In Part 1 of “Big Changes” we took a look at London Underground’s proposed plan for running nocturnal Tube services. Here in Part 2 we now turn to the other major change to the Underground that was announced at the same time – the decision to completely overhaul the process by which passengers buy tickets and interact with staff at every station on Underground.

There is no doubt that these changes will prove controversial. Indeed astute readers will have already noticed that the introductory paragraph of this article resorted to almost Mwmbwlsian rhetoric in order to avoid using the phrase “ticket offices.” There is a good reason for this.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In the twin worlds of politics and transport language is important. Words and terms carry, and can become loaded, with meaning. Given the complexity of transport planning and operation, terms can often carry a different, more specific, meaning for the professional than they do for the layman. In a world where news is often delivered in snippets and, almost as consequence, politics is dominated by the soundbite this can often lead to confusion – situations where the eternal greys of London’s transport reality are portrayed, sometimes deliberately, as being entirely black and white.

The debate over “driverless trains” has become the veritable poster child of the above. To the majority of the public (and to some politicians), this is a debate over whether the Underground should be fully automated and unmanned or not. The reality, however, is that “driverless” is a largely meaningless term – one that at best vaguely described a whole raft of complex future possibilities, some of which are already in operation across the network. This has not, however, stopped individuals on all sides of the debate from using and abusing this now emotive term. Often it is accidental, but sometimes it is not, for a truth misinterpreted is so much more useful than a lie.

This may seem like a tangental discussion, but if the coverage so far of TfL’s proposed changes is any guide then there is one phrase that, in this way, seems set to give “driverless trains” a run for its money in the coming year – and that phrase is “ticket office.” Before we explore the proposals in detail, therefore, it seems best to define clearly some terms used:

Ticket Hall: An area within an Underground station set aside for passengers to purchase tickets in. May include both ticket machines and a ticket office.

Ticket Office: The area within the ticket hall where tickets are purchased directly from staff. Normally a window or set of windows.

With our terms thus defined we can now begin to look at the facts, so far as they are available, of TfL’s current proposal, before finally looking at some of the politics involved.

The story so far

In March 2010 London Underground consulted on the possibility of reducing some ticket office opening hours and closing down nine ticket offices entirely. The resulting report was not intended to be for public consumption but, somewhat inevitably, it soon leaked out. That this was anything other than a concept document was something that both TfL and the Mayor (who had campaigned on a promise of no ticket office closures) were swift to proclaim.

It was, however, too late. Ticket offices had became both a political and semantic battleground – one that, in September 2010, resulted in what Boriswatch described rather aptly as a “mass flounce” by the Conservative members of the London Assembly, who walked out of a plenary session en masse in order to prevent a motion asking TfL to clarify their position on the future of ticket offices from being heard. By then, however, TfL’s message had already begun to firm up – only 1 in 20 journeys on the Underground began with a visit to a ticket office and indeed some ticket offices were now regularly selling fewer than 10 tickets an hour. Reduced operating hours and closures would save £25m a year and thus it was an option they were keen to at least explore, impolitic as it may be. As Sir Peter Hendy accurately, if perhaps a tad too bluntly, once put it:

If you want to read a lot of good novels the best place to do that is as a booking clerk in a suburban Underground station.

By November 2011 TfL’s preferred approach to future ticket sales had arguably become clear. Once again, this came about due to the leak of an internal consultation – this time an Operational Strategy Discussion Paper that, with its open discussion of ticket office changes and driverless trains had London’s news media frantically reaching for the 72pt type.

It is this paper that is inarguably the father of proposals detailed on Thursday. The overall approach to staffing is the same, as is the approach suggested for the physical offices themselves. As we wrote in our detailed coverage of that report:

The current ticket hall, it argues, presents travellers with the choice between either a full human experience at the ticket window or a more limited (but often quicker) experience at the ticket machine with little human support. This is already out of balance with how the majority of users now use the network and, with Wave and Pay, will be even more out of balance in the medium-to-long term. This, the Paper argues, is bad for customers and London Underground’s finances.

Instead, the Paper suggests that the average ticket hall should comprise automatic ticket machines with comparable functionality to the current ticket office (including the ability to offer refunds, resolve journeys and sell Oyster Cards) supported by staff in the hall itself taking a more proactive customer service role.

