia (backed by the DfT) had mandated that fares avoiding zone 1 should often be more expensive than the equivalent via zone 1 fare. This had the particularly nasty side effect that sometimes touching a pink reader (eg at Surrey Quays) might charge more than if you didn’t bother. That definitely contradicts the message TfL want to make about pink readers.

However, since May these fares have been revised downwards to the same level as the via zone 1 fare. One can only guess which side was the driving force behind this change, and I don’t think it was either Govia or the DfT. Better late than never, and a shame no announcement was made, from either side.

The opportunity to save money on most fares by splitting at East Croydon still exists though.

21 thoughts on “Gatwick Simplification”

  1. Great website…

    I have a zone 2-3 annual travelcard, and so I get an oyster gold card too.

    In June I went off peak from Lewisham to Gatwick via London Bridge, though I did not need to touch my card at London Bridge as I just change platform. I was charged £3.90 for this journey. I returned off peak on Southern via Victoria, where I did have to touch out and back in at Victoria as I changed from Southern to Southeastern. This was charged at £5.10.

    Last week I again went off peak from Lewisham to Gatwick, same as before, and was again charged £3.90. Returning this week at 18.00 at Gatwick (peak time) I went to Lewisham via London Bridge, where I do not have to touch my card, as it is a direct platform change. This cost £14.10 on entry, and £5.80 was refunded on touching out at Lewisham, so cost £8.30.

    None of these fares seems to resemble what TfL say, even allowing for my discount card, which I assume only works off peak (??). Is there a pink reader at London Bridge between platforms 7 and 11?? Am I supposed to go out and then back in again?? Will this change when London Bridge Thameslink is fully operational next year ie through trains from Bedford are stopping there again?? All seems a bit random at the moment…any idea what it should cost??

    • Hi Neil,

      You are paying for a zone 1 to Gatwick journey with an allowance for having zones 2-3 paid via your travelcard. If you look at the mixing payg and travelcard page you’ll see that the fare is calculated one of two ways, whichever is cheapest. It’s either the full fare as if you didn’t have a travelcard, or the sum of the two unpaid parts. In your case that would be zone 1 plus zone 4 to Gatwick.

      Your railcard does only discount off-peak fares and caps, there is no pink reader at London Bridge and things shouldn’t change when London Bridge is fully operational.

  2. OK, makes sense. But why is it a different fare if I go to Gatwick off peak touching out and in via Victoria than going via London Bridge where I don’t have to use the card??

    • Hi Neil,

      That’s a funny one. When you travel via London Bridge you are only being charged for zone 4 to Gatwick. I think this is because the default route for Lewisham to much of South London is via Peckham Rye. It won’t work on PAYG as the default route for the whole journey is via London.

      As for the return via Victoria, when you touch out there you will be charged for the Gatwick to London fare. I think that is the split fare
      so add on the zone 1 NR fare of £1.40 to the other zone 4 to Gatwick fare.

  3. I’ve had a similar experience recently on a journey to Gatwick. I hold a zone 1-2 annual travelcard and have the gold card railcard discount registered on my oystercard. Both journeys made at off-peak times.

    On Friday 6th October I made the journey Bow Church DLR – Gatwick Airport, touching out at London Bridge (Jubilee Line) and touching back in at London Bridge (National Rail). The charge was £5.10.

    On Monday 9th October I simply made a journey from Gatwick Airport to London Bridge and was charged £3.90.

    I can’t understand why the journey from Bow Church incurred a higher charge, as that portion is covered entirely by my travelcard.

  4. Hi Al,

    That’s down to the fact that Gatwick to Bow Church is a mixed NR+TfL journey. You were charged the Gatwick to zone 3 mixed fare which is more than the Gatwick to zone 3 NR only fare. When a travelcard is present it doesn’t change the journey being made, just how much of it is charged.

    In this case there is a workaround, but it will take some time. You need to touch in on a bus outside London Bridge between touching out from the Underground and touching in to National Rail. The bus is covered by your travelcard and splits the rail journey in two. Thus the journey outside the travelcard is only a National Rail one.

  5. Hi Mike,

    Great website btw. I’m currently traveling on the from Redhill to Warren St about 3 days a week at the moment, given that this route now has Oyster /Contactless, whats the cheapest way to travel in and out of London Z1 (tube) during peak hours?

    I note that a daily travelcard for this journey will cost £30 per day = £90 per week i.e. more than the cost of an equivalent week travelcard. Are there any combinations/tips that i could use to bring this cost down? you mention the ECR split above?

    As it stands it doesn’t seem very fair to part-time travelers paying effectively the same as full time travelers especially given some of the benefits capping gives on almost all other Oyster routes.

    Many Thanks, Al

    • Hi Al,

      The East Croydon split is really the only sensible way of reducing the cost. The fares to and from Redhill and Gatwick Airport are not intended to be value for money in the same way as other Oyster routes. They are solely there to add convenience to users of the Airport. TfL has pretty much no say over the way fares are set on that line, it’s all decided by GTR, and effectively signed off by the DfT.

  6. Thanks for a great site.

    I am collecting an adult and a child from Gatwick and going to London Victoria.

