Brentwood (Zone 9) to Zone 2 fare confusion

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    Aaron Jackson

    Hi Mike,

    First of all what a great website! I’m looking to relocate to Brentwood (Zone 9) and have been researching oyster fares with my disabled railcard attached to work out the cost of commuting. I’m planning on commuting in the off-peak touching-in before 6.30am.

    It seems Brentwood to a Zone 2 station (Whitechapel when this is connected) is more expensive (£3.45) than other Zone 9 – 2 routes e.g. Amersham to Finchley Road (£2.10) and Epsom to Clapham Junction (£2.50) off peak fares, though the similar discrepancies apply at the peak times.

    What’s most strange if I were to change at Whitehapel (Zone 2) to LO service to Peckham Rye (Zone 2) the fare from Brentwood would still be £3.45, but at Peckham Rye if I changed onto a NR service to Nunhead or Elephant & Castle the fare drops to £2.40. It seems Elizabeth line to London Overground and then a NR services makes the fare cheaper!

    Do you know the reason for this discrepancy and is it worth raising with TfL to see if prices can be changed e.g. Brentwood to Whitechapel being the same for Brentwood to Nunhead given it is the same Zone 9-2?


    Mike (admin)

    Hi Jack,

    It’s complicated.

    You might get a bit of a clue reading the Fares Guide page, but the anomaly you are referring to is niche. Firstly, Amersham to Finchley Road is on the standard TfL-LU scale which is usually the cheapest. Although Epsom is in zone 9 its fares are set by South Western Railway so they don’t quite match the NR scale. Brentwood is on the TfL-Ang scale which is a hybrid scale forced on TfL when they took over the Anglia services out of Liverpool Street. It used to be worse, but now the differences between TfL-LU and TfL-Ang are limited to zones 7-9 and longer distance off-peak journeys in zones 2-6.

    So, initially there were three scales covering just about everything on Oyster. TfL-LU was the Underground, DLR and any NR company using TfL’s fares (obviously including Overground, but also C2C and GWR amongst others). NR was for the late adopting companies (Southeastern, Southern etc) and also applied to any wholly NR journeys using Overground, C2C etc as well as late adopting NR. Finally NR-T was any journey on late adopting NR which also included Underground or DLR. There are some variations, but that’s broadly the picture.

    After some complaints around discontinuing season tickets when LO took over some of Southern’s services, The DfT imposed restrictions when they took over the Anglia routes. These hybrid fares were to apply on any TfL journey that included the Anglia routes. However, where a journey included TfL-Ang, TfL-LU and late adopting NR it became, I think, too complicated. The result is that NR overrode TfL-Ang and produces the anomaly you have discovered.

    There is no point in asking TfL to reduce fares from Brentwood to Whitechapel because they can’t. If you highlight the discrepancy when you include late adopting NR routes the outcome will either be nothing, or the lower fares will get raised. I hope this helps.

    a non

    This anomaly has existed for years. Basically, the NR fare-scale for zones 2-9 is cheaper than the TfL-Ang for zones 2-9. If you look at the excellent webpage for the fare guides & tables, you will see that TfL-Ang rises very sharply between the zones 2-8 fare (£3·60 off-peak) and the zones 2-9 fare (£5·20 off-peak), thus “overtaking” the NR fare-scale (which stays at £3·60 off-peak for zones 2-7, 2-8, and 2-9). A particularly perverse illustration is Brentwood-Lewisham, where the fare depends on whether you go to/from Lewisham NR [National Rail] or Lewisham DLR [Docklands Light Railway].

    In simple terms, as Mike has said, the NR fare-scale, when it applies, takes precedence over TfL-Ang. The key criterion for the NR fare-scale relevant here is “where part of the journey is on GN [Great Northern], SE [Southeastern], SN [Southern], SWR [South Western Railway], TL [Thameslink]”.

    So, in my Brentwood-Lewisham example, the reason why Lewisham NR is cheaper (provided that you do not go via zone 1) is because part of the journey would go on Southeastern (specifically, between New Cross and Lewisham). Conversely, Lewisham DLR does not involve any of the train companies encompassed by the NR fare-scale, so it is charged according to the TfL-Ang scale.

    In the OP’s example, the reason why Nunhead or Elephant & Castle are cheaper than Peckham Rye is, again, because part of the journey would go on Southeastern, whilst a journey starting/ending at Peckham Rye would not.

    Brentwood is the only zone 9 station that is “native” to the TfL-Ang scale, hence why this anomaly is not well known elsewhere.

    a non

    Actually, on reflection, I suppose my Brentwood-Lewisham example is not that perverse. After all, going via the DLR is more convenient than via Southeastern.

    The DLR option involves very regular service and fewer interchanges: Brentwood–>Stratford on EL or EL+GA (if doubling-back via Shenfield or changing at Romford to get a faster GA service); then Stratford–>Lewisham on DLR or LU+DLR (if going to Canary Wharf on the Jubilee line before changing to Canary Wharf DLR or Heron Quays DLR).

    Conversely, the Southeastern option is more convoluted, and one leg relies either on a non-trivial OSI (New Cross Gate–>New Cross) or a not-so-regular LO service (4 trains per hour): Brentwood–>Stratford on EL or EL+GA; then Stratford–>Canada Water on LU; then Canada Water–>New Cross (only 4 trains per hour!) or –>New Cross Gate (8 trains per hour) on LO; then (having made the OSI from New Cross Gate to New Cross if applicable, which is a 7-minute walk in my experience) New Cross to Lewisham on SE.

    Of course, once EL has through-running between the north-east branch and Paddington (due next month), the Southeastern option will get a bit simpler, since you will then be able to make a direct Brentwood–>Whitechapel journey on EL and change to LO at Whitechapel (instead of Canada Water). This could result in one fewer interchange (I say “could” because if doing EL+GA for Brentwood–>Stratford this would be cancelled-out by the extra interchange to return to EL for Stratford–>Whitechapel), and cut any need for the Jubilee line, although the gain is likely to be limited, since the Jubilee line is very regular and the LU-LO interchange at Canada Water (less than 30 seconds if you get the right carriage) is quicker than the EL-LO interchange at Whitechapel (minimum 2 minutes, I would say).

    Glossary: DLR=Docklands Light Railway; EL=Elizabeth Line; GA=Greater Anglia; LO=London Overground; LU=London Underground; OSI=Out-of-Station Interchange; SE=Southeastern.

    Mike (admin)

    Thanks for your input “a non”. I’d quite like to be able to contact you privately, but I strongly suspect the email you used won’t work.

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