In order to achieve the above, the Paper argues, there would need to be a long term, staged plan that would see ticket machines replaced and upgraded to add not only the newly required feature set, but also a much improved User Interface. It would also see the complete reworking of machine and ticket hall frontage, the revaluation and simplification of signage and instructions, and essentially a wholesale overhaul of the ticket hall environment.

Alongside this technical and environmental overhaul, would come an overhaul in staff roles and responsibilities in relation to ticketing. Sources suggest the Paper argues largely for ending the demarcation between station operation and transactions/customer support.

The similarities between the concepts proposed in 2011 and the future laid out on Thursday is pretty clear.

Getting down to the facts

So what, then, are the new proposals specifically?

The approach, broadly speaking, is as outlined above. As TfL’s press release explains:

[R]ather than being remote from customers behind closed doors or glass windows, Tube station staff will not be based in ticket offices, but in ticket halls, on gate lines and on platforms, ready and available to give the best personal and face-to-face service to customers.

As now, all Tube stations will continue to be staffed and controlled in future, with more staff visible and available than today in ticket halls and on gate lines and with the same number of staff on platforms. Staff equipped with the latest mobile technology, such as tablet computers, will be able to monitor and manage stations on the move.

As is clear, this will mean changes to staff roles, particularly those currently focused on the supervisory aspect of station control. Indeed it is this that TfL clearly believe will allow them to maintain the same public staffing levels whilst also achieving a 750 net reduction in overall staffing.

Just how such staffing changes will be managed remains to be seen. This is not surprising, for it will prove the hardest change both to define and to sell to staff themselves in an organisation where relations with management are far from being simple or healthy.

The operational model that TfL ultimately wish to move to, however, is now clear. At its core lies the decision to shift to an operational model that, from 2015, puts every station on the network into one of four categories. Those categories each broadly describe the way passengers interact with those stations and how those stations interact with the network. Thus whilst the stations may be physically and geographically different, they share enough common properties that their physical ticketing and staffing arrangements can largely be approached in a similar way.

Each of those four categories is described below, along with a list of the stations that TfL have indicated would likely fall within it. Obviously individual station classifications are currently provisional and subject to consultation.

Gateway Stations


Euston Station, an example of a Gateway Station

Gateway Stations are those which represent the main entry points for visitors (both from within the UK and without) onto the network. They thus need to be both staffed and equipped to deal with a high percentage of passengers unfamiliar with the Underground who thus both require, and seek out, face to face support.

Although under the proposals all stations will lose their ticket offices, Gateway Stations will be equipped with “Visitor Information Centres” (VICs). These will be equipped to handle all traditional ticket office functionality – including both ticket sales and the ability to issue oyster refunds – but also, interestingly, more tourist specific functionality as well. This includes both tourist information and national rail ticket sales, and what TfL have clearly identified as potential additional revenue streams – tickets for the theatre and tourist attractions and Tube-related merchandise.

The proposed Gateway Stations (six in total) are currently:

Euston Heathrow Terminals 123 King’s Cross St. Pancras
Liverpool Street Paddington Victoria

Destination Stations


Embankment, an example of a Destination Station

These are stations that form part of the urban fabric of London, almost always within the centre. Like Gateways they feature a high level of traffic, mixing both regular and irregular users, but generally have a higher level of “exits” at key times than entries. As can be seen from the diagram above, without a ticket office staff are intended to circulate in the ticket hall assisting passengers with transactions there.

Baker Street Bank & Monument Bond Street
Camden Town Canada Water Canary Wharf
Earl’s Court Elephant & Castle Embankment
Farringdon Finsbury Park Gloucester Road
Green Park Highbury & Islington Holborn
Leicester Square London Bridge Moorgate
North Greenwich Notting Hill Gate Oxford Circus
Piccadilly Circus South Kensington Stratford
Tottenham Court Road Waterloo Wembley Park

Metro Stations


Chancery Lane, an example of a Metro Station

The Metro category encompasses stations that predominantly serve inner-London and commuter areas, with the expectation clearly being that the majority of travellers are familiar with the network.