    My plan is to take the child with me through the gate using my Oyster card for both me and the child.

    And to loan my visitor my debit card which is contactless for her to go through the gate (as an oyster card thingy).

    1 How does my oyster card know to take one adult and one child fare from me when i go through the gate?

    2 Is it ok for my friend to use my contactless card for her fare (acting as an oyster card)?

    Thanks for any help

    • Hi Suzanne,

      I think I recognise you from another forum!

      Easy question first, it’s absolutely fine to loan your contactless payment card to your friend. No-one will be any the wiser if it is checked and all TfL care about is getting the money at the end of the day.

      As you’ve just been told on railforums, you can’t use one card for both adult and child. There appears to have been a failing to understand the whole picture on there, which sadly includes me. You need to have a blue adult Oyster card with the young visitor discount set. This charges half adult rate fares for 14 days from when the discount is set. In your case you won’t need to use it on the tube in London as your child is only 6.

      Life is never easy though and to get the young visitor discount added you and the child need to visit a tube station or a TfL travel centre. But the one most useful to you (Gatwick Airport South Terminal) cannot set the young visitor discount. East Croydon ticket office (where you’ll be changing to avoid the high fares from Gatwick) can do some Oyster transactions, but I don’t know whether this is one of them. Victoria station definitely can, but by then you’ll have made half the overall number of journeys at the adult rate. Yes, it’s madness.

      The only workaround I can think of is to try and get the discount set at Victoria on the way down. You’ll need to borrow a young child to pretend to be your companion. No proof of identity is taken although you might be asked for the childs date of birth. Once the discount has been set it remains for two weeks and nothing special happens.

  7. Hi,
    What is the best and cheapest way to get to Gatwick Airport from Hayes and Harlington st. Last time I bought a day return ticket for 26£ – that was the quickest as it allowed me to use GX – and I went through Paddington to Victoria and then took GX. but I cant get that ticket if I am not returning on the same day. did I pay too much anyway?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi,

      Firstly, I wouldn’t put too much weight on the GX. It is at best 2 minutes faster than the Southern services which also call at Clapham Junction and East Croydon. It uses the same tracks and gets held up by the same disruptions when problems occur. If you are making a single journey then I’d use PAYG on Oyster and avoid the GX which is vastly overpriced.

  8. I took a peak journey yesterday from Elephant and Castle to East Croydon via London Bridge, and was charged the peculiar fare of £6.90. It involved a Same Station Exit at E&C Rail followed by a tube journey to LBG (within 40 minutes), and a change there to National Rail.

    I can’t find this fare on any of the fare finders, so was curious as to where it came from…

    07:12 – 07:46 Elephant & Castle [National Rail] to East Croydon [National Rail] £6.90 £44.70
    07:46 Touch out, East Croydon [National Rail] +£1.10 £44.70
    07:26 Touch in, London Bridge [National Rail] £5.60 £43.60
    07:24 Touch out, London Bridge [London Underground] +£5.60 £49.20
    07:16 Touch in, Elephant & Castle [London Underground] £5.60 £43.60
    07:15 Touch out, Elephant & Castle [National Rail] +£5.60 £49.20
    07:12 Touch in, Elephant & Castle [National Rail] £8.00 £43.60
    07:12 Topped-up on touch in, Elephant & Castle [National Rail] +£50.00 £51.60

    • Hi Chris,

      Same station exit doesn’t work as expected if the entry is within the time allowed for an OSI between the two stations. You were charged for a journey between Elephant & Castle NR and East Croydon changing between Underground and National Rail at London Bridge.

  9. Thanks. That makes sense actually now I look at the fare scales!

    And now I think about it, I’ve benefited from the “stickiness” of OSIs (such as by doing an SSE before a journey to lock in the off peak fare) more often than I have lost because of it. So I guess I can’t complain. 🙂

  10. Hi Mike, I live in Wembley Park and am considering using my oyster to go to Gatwick, which way is the cheapest? (I have a 16-25 railcard) To avoid zone 1 I can take the overground instead of the thameslink which isn’t that much difference in time, but in terms of mixing both oyster and paper tickets which options would be the best? Is it always better to maximise oyster coverage then use a train ticket, like from Luton to Wembley off peak its cheapest to split at Elstree and use oyster from there on rather than hendon cricklewood or west hampstead, is this always the case? However Gatwick is in special fares so it might be different…
    Also if in theory I were to split at say coulsdon south, and my gatwick bound train doesn’t call there, does that mean that it’s not viable because I would have to tap out there for my oyster to leave the system?

    • Hi Crispin,

      Gatwick accepts Oyster, so no need for a paper ticket. You will find that you’ll save some money by splitting at East Croydon. Just get off the train to touch out and back in again. You’ll probably need to get the next train, but they’re quite frequent between there and Gatwick.

  11. Hi Mike,
    Is splitting the journey to Gatwick at East Croydon legal? Can I get into any trouble doing that?

  12. With contactless or Oyster… so there is a history of trips made (just check-out and check-in at East Croydon)…

    • Hi Dan,

      No problems at all. You’re just making two journeys one straight after the other.

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