Railcard Oyster capping queries

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    Daniel C

    A few days ago I made the following journeys with a railcard-discounted Oyster card:

    7:52 Brentwood (9) to St James’s Park (1) [£9.10]
    16:18 St James’s Park (1) to Temple (1) [£2.50]
    18:47 Embankment (1) to Putney Bridge (2) [£2.60 and cap]
    22:29 Putney (2/3) to Brentwood (9) [£3.95]

    Total for the day was £18.15

    First, I was surprised to see what looks like the zone 1-2 off-peak cap being applied – I was under the impression that by starting in zone 9 I would only ever be subject to the zone 1-9 caps. Is this because the first journey was peak and all my journeys after 9:30 were initially in zones 1 and 2, or is something else going on?

    Secondly, and rather disappointingly, looking at the fares afterwards it seems that it would have been cheaper to leave the discounted Oyster at home and use full-price contactless. The cheapest I can find is a zone 1-3 anytime cap (£9.00) plus a zone 4-9 peak extension fare (£4.30) and a zone 4-9 off-peak extension fare (£2.90*), which comes to £16.20, and I assume this is what I would be charged for doing this with contactless (or with an adult Oyster thanks to the automatic refunds). I realise that discounted Oyster cards don’t have these capping refunds yet, but it seems wrong that applying a discount to the card can actually lead you to be charged more!

    Alternatively, I suppose I could have done the above but touched out with my contactless card at Manor Park (total so far £13.30) and then used the discounted Oyster to get to Brentwood (£1.90, for a total of £15.20). This is the cheapest way I can find to do it, obviously at a cost of delaying my journey home by getting off along the way.

    I realise the particular set of journeys above is probably fairly unusual, but it can’t be that uncommon to commute in during the morning peak, make a couple of short journeys after work and go back home after the end of the evening peak, and this type of travel seems to leave railcard holders worse off than anyone else? My main questions are whether I’m missing anything obvious in the calculations above (apologies if so!), and also whether there’s any progress on getting automatic capping refunds for discounted Oyster cards (and if not, why this is so much more difficult than applying it to adult cards?).

    * I’m not even sure what this would be, since there isn’t a zone 4-9 fare on the NR-T scale (and I think this would apply for a journey starting in Putney)? The strange interactions between NR-T and Tfl-Ang fares are another anomaly that complicates this issue even more…

    Many thanks!

    Mike (admin)

    Hi Daniel,

    You’re pretty much spot on. The off-peak cap only starts being calculated after 0930 so initially you did cap at zones 1-2. If you’d realised that then you could have split at Stratford on the way home and saved £1.45. NR and NR-T do trump TfL-Ang which often creates anomalies, but you’re right, there is no standalone fare for 4-9 on NR because there are no NR stations in zone 9.

    I’m sympathetic about the lack of progress towards back office calculations when discounted Oyster cards are involved. I don’t know why it’s taking so long, I can only assume that it’s not seen as a priority. The ability to link railcards to either contactless cards or a dumb Oyster style card is part of the second phase of the current rollout of PAYG to areas of the Southeast. It’s not likely to happen before 2024 at the earliest though.

    Daniel C

    Thanks very much for the advice – and now I know that that about the off-peak cap I might be more alert to this sort of thing in the future. It’s definitely annoying not having the caps automatically calculated though…

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