Acton Town Aldgate Aldgate East
Angel Archway Arnos Grove
Arsenal Balham Bayswater
Barbican Belsize Park Bermondsey
Bethnal Green Blackfriars Blackhorse Road
Borough Bounds Green Bow Road
Brixton Caledonian Road Canning Town
Cannon Street Chalk Farm Chancery Lane
Charing Cross Clapham Common Clapham North
Clapham South Cockfosters Colliers Wood
Covent Garden Edgware Road (Bak) Edgware Road (H&C)
Euston Square Finchley Road Fulham Broadway
Gants Hill Goodge Street Great Portland Street
Hammersmith (D&P) Hampstead Harrow & Wealdstone
Harrow-on-the-Hill Hatton Cross Heathrow Terminal 4
High Street Kensington Highgate Holland Park
Holloway Road Hounslow West Hyde Park Corner
Kennington Kentish Town Kilburn Park
Knightsbridge Lambeth North Lancaster Gate
Maida Vale Manor House Mansion House
Marylebone Marble Arch Mile End
Morden Mornington Crescent Oakwood
Old Street Oval Pimlico
Queen’s Park Queensway Redbridge
Regent’s Park Russell Square Seven Sisters
Shepherd’s Bush Sloane Square South Wimbledon
Southgate Southwark St. James’s Park
St. John’s Wood St. Paul’s Stepney Green
Stockwell Swiss Cottage Temple
Tooting Broadway Tooting Bec Tottenham Hale
Tower Hill Tufnell Park Turnpike Lane
Vauxhall Walthamstow Central Wanstead
Warren Street Warwick Avenue Wembley Central
West Ham Whitechapel Wood Green

Local Stations


Greenford, an example of a local station

Local Stations are generally smaller stations, mainly in outer London, or those where only a very small number of ticket office sales are made. These are the stations that will likely see the biggest change in terms in staffing, although perhaps not from a public facing perspective. This is because here the station supervisor role is likely to change, resulting in one supervisor covering a number of stations.

Alperton Amersham Barkingside
Barons Court Becontree Boston Manor
Brent Cross Bromley-by-Bow Buckhurst Hill
Burnt Oak Canons Park Chalfont & Latimer
Chesham Chigwell Chiswick Park
Chorleywood Colindale Croxley
Dagenham East Dagenham Heathway Debden
Dollis Hill Ealing Broadway Ealing Common
Ealing West East Acton East Finchley
East Ham East Putney Eastcote
Edgware Elm Park Epping
Fairlop Finchley Finchley Central
Golders Green Goldhawk Road Grange Hill
Greenford Gunnersbury Hammersmith (H&C)
Hanger Lane Harlesden Hendon Central
High Barnet Hillingdon Hornchurch
Hounslow Central Hounslow East Ickenham
Kensal Green Kenton Kew Gardens
Kilburn Kingsbury Ladbroke Grove
Latimer Road Leyton Leytonstone
Loughton Hainault Mill Hill East
Moor Park Neasden North Acton
North Harrow Northfields Northwick Park
Northwood Hills Park Royal Perivale
Plaistow Putney Bridge Ravenscourt Park
Roding Valley Ruislip Ruislip Manor
Snaresbrook South Harrow South Ruislip
Southfields Stanmore Sudbury Hill
Theydon Bois Newbury Park North Ealing
North Wembley Northolt Northwood South
Osterley Parsons Green Pinner
Preston Road Queensbury Rayners Lane
Rickmansworth Royal Oak Ruislip Gardens
Shepherd’s Bush Market South Kenton South Woodford
Stamford Brook Stonebridge Park Sudbury Town
Totteridge & Whetstone Turnham Green Upminster Bridge
Upney Upton Park Uxbridge
Watford West Acton West Brompton
West Hampstead West Harrow West Kensington
West Ruislip Westbourne Park White City
Willesden Green Wimbledon Park Wood Lane
Woodford Woodside Park

Weighing up the changes

All the above may finally make TfL’s future intentions official but it also largely reflects that which has been expected from them for some time. As a result both the arguments for and against these changes have been well covered here before.

From TfL’s perspective the positives are clear. Simplifying both the physical operations and the management and role structure within stations themselves will lead to financial savings and perhaps by overhauling roles, in the process, help to breakdown some of the long-standing issues between management and staff. The last goal may not be one that TfL will ever publicly state, but it will almost certainly have crossed a number of minds within the organisation itself.

