OEPs To Be Scrapped and a New Combined Tube/Rail Map

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TfL have today confirmed that Oyster Extension Permits (OEPs) are to be scrapped, most likely from the end of May.

Brought in when Oyster PAYG was rolled out onto National Rail, the scheme required Oyster travelcard holders to place an OEP on their Oyster card if the wished to travel outside of their travelcard zones.

The OEP system was largely put in place at the insistence of London’s Train Operators, who had long argued that an extension of Oyster to National Rail would raise the risk of fare evasion on their services. OEPs were seen by the TOCs as a way of mitigating this risk.

Controversial from the start, however, OEPs were condemned for arguably penalising the very travellers the TOCs had the most reason to trust – commuters and other holders of long-term travelcards.

In many cases OEPs were also on dubious grounds with regards to enforcement, largely thanks to the lack of clear information at stations about their existence and the difficulty that could be had enabling them at some stations. Indeed enforcement by the TOCs was patchy at best.

As a result today’s announcement is as much a confirmation of a status quo that has tacitly existed in many places for some time as it is a revelation in ticketing. As we indicated in our recent piece on the Future of Oyster, the abandonment is also something that has been coming for some time. Although its announcement today coincides with the Mayor’s “Rail Summit” with the TOCs, the death of OEPs is not the result of that – it is something TfL have been quietly working towards behind the scenes for some time and also a reflection that the TOCs thinking on Oyster has changed. No longer is Oyster seen as something that potentially harms revenues – instead its seen as something that can increase them.

A new combined Tube/Rail map released today, which demonstrates the greater integration the TOCs are looking to have with TfL’s networks in the public mind. Larger version here as a pdf

Firstly, Oyster has bought more casual short-distance travellers to the TOC networks and secondly (in less good news for travellers) it can potentially be used to help support requests to allow staffing reductions at stations. TOC revenue-protection concerns are also less focused now on the kind of fare evasion OEPs were intended to stop and more on long-distance dumbelling (more on this here).

So whilst this is undoubtedly good news and a victory for both TfL and common sense, with today’s Rail Summit confirming that the TOCs and TfL will be working towards pushing Oyster out even further beyond London’s borders it seems likely that OEPs will not represent the last TOC-related change to Oyster. Precisely what any future changes might be, however, remains to be seen.

TOC giveth, and TOC taketh away…

Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.