TfL Rail to Reading – No Oyster

Yesterday TfL announced their initial plans following takeover of the GWR suburban services between Paddington and Reading on December 15th.  In contrast to any other TfL takeover, neither Oyster nor contactless will be available on day 1.  To ensure a smooth introduction, contactless PAYG will be introduced from January 2nd 2020.

The big news though is that Oyster PAYG will NOT be valid between West Drayton and Reading.  This means that adults with railcards, 11-15 and 16+ zip card holders will not be able to make use of PAYG.  And holders of Apprentice, 18+ Student and Jobcentre Oyster cards will not be able to seamlessly transition between using a travelcard stored on the card to PAYG.  On the plus side, under 11s accompanied by adults will be able to travel free, but only on the TfL Rail services.

The reason given for this decision is that the 15-year old Oyster system cannot cope with the number of extensions currently being rolled out.  Whilst this is true, there has been a project running for several years to switch Oyster to use the same back-end processing that contactless uses.  That project is way behind schedule.  I certainly hope that whatever the issues are they are resolved soon, because limiting usage to just full paying adults takes the shine off the announcement.

Other importat details from the press release: PAYG will not be available on services between Reading and Feltham via Staines.  TfL expect GWR will accept PAYG on their services between Reading and London, although that doesn’t seem to have been agreed 100% at this stage.  Freedom Passes will be accepted all the way to Reading, but only on TfL Rail services.  The 60+ Oyster card isn’t mentioned so I am seeking clarification.

No details of fares have been made available at this stage.

42 thoughts on “TfL Rail to Reading – No Oyster”

  1. Sp as an annual travelcard holder with railcard all tagged onto my oyster, how should I pay for a journey between LU stations to stations beyond West Drayton?
    Either I would be double-paying if I use a paper ticket from Paddington or losing out on my railcard discount to use my contactless card?

    • Hi Horace,

      Your best bet would be a boundary zone X to your destination ticket, where X is the higher zone on your travelcard.

  2. For those with railcards, singles and returns to GWR managed stations (Paddington, Slough, Maidenhead, Twyford and Reading) are available on the Chiltern Smartcard (not on GWR Smart yet). These are valid on TfL Rail as there is no route/TOC restriction.

  3. TfL have advised me that 60+ Oyster photocards will not be valid beyond West Drayton.

    • Hi John,

      Any chance you could let me know who or how TfL have said this? Was it on the phone to the helpdesk, an email query, or a general email to all 60+ photocard holders?

  4. If 60+ Oyster Photocards are not going to be valid beyond West Drayton, TFL will have to update their Conditions of Carriage as it clearly states that the photocard is currently valid at all times on TFL Services. Seems strange when the card is valid to Shenfield although the barriers don’t work.

    Also, anyone applying for a 60+ Photocard on or after 1 August 2019 is now expected to pay a non-refundable £10 fee for every year their photocard is valid up until a Freedom Pass is available. This will be done on the anniversary of payment by sending out an address check letter. The TFL website doesn’t mention the 1 August date but Section 6 of the 60+ Terms and Conditions does.

    My card comes up as “Freedom Pass E” when touching in on a bus.

    • Thanks Colin,

      There certainly may need to be careful notice provided if the CoC states valid on all TfL services.

  5. Hi Mike,

    Appendix 1 lists the various ticket types and under 60+ London Oyster Photocard it currently states under Where and When It Can Be Used “At all times on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services.”

    It goes on to mention National Rail at all times except between 0430 and 0930 and states that this restriction doesn’t apply to London Underground, TFL Rail and National Rail services in paragraph A2 (Amersham to Marylebone etc.)

    It continues: Not on Southeastern high speed or Heathrow Express services or the Emirates Air Line

  6. Mike – it was a reply via Facebook Messenger (from the TfL Facebook page) to a very specific question re. the press release.