Therein, though, lies the problem. For whilst TfL may have have developed a solid reputation in the last fifteen years as both a deliverer of large-scale projects and as a railway operator, the same cannot be said for industrial relations and its ability to deliver and manage effective organisational change. This is by no means solely TfL’s fault, but it must still deal with the consequences – one of which is that it is very hard to engineer successful organisational change when there’s little trust to be found between management and staff.

Playing politics

It is this that provides some clue as to why TfL are clearly working to couple the new Night Tube arrangements with this overhaul of station staffing. For the truth is that for the overwhelming majority of passengers the changes to the way ticket halls work will have very little effect on the way they interact with the network. As TfL have spent two years – correctly – pointing out, the sale of tickets via ticket offices has plummeted since the introduction of Oyster. Shifting staff roles to focus on interaction with the passenger in ticket halls, correctly implemented, would also ensure that the ticket office’s secondary role as a source of information for most travellers is still met. For the average commuter there is thus neither anything particularly positive or negative to be found in the case for making this change.

Disruption however, whether due to industrial action or difficulties in implementing the new arrangements, is something that most regular travellers will notice. By linking the Night Tube and the organisation changes in the public conscience TfL thus help to ensure that the public will feel it has a stake in the game.

For the Mayor, it is an approach that also holds considerable appeal. As mentioned above, a promise that there would be no ticket office closures featured prominently in his election manifesto (bolding his):

I will also defend local ticket offices. Ken Livingstone plans to close a large number of ticket offices at Tube stations, predominantly in outer London because he claims that the increase in Oyster use has made them surplus to requirements. However, what he has not taken into account is that local people feel it is important there is a manned ticket office at their station, as often there are not enough Oyster outlets in the local area.

There has been little consultation with local residents, and I think it is wrong that some local stations could lose this service. I will stop the planned ticket office closures, and focus on increasing the number of Oyster outlets in outer London so local people have greater access to Oyster.

It is also a position that he has repeatedly reiterated since, including a very public, almost angry, outburst in front of the London Assembly in 2010:

The first and most important point to make is that no ticket offices will be closed, alright? They’re not going to be closed.

Given all the above, the current proposals represent a considerable political u-turn – one that the commencement of Night Tube services in 2015 would go a long way to helping the public either forget or accept.

The real cost

Ultimately whatever the benefits and costs for both TfL and the travelling majority, and whatever the politics behind the decision to link the Night Tube to the organisational changes, the real cost of the proposed changes will likely fall on two groups.

The first of those, TfL’s own station staff, should at least find themselves supported through the change. TfL’s own commitment to avoiding both past and future mistakes with regards to organisational changes seems genuine, and if the execution turns out to leave something to be desired then they will certainly be able to count on the support of the Unions, who have already made their own opposition to the changes abundantly clear.

The second, however, are less well represented – those individuals who make up the 3% of ticket office sales, and the hidden (albeit small) percentage who rely on the Underground’s ticket offices (both centrals and locally) both for advice and to deal with transactions that the current automated ticketing arrangements are unable to service.

To a very real extent the success or failure of these proposals will rest on how well the new arrangements ultimately address this final group’s needs. For many businesses – and indeed Train Operators – focusing primarily on the needs of the majority is an understandable practice. TfL, however, have always proudly asserted their position as the UK’s only integrated publicly-owned railway operator and with that, many would argue, comes a duty to try and cater to the needs of the minority as well.

In the coming months it will thus be interesting to see just how TfL’s plans develop.

Those looking for further information on TfL’s overall “Fit For the Future” project can find more information on their new sub site here. We recommend reading this presentation on their station changes in particular.

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There are 423 comments on this article
  1. AlisonW says:

    (Moving this comment as more appropriate here)

    I note on slide 12 of the statement “At Fit for London, I have said that anyone who currently operates a train in a cab can do so for the rest of their career” from Mike Brown, MD London Underground.

    I wonder how that will tie in with the stated moves to more automation. Critiques of the word “operates” welcome!

  2. AlisonW says:

    Oh, and I’ve been wondering how much of the “3%” still using ticket offices are actually tourists, especially from overseas, who find the current machines difficult to use, either because the instructions aren’t available in their own language (which, of course, new machines could easily be) or because they don’t know how what station to go to for their destination so they have to ask. Anyone have figures?

  3. Roger Sanchez says:

    Reading the news on Thursday I was apoplectic that these announcements were made together. And even more so that the media were treating them as if the were of equal value. They gave valuable space to the Unions moaning about ticket offices when every 20 something Londoner was celebrating actual news that will impact hundreds of thousands of people for years to come.

