Maximum Journey Loophole

I picked up this little gem on another website this week.  If you have over run the maximum journey time by just a few minutes and you are at an out of station interchange then there might be a way out of the incomplete journey penalty.  Thanks to Phil for allowing me to share his story:

Basically I started the day with £8.00 on my payg oystercard and made two bus journeys in the morning leaving £5.60. In the evening I was meeting a friend to go to the o2. She’d never been to the o2 before and isn’t confident using trains on her own, so I arranged to meet her at Sutton station near her work. I touched in at Wallington and got the train to Sutton,  then waited inside the ticket barriers without touching out until she arrived. We then got a train to London Bridge. I was conscious of the time limit to complete the journey but thought I’d be okay. When we got to London Bridge I went to touch out and my card wouldn’t work the barrier and gave the seek assistance message. When I checked with the ticket clerk my balance was -40p. I’d been charged £6.00 as I’d gone over the time limit. Remember, I hadn’t touched out whilst waiting for her at Sutton so the system had read it as a single journey from Wallington to London Bridge. The ticket clerk opened the gate to let me out. Feeling a little annoyed with myself I put another £10 on my card and my balance was shown as £9.60. We then got the underground from London Bridge to North Greenwich and it definitely deducted the fare.

After the concert we went back to North Greenwich and headed back to London Bridge. When I touched out at LB my balance was showing as £10.50! We got a train back to Sutton where I dropped her off then got a bus back to Wallington. No more money was deducted and my balance remained at £10.50.

So, what’s happened here?  When Phil touched back in at London Bridge Underground the system recorded it as continuing his journey.  By going on to North Greenwich he added another couple of zones to his journey and thus extended the maximum journey time allowed.  So when he touched out the system now treated it as a Wallington to North Greenwich journey and adjusted the fare accordingly.  The journey home took him over the travelcard cap for the day which is why the balance showed as £10.50 from London Bridge onwards.

Thanks again to Phil for allowing me to share this story.

5 thoughts on “Maximum Journey Loophole”

  1. I encountered this OSI problem at London Bridge during my visit in May. I did not understand fully what happened.

    It was a weekend and i had not intended extensive travel, but sudden changes necessary due to trackwork closures changed things.

    I had travelled to Stratford from Liverpool St. Planned to change to DLR. I could not find the pink validator, so proceeded on to Lewisham, where I tagged out. This registered correctly. A short time later, I think about 15 minutes I tagged back in at the South Eastern gates. This registered correctly. At London Bridge it appeared to tag out correctly; but did not. So I got a maximum fare. The subsequent journey from London Bridge to Victoria by by TUBE went ok.

    I phoned TFL/Oyster and they refunded the amount. A couple of days after the refund another for the same amount came through. I suspect that the system finally caught up with itself.

    Since I got my Oyster card in 2005 I have had several troubles like this. I don’t trust the “daily cap”. I try to keep the Oyster card for simple one way trips. If I am travelling around I buy a paper daily travelcard and have no problems.

    A friend who visits London more frequently than I do and who tends to use the buses more, solved his problems buy having 2 Oyster cards. One he keeps for the simple single journeys. The other he has loaded with a bus only travelcard when needed. It seems to work for him.

  2. Hi Les,

    I hope you don’t mind that I combined your two comments into one.

    Am I right in thinking that you expected Lewisham to be treated as the end of one journey and the start of another? If so, the fact that you only spent 15 minutes there meant that you triggered the OSI between DLR and NR. When you got back to London Bridge you had probably exceeded the maximum journey time allowed for Liverpool Street to London Bridge. The Oyster system doesn’t like circular type journeys and tends to ignore OSIs out of the expected reasonable route. Had you spent 21 minutes at Lewisham then you’d have been alright.

  3. Thank you Mike. This helps explain why it happened. The time limit issues are a real problem.

    An observation. From observing and experiencing fare structures around the world, it is distance based fares which seem to work with the least problems e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore & BART in San francisco. Even simple zones with overlaps are giving probems in Melbourne.

  4. The 20 minute OSI at Lewisham seems over generous – I recently changed trains there (DLR to SET) and my touch out / in were just a minute apart. I was walking, honest!

    That said, 20 minutes is ‘useful’, especially if one has to wait 20 minutes (or more) for an onward train (eg: towards Elmers End for the trams).


  5. Yes, 20 minutes is a bit over the top at Lewisham. It has also caused two unrelated journeys to be joined up in the past which is not so good. Even if there is a wait for your train you wouldn’t normally do so outside of the station gateline as there isn’t really a concourse there.

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