  7. I suspect that fares from Slough and Reading will be much higher without Oyster and this deliberate. Other areas outside London such as Brentwood have Oyster so??
    I am v disappointed by this announcement and believe it is not because Oyster is now an old system but because TFL intend to charge relatively higher fares. If Slough had been in Zone 8 then off peak fares would be in line with other Oyster zones; now I suspect we will not have this advantage. BASICALLY A SELL OUT BY TFL.

  8. TfL do not have any control over fares from Slough (and Maidenhead, Twyford and Reading). These are now, and will continue to be, set by GWR.

  9. TFL are taking over those services so should be setting fares. TFL has the franchise. I think the western extension out of London into Berkshire offers no advantage and therefore waste of public money. Everyone at Slough/Readiing/Maidenhead will use the superfast GWR trains. You need to offer some fares advantage???

    • Hi Dan,

      You need to offer some fares advantage???

      First point, I run an independent site as stated at the top left of every page.

      As Matthew stated, GWR set the fares from Reading, Twyford, Maidenhead and Slough. Wherever more than one company runs trains between two stations, one is designated the lead operator and is responsible for setting the any permitted fares. TfL could choose to undercut those fares (unless the franchise specification prohibits this), but they are looking for simplicity where both they and GWR accept PAYG between Reading and London, so this isn’t going to happen.

      You also mention how Brentwood has Oyster. It does, and so does Shenfield, but Shenfield is just over 20 miles from Liverpool Street while Reading is 36.5 miles from Paddington. Brentwood and Slough are both 18 miles from their respective terminals, but Brentwood is only served by TfL trains most of the time, whereas Slough has regular GWR trains. When TfL took over Brentwood they decided to take a hit on the season fares by putting it in zone 9. But with Slough they are not taking over fare setting.

  10. Thanks Mike for clarifying.
    I still think this is a fiasco. Even if as claimed, the Oyster system is past it’s sell by; fares still need to be in line with zone 8/9 for Slough for example, otherwise it won’t get the intended use. They should set a dual fares system for respective TFL or GWR trains. All the hullabaloo of Crossrail turns out to be a damp squid.

  11. Hi Mike, who should I be complaing to TFL or GWR?
    I would like to organise or be part of a campaign to ensure fair fares on Elizabeth line; not a 2 tier system. This feels like a stitch up!

    • Hi Dan,

      In the space of 15 minutes you’ve suggested a two-tier system out to Reading (TfL/GWR) and complained about a two tier system on the Elizabeth line (East/West presumably). Welcome to the wonderful world of UK rail fares. As to who to complain to, maybe the DfT would be best. Remember though that Oyster/contactless can’t charge different fares depending on operator where a shared gateline is used (eg at Reading).

  12. Are network card discounts (and other railcard discounts) available on tfl rail services (including Reading in the future)?

    If they are, then that is a reason to use paper ticket instead of contactless. (Same for Gatwick).

    • Hi Miles,

      Yes, both TfL Rail and London Overground are National Rail operators and accept all appropriate discount cards.

  13. Mike,

    In reference to Miles T’s comment above, is it fair to say that there is a difference in the evening peak times between TfL Rail and other National Rail Operators? I am specifically thinking about the TfL rail takeover of the Reading line, that another reason for Miles T above’s point is that a National Railcard discount would be available in the evening peak, and on paper, whilst TfL rail will be charging peak fares on Contactless?

    This of course would not apply between 0930-1600 and after 1900.

    • Hi David,

      The Oyster and contactless system imposes peak fares in the evening peak* as part of its charging scheme. This is the same for all rail operators within the Oyster area. Where TfL Rail sell paper tickets they will be under the same system that GWR currently operate, at least to start with.

      *There is the concession where off-peak fares are charged where a journey starts outside zone 1 and ends within it in the afternoon peak.

  14. Hello,

    Can you tell me if the Veterans Oyster Photo Card will be valid on the route to Readling please?