    Boris should be ashamed of himself for whatever ridiculous amoral reason he opposed ticket offices closures to begin with. He should also learn a lesson in veritas: what should have been his moment of triumph he turned into a double ended car.

    Tfl should be ashamed that their staff have to be this coddled that you have to announce something momentous to persuade them to literally get off their butts. They should also credit the public with a bit more intelligence. Of course we’re on your side, any animal can see that ticket offices are 2 or 3 technologies behind.

    And the news media should be ashamed that they missed the real story here: the Christmas wishes come early of a million young Londoners.

  4. swirlythingy says:

    Someone needs to make a tube map out of that category data. For example, every single station on the Wimbledon branch of the District line is counted as local… except for Fulham Broadway, which is “Metro”.

    (Wimbledon itself isn’t managed by TfL, so appears nowhere. But SWT have just sent me a letter informing me that their supplier of Oyster-compatible ticketing software has ceased all support, and the Wimbledon ticket office will no longer be able to handle any Oyster-related queries, so this is cold comfort!)

    As long as TfL actually follow through on their promise to upgrade their inadequate ticket machines to handle all – and I mean all – functions of a ticket office, there should be no problem. I don’t have absolute confidence in them to do that, speaking as a long-time holder of a Stagecoach staff travel pass and privileged rate card, neither of which are recognised by any ticket machine or barrier in existence!

  5. Moleman says:


    Simply that there will still be a requiremtn for many trains to keep an operator in the front for decades so if you are driving a train now there will be a job for you, in fact I suspect there will be a slight increase short to medium term. Remember the recently completed jub, vic and in process Northern and subsurface upgrades still need an operator to hit the button to release a train and to be there for when the ‘puter says no. They won’t require another upgrade for 30+ years? The interesting bit is the yet to start upgrades. That could be the point at which LU catches up with the rest of the world.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I do see one major gripe that the unions can reasonably levy here, and two customer service issues.

    1. It looks as if the “local” stations will only have one member of staff available, typically. I don’t envy that solitary person if either the tube service goes AWOL, and they have to face a large number of disgruntled passengers without any backup, or the local nutcases/gangs decide that tonight the tube officer is their choice for “uniformed person we can pick on”.

    2. In general, many transactions at the ticket office are when the automated systems has got something wrong, or are unable to process the full level of benefits the passenger’s purchases entitles them to (think Oyster refunds, Gold cards, Railcard entitlements…). These are all things that TfL would, perhaps, like their customers to find it a little more inconvenient to receive, for they “lose” money on them. If their new ticket office machinery can fix that, fine, but I suspect that many of these things will require a lengthy trip to a “Gateway” station or a lengthy queue on the oyster hotline. It puts the “system” more in charge, a system which finds it much easier to take your money than give it back.

    3. Some people really need help buying a ticket. Some can’t read, some find machines baffling, some require things to be done the same way every time. At the moment, if there’s a ticket office, one knows where to find assistance. Trying to pick out an iPad wielding officer in a thronging crowd, if your eyesight is poor, or cognitive abilities low, is much more tricky.

    I live in a city which has had this style of arrangement for decades. The fare structure is far simpler (three zones, choose single, transfer, metro day ticket or network ticket), and plenty of people have trouble using the ticket machines and working out which zones they need etc. After the workers head home, the residual staffing at the central area stations can leave the ticket halls quite alarming to the uninitiated, with beggars often trying to sell on discarded day tickets. One of the things that sets London Underground apart from most systems I have used is that the good staffing levels makes the system a safe(r) haven. Without a retail role, it may be a matter of time before the staff levels are whittled away further.

  7. Overground Commuter says:

    As the holder of a Bus & Tram Photocard which needs to be added to Oyster every six months, this will only send me even more to newsagents who quite frankly haven’t got a clue in how to add the photocard number to the card, or in my case, will only do it if I buy a product to add to the card.

  8. Pedantic of Purley says:


    At Fit for London, I have said that anyone who currently operates a train in a cab can do so for the rest of their career” from Mike Brown, MD London Underground.

    I wonder how that will tie in with the stated moves to more automation. Critiques of the word “operates” welcome!

