Potentially hundreds of Thameslink passengers may have been overcharged over the two bank holiday weekends in May. On both weekends the line between West Hampstead Thameslink and St Pancras (low level) was closed for engineering work. Trains from Bedford/Luton terminated in platforms 1-4 at St Pancras (high level) and passengers wanting to continue south had to walk down to the low level platforms (A-B). The problem is that there was no internal out-of-station interchange (OSI) set up between the Oyster validators for platforms 1-4 and the gateline for platforms A-B. Thus a journey from Elstree to Blackfriars was charged as two journeys; Elstree to St Pancras and St Pancras to Blackfriars.
I must point out that in my view this was an understandable oversight. Previously when Thameslink used platforms 1-4 it was because the core route was closed. Only since the opening of the link to Finsbury Park has it been likely that Thameslink trains would use both 1-4 and A-B.
So, how big is the problem? A freedom of information request has found that hundreds of journeys were made where a touch out and back in occured within 20 minutes. The numbers are: 4th May – 283, 5th – 125, 6th – 376, 25th – 438, 26th – 292 and 27th – 295. Those figures are for both directions and also include people who had travelcards on their Oyster card or who may have capped anyway. It is highly likely that there are still hundreds of people affected.
The person who bought this to my attention contacted the Oyster helpdesk about getting a refund, but they were refused for the reason that it was planned engineering work. I have raised the issue with both TfL and GTR and am awaiting a final response. I can confidently predict that an OSI will be set up within St Pancras to avoid this issue in the future; I’m hoping that refunds are also arranged where passengers were overcharged.
There is also another related issue. The gates at platforms 1-4 do not currently accept Oyster or contactless. When Thameslink use these platforms passengers are directed to touch in or out at the validators nearby. I’m concerned that this may not always happen resulting in a maximum fare being charged for an incomplete journey. With this in mind I also asked about incomplete journeys to/from stations north of St Pancras. The results were as follows:
Elstree & Borehamwood: 4th – 307, 5th – 154, 6th – 99, 25th – 228, 26th – 141 and 27th – 117.
Hendon: 4th – 56, 5th – 24, 6th – 15, 25th – 35, 26th – 13 and 27th – 23.
Mill Hill Broadway: 4th – 150, 5th – 69, 6th – 35, 25th – 115, 26th – 69 and 27th – 87.
West Hampstead Thameslink: 4th – 292, 5th – 177, 6th – 158, 25th – 229, 26th – 154 and 27th – 151.
Unfortunately the response omitted the details for Cricklewood.
There’s no way of knowing whether all of these incomplete journeys involved walking past the validators at St Pancras, but my insticnt tells me that most of them will be. If you have been charged an incomplete journey in this scenario then I recommend calling the Oyster helpline explaining what happened and asking for a refund down to the proper fare for the journey you made. It has to be done within 8 weeks so if it happened on the first weekend there isn’t much time left.