When Oyster was rolled out to National Rail services in 2010 there were a number of National Rail stations where ticket offices had facilities to retail Oyster products. This included selling travelcards, adding discount entitlement, printing journey histories and of course selling the Oyster cards and topping up credit. To do this a station had to use the FastTIS ticket issuing system supplied by Cubic. Over time a number of train companies have removed this system for various reasons. Southeastern and South West Trains were among the first to do so a few years ago, but in the last year FastTIS has become obsolete and is no longer accredited as a ticket issuing system or supported by Cubic. As this situation approached, London Midland, Chiltern and Greater Anglia all announced withdrawl of facilities from their stations. The final non-TfL companies to decommission FastTIS were C2C and Govia Thameslink Railway earlier this year.
Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said:
The vast majority of journeys within the London Travelcard zones are now made by customers using contactless cards. Our ticket offices offer the GTR Key Smartcard, which is ideal for season ticket holders and has a pay as you go option – easier and faster to use than paper tickets, and a great way to minimise social contact.
While our ticket office machines can no longer top up Oyster cards or issue new ones, plenty of options remain including self-service ticket machines, TfL’s website and Oyster app, local newsagents and TfL stations.
I cannot disagree that simple operations like topping up or purchasing weekly/monthly travelcards are easily done using the ticket machines at just about every station, or that Oyster cards are freely available at local shops. I also accept that the majority of adult PAYG journeys are now made using contactless cards or devices. I do, however, maintain that making it difficult to add discount entitlements is a backward step. Another service that is almost impossible to do in huge swathes of London is converting rail travel vouchers into PAYG credit. This can now only be carried out at London Overground and TfL Rail ticket offices. And finally staff at train companies are entitled to a discount when using Oyster on National Rail services, but that can also only be activated at LO/TfL Rail stations.
It is claimed that local shops can set discount entitlement, but my experience is that unless the shop is going to make money from the transaction they are generally not interested. Thus topping up and travelcard sales are fine, but setting a discount? Even staff at some Underground stations claim that they can’t set discount entitlements.