Tom Edwards has reported on his BBC blog that there are some changes in the pipeline to combat maximum fare overcharging. I have to start though by saying that the article title is possibly a bit misleading. I don’t think they are actually planning to replace all the Oyster cards in circulation.
The main thought seems to be that where people make a regular journey using PAYG and occasionally fail to touch out, possibly due to reader malfunction, crowds or they just forget, then the Oyster system will recognise the incomplete regular journey and complete it for them with an automatic refund. If the system becomes aware of an equipment failure then obviously it should do this anyway, but I’d hope there should be a limit on pure forgetfulness – maybe 2-3 times a month. Obviously someone making a daily commute will probably have a travelcard anyway, so we’re only talking about semi-regular journeys.
There are also long overdue plans to improve access to journey history. I still find it ridiculous that in this computerised age you have to wait 2-5 days for an email to arrive with a journey statement! And the restriction limiting access to online history to those who have topped up online seems arbitrary at best.
However, here at Oyster and National Rail, we have a bigger issue even than overcharging. It is the signage around Oyster validators at stations line Ealing Broadway where an exit touch is flagged as a continuation exit. The theory that someone who inadvertantly touches out on the platform and then tries to exit via a gate should not have a problem is fine. However, what if you aren’t leaving? The signs simply invite Oyster PAYG users to touch at them. If you started your journey at Southall for example, then touched on the platform at Ealing Braodway before taking a Central Line train, you are actually travelling on an invalid card. When you later touch out at the end of your journey you will be charged the correct fare, but if you are checked by an RPI you may well be issued with a penalty fare. Ouch! We know it has happened from comments to this site. Something needs to be done.