This post has largely been superceeded by this revised version.
I’ve had a couple of questions about these Oyster cards which are being supplied to volunteers who are helping visitors to London and the games during the Olympics. As far as I can tell they are simply a travelcard covering zones 1-6 for the duration of the work as an ambassador. There may well be special arrangements for people working at airports outside zones 1-6, but this post attempts to answer questions about the standard scenario where the work is in Central London or a games venue within zones 1-6.
If you also live within zones 1-6, or will be driving to a station within zones 1-6, then they will basically give you free travel on all rail, tube, dlr, buses and trams within the zones. They work just like any adult Oyster card with a travelcard loaded on it. Although you are supposed to touch in and out at each end of every rail journey, there is no penalty for not doing so within your zones. So if the station is un-gated or the gates are open you are allowed to walk through without touching the card. You must always touch in on a bus because the driver needs to know you have a valid travelcard on your Oyster.
The questions are arising where people live outside zones 1-6. These are some of the things to bear in mind:
- You also get free bus travel on some TfL-operated routes outside the zones, for example the 96, 428 and 492 buses are all included all the way out to Bluewater.
- These Oyster cards are special limited use cards which will not allow PAYG credit to be added. This means that they cannot be used on rail services in zones 7-9, Watford Junction or the Grays group of stations. You will need to buy paper tickets to get to zone 6 as per the next point.
- If you wish to travel from outside the whole Oyster area then you will need a paper ticket to get to zone 6. If your paper ticket is also a season ticket (valid for 7 days or more) then the train MUST call at the station where you switch from using the paper ticket to the travelcard on Oyster. This may restrict the choice of trains somewhat, so you might make a trade-off between using the first station in zone 6 (eg Harold Wood) and one slightly further in (eg Romford) where more trains stop. However, if your paper ticket is a day ticket (either off-peak or anytime) then there is no requirement for the train to stop where the tickets change over.
- Whether you use a season (so the train has to stop) or a day ticket, there is no need to get off the train to touch in or out. This is because you are only using the Oyster within the zones covered so there is no penalty for not touching at either or both ends of the journey.
I hope this helps answer any questions you may have, but please do not hesitate to post a comment if there is anything else you want to know.
I’m quite surprised to learn that these cards will be hotlisted after the games so that they will no longer work. I can’t quite understand the rationale behind this as it seems like a terrible waste of RFID technology. Perhaps the fact that these cards will not have a deposit attached to them makes the potential for losses after the event too great.