The Epsom Story (Part 1)

Before we get into the nitty gritty, a little background which might help to explain why Epsom took so long. Epsom station is managed by Southern, part of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). Trains are operated by Southern and South Western Railway (SWR), and SWR are designated as the lead operator so they set the majority of the fares from Epsom. One of GTR’s franchise commitments with the DfT was to enable Oyster PAYG at Epsom. To do this they had to provide the infrastructure at the station, liaise with SWR and TfL over what fares to charge and how these could be integrated into the existing Oyster system, and run the whole thing past the DfT for a final sign-off. Anyone with any experience of big companies liaising over projects will realise that this was not an easy task.

With that out of the way, now we come to what’s actually been agreed.

The eagle eyed observer may have noticed that the daily caps for Epsom (£18.30 Anytime, £12.90 off-peak) are remarkably similar to the zone 1-9 caps. In fact they are the same. So the obvious question is, is Epsom in zone 9? The answer is … yes, but. While the daily caps compare favourably with the old paper travelcards from Epsom to zones 1-6, the weekly zone 1-9 travelcard is about £20 more than either (Any permitted or Southern only) weekly Epsom to zones 1-6 travelcard. Quite simply, if you commute from Epsom you should still use paper season tickets, or smart versions stored on “The Key”. This is why you will not see zone 9 mentioned anywhere in relation to Epsom. However, if you usually use a zone 1-9 travelcard to commute from say Brentwood or Amersham, you can use this to travel to Epsom. The gates will let you in or out, without requiring any extra PAYG balance.

So, what about the actual fares. As with all out of zone 6 extensions there are winners and losers. If you are a loser you can still buy tickets the old fashioned way, or treat the difference as a price for the convenience of not having to queue to buy a ticket. We’ve already covered the fact that the daily caps are both cheaper than the equivalent paper day travelcards, so if you are travelling to London and using the tube once there you will be better off using Oyster or contactless. If you are travelling off-peak but one (or both) of your journeys are between 1600-1900 then the peak single fares charged at that time might make a paper ticket cheaper. An example is Epsom to Victoria which is £10.60 off-peak return. The Oyster off-peak single fare is £5.10, but return from Victoria in the afternoon peak will cost £7.30.

There are also some new journey opportunities for Oyster users in SW London. Worcester Park to West Croydon can now be done via Epsom using Oyster. The fare is the same as is charged by default, which in this case is extremely good value.

Given the number of new journeys that have been added to the system it’s not surprising that some errors may have crept in. The obvious one that I’ve spotted is Epsom to Stoneleigh. The fare finder says this is the same as Epsom to Worcester Park, but while the latter is in zone 4, Stoneleigh is zone 5. It’s been reported and I expect it will be fixed shortly.

That’s it for part 1. I’m waiting for answers from SWR before writing part 2, so watch this space.

37 thoughts on “The Epsom Story (Part 1)”

  1. The implementation of Oyster at Epsom has had a side effect of pushing the rail ticket prices up. An off-peak weekday return from the Boundary of Zone 3 to Epsom went from £5.10 to £6.50. This is now the same as the price from Wimbledon, whereas before it was slightly cheaper. The increase only appears to have been implemented on the direct NR route, so cheaper tickets can still be got by ‘starting’ at other zone 3 stations such as Wimbledon Chase.

    • Hi Charles,

      I think what has actually happened is that a number of “Southern only” fares have been removed, I believe at the fares revision on 2nd January. Also bear in mind that if you start from Wimbledon Chase you are limited to travel via Sutton.

    • Hi Adam,

      Can you quote the URL of the page where you saw this. On this page Epsom is clearly indicated as being beyond zone 9.

    • Hi Adam,

      So it does. It has to be noted that that page relates to bus stops, but there might be a failure of communication going on there.

  2. Hi Adam,

    As I say, you’ve highlighted an issue between two different bits of the website.

    The zone 1-9 cap will be applied; I did just that last weekend.

  3. Whilst Oyster is valid on some TfL bus routes to Epsom, like all buses operated by TfL it is within a single all embracing ‘zone’ as buses use a flat fare of £1.50. As yet TfL have not said which ‘Ghost’ zone for capping purposes Epsom will be in. However, as a ‘heads up’ for the extension of Oyster to Hertford North in April, Cuffley will be in Zone 9 and Bayford and Hertford North will be in B which is ‘Ghost’ zone 11.