    Well, as a reality check it is unlikely, despite what Mike Brown, Boris and Sir Peter have said in the past, that a tube train will be delivered without a driving cab for decades. And because of the cutbacks the only line that appears on the distant horizon with trains in service without drivers cabs is the Piccadilly Line (2024). So yes Mike Brown can say that with lot of confidence given wastage due to promotion, leaving the service or retirement. LU will be recruiting drivers for a long time yet. I very much doubt that drivers will be offered voluntary redundancy. Some future tube drivers haven’t even been born yet.

  9. ASLEF shrugged says:

    No one has mentioned the reason why ticket office staff are behind glass and locked doors; cash. I haven’t worked on the station side for over ten years so I don’t know how much cash is taken these days but even if they close the windows someone is still going to have to go into the ticket office to put change into the machines, take the notes out and sit down to do the “banking”.

  10. Taz says:

    3% use the ticket offices, just as 1% pay cash to bus drivers. They are just going to have to adapt to the changes. Most probably just need the push, the others will need help. Drivers who like the shelter of their cab have a guarantee that they can still do so, but ticket office staff have no such luxury. Probably because ticket offices can be closed almost overnight, but fully auto-trains will take a generation to install. The Picc drivers will be the first to have to move on, and if they chose the Bakerloo they won’t be there long either. But once the new trains settle in, won’t the latest Vic and SSL trains be adapted to suit? May end up the only driving jobs will be shunting in depots, engineers overnight trains and on test trains.

  11. Mike says:

    Swirlythingy – there’s a tube map of stations by category at

  12. Anonymous says:

    Surprised Victoria merits ‘Gateway’ status but Waterloo doesn’t..

  13. Tim Burns says:

    As a irregular user of the DLR and London City Airport in particular, these proposed arrangements look very familiar. They do seem to have reasonable arrangements there and their is no reason why they cannot work on the tube, albeit customised for the volumes. Staff relations will be the tricky part, especially with the unions suggesting this is all a threat to world peace (I exaggerate but you get my drift). Certainly I do not think DLR stations are unsafe. At lest someone in TfL is doing some lateral thinking and challenging some sacred cows – what other topics should they go for I wonder?

  14. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Taz – I don’t know if the 09s on the Victoria and the S stock on the sub Surface could be converted to driverless operation or if the signalling system itself could be adapted but it might be more expensive that just getting a new system and new stock. Regardless by the time they get around to converting all the other lines to driverless operation the trains could possibly be ready for retirement.

    The conversion of the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and W&C were supposed to start with trials on the W&C around 2015 and the whole project would take about ten years but that’s been put on hold as no one has the £12bn needed. While I expect at some point they will get the necessary funding I wouldn’t discount the possibility that the only affordable option for LUL might be new trains with cabs with an ATO/TBTC system similar to that on the Jubilee and Northern for the Bakerloo and Piccadilly. In the end it will come down to how much longer 72s and 73s can last, especially the 73s on the Heathrow run.

    I’ve only got 12-13 years to go until retirement and I expect to still be pootling up to Epping in a 92 stock for the rest of my working life, by the time the Tube goes completely driverless I suspect I’ll be a-mouldering in my grave.

  15. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Tim Burns – perhaps they might have considered consulting with their employees BEFORE they made the announcement but sadly this is what we’ve come to expect. In 2010 TSSA had been asking to discuss the reduction in ticket office hours for months before LUL published their “hit list”, the result was TSSA taking strike action on the Tube for the first time since 1926. LUL create industrial strife for themselves by not engaging with their own staff or their unions, their inability to “manage” people is the problem.

    Anonymous 08:45 – London Bridge is also not a “Gateway”, someone at the GLA commented on those two omissions.

  16. Greg Tingey says:

    The initial reference to “Ticket Sales” is the problem, the major part of which is going to involve purchasers from outside London, & refunds & restitution of misapplied fares etc. I think the latter will be a big earner for TfL, cynical person that I am.
    LURVE the reference to “The Princess Bride” btw ….
    “Ticket Hall” usually ( but not always) = Entrance Hall/Circulating area on the outside of the barriers.
    Quoting from the “ES” article: …including the ability to offer refunds, resolve journeys and sell Oyster Cards And, there’s your problem. To get the machines to do this, means that they will (almost) all have to be replaced with ones that, you know, work, & can do these things. Um.
    Your final remarks on the current automated sales failing in some areas returns to this problem, of course.
    And again, for your own piece: …in an organisation where relations with management are far from being simple or healthy. Bullying, actually – I know this is something I’ve said before, but one reason Crow is so “militant” is that he is reacting to the way his members are treated, and the way they pass that treatment on to the traveling public.

