I tend to avoid getting too involved in the politics and the fare changes on this site, but earlier this week Ken Livingstone dangled a frankly huge carrot in front of potential voters in the suburbs, promising to resurrect the much missed “avoiding zone 1” travelcard if he is elected Mayor next year. The story can be read on the BBC website, but I want to focus on the response from the current Mayor’s office:
It is far cheaper for Londoners to use Oyster pay-as-you-go. With outside zone 1 fares ranging from £1.30 to £2.50 using Oyster, a passenger needed to make seven peak-time outside zone 1 journeys to justify purchasing one of the zone 2-6 travel cards. Anyone advocating restoring the old cards totally misses the point as to why it was removed.
- Far cheaper to use Oyster pay-as-you-go. At first glance this doesn’t make sense. Oyster PAYG has daily caps which match the price of a paper travelcard. However, on closer inspection, what they seem to be saying is that because you could make more single journeys before hitting the zone 2-6 cap you may well be wasting your money buying a paper travelcard. This now makes a bit of sense, except that you can say the same about any paper travelcard. Also, how many of the few people who used to buy the zone 2-6 travelcard now buy the all zones instead and get overcharged even further?
- Ranging from £1.30 to £2.50. Where to start? £1.30 is the cheapest adult single outside zone 1, but it’s only off-peak. £2.50 is the price of a peak zone 2-6 journey using TfL rail, but, the same journey on NR is £3.40. Ooops, suddenly the argument is looking a little shaky.
- Seven peak time outside zone 1 journeys. It can just about be true. The peak 2-6 price of £8.60 compares with six short £1.40 TfL rail journeys at £8.40. I bet they hoped you’d use the £1.30 price, yes? However, how many £3.40 NR journeys did you have to make? Yes, only 3. Suddenly the argument has fallen rather flat. Of course many of the beneficiaries of the zone 2-6 travelcard/cap were actually off-peak users and guess what? Four short £1.30 journeys made the £5.10 off-peak travelcard worthwhile. Just four!
So, the real reason that the zone 2-6 travelcard was withdrawn was to encourage greater use of Oyster? I can just about accept that, although it is a slightly flawed argument. But how about this for a compromise, Boris? Bring back the zone 2-6 caps on the Oyster card, and trumpet this as a way of encouraging more Oyster use because it’s cheaper than any of the paper travelcards that include zone 1. Leave the paper travelcards as they are. And rush it through in January and it’ll knock the wind out of Ken’s sail as well.