    • Thanks Graham,

      However, I must point out that Epsom is actually in zone 9 for capping purposes, so not a ‘Ghost’ zone at all.

  4. Hi Mike. Thats’s not what TfL are saying internally. As I said they have not yet said which ‘Ghost’ zone it has been allotted but if I had to guess it would probably be B which is ‘Ghost’ zone 11. At a pinch it might be A which is ‘Ghost’ zone 10 like Watford Junction, Grays, etc. We are going to FOI a new list of ‘Ghost’ zones and which stations are in each, after 11 April.

    • Hi Graham,

      I have had exchanges with contacts at TfL and GTR and I can confirm that Epsom is in zone 9. I have also travelled there using contactless. I capped at the zone 1-9 rate before going to Epsom and back, and no further charges were added. I stand by everything I have written above.

  5. So to be clear: Can I buy weekly 1-9 travelcard and use it for everyday commmute from/to Epsom ?

    Am I right thinking that Epsom has to be placed in one of already existing zones coz oyster zonal syatem is full so there is no space for adfitional “ghost” ?

    • Hi Adam,

      To be clear, yes you can use a zone 1-9 weekly travelcard to commute from Epsom, BUT YOU WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY BONKERS TO DO SO, unless you also needed to commute to Amersham, Chesham or Brentwood.

      I believe that the Oyster card is full in it’s current configuration, yes.

    • Thanks Matthew,

      It is indeed an interesting development. Also curious as to why it is only one station when the aim on that line is to get to Luton Airport.

  6. I regularly travel to Edgware Tube from Epsom via the district Line from Wimbledon both peak and off peak. I only do this 1 to 3 days a week max. Is it cheaper now for me to pay via contactless or buy a paper ticket/contactless combo?

    • Hi Nigel,

      Firstly, do you mean Edgware Road (Z1) or Edgware (Z5)? As you only mention the District line I’ll assume you mean Edgware Road. You’ll be better off sticking to a paper ticket (Epsom to Wimbledon) and contactless (Wimbledon to Edgware Road). This is because you avoid using either SWR or SN in zone 1.

  7. Hi Matthew

    Having seen your comment and read LU’s Ticketing & Revenue – Update #115, I have taken this up with the local MP for Radlett (and Hertsmere) and have a letter from him (and DfT) confirming that Oyster will be accepted at Radlett (as well as contactless) when it’s rolled out. To quote the letter “I have since been in touch with the Rail Minister’s office at the Department for Transport and they have confirmed to me that Radlett and Potters Bar will have Oyster as well as contactless PAYG”. Let’s hope this does happen otherwise it would cause extreme confusion if only contactless was included.

    • Hi Marc,

      Thanks. While it’s good news that Radlett and Potters Bar will have Oyster, any further stops on those lines will be contactless only until the Oyster system can handle more zones.

  8. Hi Mike

    How do you know this “insider” information regarding the other stops being contactess only?

    Do you think Radlett will be a pseudo zone 9 Station? Wouldn’t St Albans and other stations to Luton Airport Parkway be zoned similar to Hertford North and stations to Gatwick?


    • Hi Marc,

      It’s putting together known restrictions on the Oyster system with things I’ve been told by staff at TfL on various occasions. I reckon that Radlett wasn’t going to be zone 9, but almost certainly will be if it gets Oyster. The problem with going further is that the TOCs start to lose money. If Luton Airport Parkway is put in zone 14 it would mean that Gatwick to Luton would cost the same as either airport to London, or at least the cap would reduce the fare that the TOC would like.

  9. It has been mentioned that travellers from Worcester Park can now use their Oyster to get to Sutton etc by changing at Epsom. The current 60+ Oyster validity map excludes Epsom so is this route excluded for 60+ Oyster users or is the map out of date?

    • Hi Richard,

      The validity of the Freedom Pass and 60+ Oyster has not changed, so that route is not valid with those cards.

  10. Hi Mike

    The new May 2019 London’s Rail & Tube services map (displayed at Stanmore station but not yet available to download from TfL’s website) shows Radlett and Potters Bar within the pay as you go area and the key says “Expected to be included in the pay as you go area from Summer 2019”. Stations to Luton Airport Parkway are not shown.

