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.