    Gateway Stations
    That’s going to be interesting, especially here … Where the WC (Currently GA, soon to be OvergrounD) to will cheerfully sell you a ticket to anywhere, & are helpful with it, but the UgD to will presumable, shut – wonder if the surface to, will start selling UG tickets? Could be fun, for certain values of fun.
    NOT Waterloo? Wtf? Not London Bridge, ditto.
    Destination Stations
    No comment
    Except, I wonder that W’stow C, Harrow Hill, Balham, & several others are not in this category – just because they are in the (outer) suburbs doesn’t men that they are not very busy.
    Metro Stations
    What one would expect, unfortunately.
    Local Stations
    One person, on their own – & vulnerable to attack (cctv or not) – I wonder about that one. That is where, I suspect, Crow will have a field-day – & so will the public, once an attack has taken place, & it will.
    See also Anon @ 01.25, issue 1. Precisely.
    And see also ASLEF shrugged – yeah robbery where there is one station-staff member, & all the thieves are hooded – not good.

    I do note that the overall level of staffing will go up, which should get both the “unions” & the public on-side, but I have every confidence that LUL will manage to screw that up, I’m afraid.

    Playing Politics
    Well, you have clearly outlined that Boris Johnston is a liar, haven’t you? And, no, that is in no way libellous, given the statements posted.
    Awkward, isn’t it?

    Roger Sanchez
    As already commented, see Diamond Geezer on this topic!
    And – what about the tourists, the lost, the helpless, the mugged, who stagger into a tube station, that isn’t a “gateway”? I do not applaud your apparent selfishness.

    Indeed, what about stations like:
    Walthamstow C, Barking, Upminster, Wimbledon, Richmond, anywhere between Queens Par & Harrow (&W), Ealing Broadway, Harrow Hill, Amersham, etc …..
    Will they still be able to sell “tube” tickets? There seems to be an information, if not a credibility gap here.

    The problem with “driverless” – & even more with “unmanned” is – evacuation. I note that the Siemens demo-mock-up does not have a front/rear entrance exit door. Oops!

    ”have to get used to it”?
    3% of journeys is approx 57 million people/operations? And you are prepared to tell them to stuff it? Not impressed.

    P.S – regarding “Tickets”
    Both my local councillor & MP have woken up to the empty “promise” made about TfL ticketing on the Chingford line after 2015/6 & are going to look into it. Getting together the e-mail list for the relevant London Assembly members is going to be more of a game – I’ll keep you posted.

  17. Josh says:

    I’m surprised Heathrow T4 is not a gateway. T5 I suppose because it isn’t LUL run.

  18. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ ASLEF shrugged

    Spot on!

    As soon as you ignore your own staff for consultation before imposing “decisions by diktat”, you are destined to reap the consequences.

    Rather than striking, the best thing TSSA could do would be to open all the barriers and let everyone travel free. That will get all the “customers” 100% ‘on side’ and bring the suits to the table much quicker.

  19. Greg Tingey says:

    Just noticed
    If you look at the map supplied ( Thank-you, Mike) there are not four categories of stations, but SIX.
    The last includes Barking, but not Ealing Bdy, f’rinstance.
    Do I detect at leat one undetermined anomaly & problem here?

    And what is the difference between LocaA & LocalB?

  20. swirlythingy says:

    The ‘Gateway’ omission which seems strangest to me are the two Heathrow stations other than 123. Whyever wouldn’t tourists arriving at 4 or 5 need the same assistance? It’s not as if they’re going to get out after one stop to specifically ask for it!

    Apparently there are in fact two distinct ‘Local’ categories, ‘Local A’ and ‘Local B’. Anyone know the difference?

  21. @Taz

    Re: “Driverless trains”
    But once the new trains settle in, won’t the latest Vic and SSL trains be adapted to suit?