    • Hi Marc,

      Yes, Radlett and Potters Bar are planned extensions in the next month or so. Luton Airport Parkway and Welwyn Garden City are not likely until the Autumn.

  11. The Great Northern website has been updated to say

    “Coming soon
    Oyster and Contactless PAYG will be extended to Potters Bar later this summer. Further details will be provided nearer the time. Following this, Contactless only PAYG will be extended to Brookmans Park.”

    and the Thameslink website has been updated to say

    “Coming soon
    Oyster and Contactless PAYG will be extended to Radlett later this summer. Further details will be provided nearer the time”

  12. Hi Mike

    I’ve heard that Oyster and contactless PAYG is being extended to Radlett on 14 July. Can you confirm this?

    • Hi Marc,

      It’s being extended to Radlett this summer. I can’t as yet confirm the date.

  13. Hi Mike

    TfL’s TRU 117 has been made available today ( and it says that Radlett will be in Zone B (zone 11) not zone 9 as expected/hoped! If this is true it would mean that the off-peak cap would be more expensive than the equivalent off-peak travelcard.

    £25.10 Radlett travelcard peak
    £16.30 Radlett travelcard off-peak

    24.60 zone B (zone 11) peak cap
    18.80 zone B (zone 11) off peak cap

    TRU has been wrong in the past; issue 15 incorrectly said that Oyster wouldn’t be available at Radlett.

    Any thoughts? And when Oyster/contactless does go live at Radlett (and Potters Bar) in July will you create a new article on this?


    • Hi Marc,

      Thanks for this. I have seen the FOI request and I’m compiling an article at the moment. Originally Radlett was supposed to be contactless only, presumably because of the mismatch over travelcard prices. I understand that the local MP complained about the lack of Oyster and so the plans changed. It was absolutely never going to be zone 9 as that would have undercut both travelcard prices significantly.

  14. Hi Mike

    Thanks for your reply and I look forward to reading your article. Oyster has always been planned for Radlett, even as far back as 2015/16…, but I think Oyster may have been dropped following the wider Oyster review last December 2018 but this was not communicated particularly to the local MP who has been campaigning for years on this matter. It might be worth you getting in contact with him for more details:

    It’s really disappointing that they are placing Radlett in Zone 11. Already many people travel to either Elstree (zone 6) or Stanmore (zone 5) because of the extortionate prices from Radlett. I get your point that placing Radlett in zone 9 would have undercut the existing travelcard prices too much but perhaps what they should’ve been looking at in the first place is addressing (and reducing) the travelcard prices from Radlett so that they are not so disproportionate to Elstree’s price caps.

    Travelcard (Radlett)

    £25.10 anytime
    £16.30 off-peak

    Oyster/Contactless Caps

    Zone 11/B (Radlett)
    24.60 anytime
    18.80 off-peak

    Zone 6 (Elstree)
    12.80 anytime
    12.80 off-peak

    Zone 5 (Stanmore)
    £12 anytime
    £12 off-peak

    Zone 9 (Epsom and Cuffley)
    £18.30 anytime
    £12.90 off-peak

    Are there any other examples where the off-peak cap is quite a lot more than the paper travelcard equivalent (and I don’t mean by just a few pence)?


    • Hi Marc,

      Interesting links. I can’t point to corroborating links myself, but my understanding in 2018 was that Radlett would be contactless only. This was changed later on after intervention by the MP. It may well be that the software changes still haven’t happened yet and so decisions had to be made about the best compromise. The problem is that fares outside zones 1-6 are controlled by the individual TOCs. Before privatisation started it used to be the case that a major upgrade (eg electrification) would put up the fares. I think that is why the Radlett fares are so high and also possibly the Potters Bar ones too. They both received major improvements in the 70s/80s.

      The best example of caps being more than paper travelcards is Gatwick Airport. Oyster £33.10/£20.50, Southern £32.10/£17.90, Thameslink £28.40/£15.90.

  15. Hi Mike

    It’s a bit ironic that the TOC, in this case Thameslink, sets the fares, yet none of the fare revenue goes to Thameslink. On this franchise it all goes to the government.

    The travelcard cost from Gatwick is cheaper than Radlett…the fare system is clearly flawed.


    • Hi Marc,

      Yes, and that causes other problems because the DfT gets involved in the fare setting.

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