    Whenever it is used, such as on buses etc, it shows on the screen as a ‘Freedom Pass’.

    I did ask the TFL contact centre but they had no idea what I was talking about.

  15. Clarification on the Freedom Pass to Reading. Ticket gates at Reading, Maidenhead and Slough will not open for a Freedom Pass and you will have to show it to a member of GWR staff and they will open the gates for you. TfL have yet to clarify if there will be M-F morning use restriction but the feeling is that as there isn’t one at Shenfield (GA) there won’t be one on the western end – but watch this space!!!!

  16. Graham, does this just apply to just over 65 (or is it 66?) Freedom Pass, or does it also apply to the Veterans Oyster Card and the 60+ Oyster Card, both of which are indicated as a “Freedom Pass” when tapping on an Oyster Reader. [I’m not sure if the software treats all 3 types of cards identically, in which case a visual check would be the only way to differentiate; or if the software treats them separately but displays the same generic description on the readers and buses etc.]

    • Hi Alan, and Graham,

      The 60+ is currently confirmed as a no. This is why the press release talked about people aged 60 and over being eligible for the senior railcard. I’ve asked about Veteran’s Oyster cards again and am still waiting for a response. I’m sure that the cards identify themselves correctly when read, but the display software just outputs the same message for all three.

      Given that the Freedom Pass is only eligible to people in London and only valid on the slow TfL Rail services, I would not expect to see a morning peak restriction. But yes, I’ll watch for clarification.

    • Hi Stef,

      The 60+ Oyster card scheme is not statutory (unlike the freedom pass), so it could be withdrawn at any time.

  17. Mike,

    I think you’ll find that although the Freedom Pass is statutory, it can also be removed at any time considering that the Over 75 Television Licences are now being restricted to certain qualifying pensioners after the decision by the BBC.

    However I think the real problem is that since the 60+ Oyster Card was introduced by Boris Johnson in 2012, the original intention of giving people over 60 the same Freedom Pass rights that they would have had if the State Pension Age had not been increased, has been devalued by TFL.

    The original TFL Press Release clearly states that the reason for the introduction of the card was to give people the same rights with Boris mentioning about people “grafting” etc.

    Up to August last year, all that was required was a single £20 administration fee, however, TFL sneaked in a rule saying that anybody applying for the card from August 2019 would have to pay a £10 non refundable fee simply to confirm their address for every year they had the card or it would be stopped.

    So now, applicants have to pay £20 for the first year, £10 for the remaining years until they qualify for a Freedom Pass (currently £50 but will increase in future years) and now to access one stretch of line between West Drayton and Reading, applicants are expected to pay £30 a year for a Senior Railcard (£180) plus save only one third of the fare.

    So what was originally a £20 expense is now around £250 simply because TFL now run trains to Reading, when Boris’s press release in 2012 also clearly stated that card holders would have free access to all TFL services.

    Yet we have access to Shenfield at the other end of the proposed Elizabeth Line with no barrier access but can’t go to Reading (which as you correctly point out unfairly forces Veterans Card holders to pay between expiry of their card and qualification for a Freedom Pass.)

    I don’t begrudge Freedom Pass holders the right to travel from West Drayton to Reading but I think that being expected to pay upwards of £250 to access one line when we were originally promised the same rights as Freedom Pass holders 2012 is an insult.

    I wonder if this is a consequence of TFL freezing their fares? In the 2012 Press Release they clearly stated how many applications they would expect so I suspect someone has miscalculated the costs of the scheme badly.

    • Hi Colin,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t want to get too political but it’s worth bearing in mind that Boris Johnson is the least trustworthy politician I can recall. Reading is considerably further out from London than Shenfield. Whether to pay for a senior railcard or not is a decision people have to make, but if they make a reasonable number of train journeys they probably will have one anyway. Also, although TfL impliment the fares decisions, they are actually made by the Mayor at the time. You could write to the Mayor citing the differences between the 2012 press release and today; it would be interesting to see the response you get.

  18. Hi Mike,
    Can you please tell me how I can deactivate the oyster auto top up ? Sorry if this has been asked before but I’ve been trying for ages.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Grace,

      That’s a good question which ought to be answered on the Topping Up page. However, when logged into your account select “Manage Auto Top-up” from the right hand menu. You’ll then see the current details and buttons to amend payment card, change auto top-up and remove auto top-up. Click the remove button and then confirm the order on the next page. You then need to make a journey within the next 3 days so that the instruction is loaded onto your card.

  19. Hi Mike,

    Flipping through the new fares for 2020 there is now a section on contactless fares to Reading. The rubric states:

    “If you use contactless (card or device) to travel to or from Reading or [sic] Iver and you travel in zones 1-6, we’ll automatically refund the difference if a Day Travelcard was cheaper. Refunds may take up to 14 days.”

    Two questions:

    If one were to touch in at Twyford at 0625, and on return journey tapped in at 1905, do you believe that the capping would be off peak or peak? (Anytime: £36.10/ Off peak: £21.40) – so a big difference!

    I assume that there is some manual data trawling process that will be run in the background once a week to work out whether total travel exceeds this cap – I assume that this will be rectified in due course?

    • Hi David,

      As per the Peak, Off-Peak and Caps page, travel at 0625 will be charged off-peak but only count towards the anytime cap. And yes, the data will be examined after the event to determine any refunds. It’s only a temporary fix until they an impliment the new per station capping (rather than zones).

  20. Hi Mike –

    I have just started working in Slough and would be commuting to Slough everyday. Is there anyways I can reduce the cost of my commute by using TFL rail. GWR just seems too expensive and TFL rail has followed its footstep. Is there a discount card I can use on TFL rail?

    • Hi Bhavishya,

      If you are just commuting from Paddington then you can buy a season ticket. Because your journey is against the peak flow the price of the weekly season is only worthwhile for 5 days use. Monthly and longer period seasons are also available and will save more.

      If your commute includes other services (eg bus or tube) then you may need a travelcard. If you can tell me your exact journey then I can advise properly.

  21. My wife and daughter have just travelled from Ealing Broadway to Reading. They were told at Ealing that they would have to get out at West Drayton, and tap out their oyster cards and then wait for the next train. The reverse for the return journey. This seems a rather bizarre way to operate a train service !

    • Hi Bob,

      This is correct if they want to use Oyster between Ealing and West Drayton. Your wife could have used contactless the whole way and bought your daughter a paper ticket (assuming she’s a child).

    • I doubt it. In fact I don’t think Reading will ever see current Oyster cards accepted.

  22. Hi – not sure if this is the right place to post so please move if needed.

    I went from Barbican tube to Slough using contactless (as Oyster is only valid to West Drayton). I tapped in Barbican before 1900 (weekday) and tapped out at Paddington tube, which would normally be a £2.40 peak charge.

    I then tapped into Paddington National Rail at 1902 and out at Slough around 1945. According to the Single Fare Finder off peak begins from 1900 so separately this journey would’ve cost £5.40.

    However, it looks like the sytem has taken into account an OSI an charged me an £11.10 peak fare from Barbican to Slough? (Which equates to two peak fares of £2.40 Barbican-Paddington and £8.70 Paddington-Slough)

    Has anyone else been victim to this?

    • Hi Marvin,

      I’d imagine quite a few people have experienced this. The vast majority of people changing between Underground and National Rail will benefit from having their journeys joined. Unfortunately there are cases where the two journeys would be cheaper. In terms of this journey there are a few things you can do to get around the issue. If you’re certain that you won’t cap for the day you could use two cards. You can also touch in on a bus at Paddington and get straight off again. You’ll be charged £1.50 but the rail journey will be split. If you have spare time you could also wait at Paddington so that you touch in at the NR paltforms more than 40 minutes after touching out from the LU station.

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