    SSL just possibly. I don’t think it would happen with the Victoria Line. If you don’t save a member of staff it probably isn’t worth doing. To run the trains fully unstaffed you would have to very expensively install passenger edge doors. But when the next generation of tube trains comes along, which will be radically different as regards carriage composition, these doors would be in the wrong place and it would be very expensive to alter the platform edge door positions. Even more importantly, you couldn’t mix old generation and new generation stock on the same line with platform edge doors installed so replacing the trains, when that day comes, will be a nightmare. It will be interesting to see how they do it on the Jubilee Line when they eventually replace the trains with new generation trains.

    What could happen on the Victoria Line, and it really was an opportunity missed, is running the trains unstaffed between the depot and Seven Sisters. This presumes acceptance of dispatching trains from Seven Sisters platforms 4 and occasionally 5 without platform edge doors to the depot. It would also probably require any arriving trains from the depot (platforms 4 or 5) to initially stop at the far end of the platform with just the driver’s door accessible from the platform. However given that the Victoria Line trains and signalling is are still, by railway standards, very new I wouldn’t expect to see anything like this until a mid-life upgrade of the stock.

    There would probably be similar benefits with running unattended between Stratford Market Depot and Stratford on the Jubilee Line but I don’t have any idea of whether or not that would be worth pursuing with the current stock which is already almost half-way through its expected life.

    And to sort of get back on topic, one of the things about this announcement that would have been surprising a year ago is, as far I can make out, the complete lack of any reference to “driverless” trains.

  22. @Swirlythingy

    Most of these type of questions can be answered by looking at the “fit for the future” website mentioned.

    In particular this FAQ.

  23. Fandroid says:

    Waterloo has two ticket halls, one for the Jubilee and one for the other three lines. That would have them scratching their heads as to which one to be a ‘Gateway’. They are far enough apart for a tourist to get lost trying to find one after having left the other.

    I see from The FAQs for which Pedantic gives a link that Local A stations have some complexity ie lifts, escalators, points. Local B stations are plain vanilla tracks with platforms.

    The issue raised about lone staff facing raging hordes at a local station is a difficult one. There are loads of unmanned stations around London, UK, Europe and the World where no risk is posed to staff because there aren’t any! TfL itself is schizophrenic about this issue, as although it very publicly promises staff on the Underground and Overground stations when trains are running, no such promise features for the DLR or Tramlink (or bus stops). So it’s not really regarded as a public safety issue, just a level of service promise. Perhaps the late night staffing will end up as a security guard with a radio.

    Interestingly, Porto’s Metro has a hierarchy of stations too. At the Airport, there are staff there to help with the ticket machines, but for serious queries you have to go back to Arrivals and the Information desk. At main city centre stations there are ticket offices. Out in the suburbs, every stop (they are really just trams beyond the centre) has a security guard.

    The Heathrow problem could be solved the same way. Train the staff at the Arrivals halls Information desks to deal with Underground problems. T123 station is different from the other two in that it is fairly remote from the terminals. Perhaps that has guided the thinking for the airport, and if you consider it, would also be the simple way of making Waterloo a Gateway station. Shift the Underground Enquiries up to the main station Information desk. A stranger would be far more comfortable going straight there than diving down into the depths. Perhaps they already do, and the main station information staff already field a lot of Underground questions!

  24. timbeau says:

    Some odd quirks on the map, like why the top end of the Picc and the bottom end of the Northern are “Metro” all the way, whilst the High Barnet and Edgware lines are “Local” – could it be the higher staffing levels needed for subterranean stations?

    I also wonder whether having staff “somewhere” on the station really makes them more accessible than in a designated and clearly-marked location. It certainly doesn’t make them safer.

  25. Pedantic of Purley says:


    could it be the higher staffing levels needed for subterranean stations?
    Yes. Fire regulations – always referred to as “section 12”. I believe a minimum of two staff must be on duty or the station has to close. As I understand it, each below-surface station has to have a minimum staffing level, which may well be greater than 2, or it has to close. Also, I believe, these staff have to be passed out as competent for that particular station. All a bit like signal boxes in the old days.

    I also understand that the definition of “section 12” is very strict so Farringdon, Bow Road and Liverpool Street main line are all categorised as such. The DLR apparently goes to great effort to avoid this category where possible. I don’t know what that involves. Sometimes it is unavoidable – Island Gardens, Cutty Sark and, of course, Bank.

  26. John Bull says:

    perhaps they might have considered consulting with their employees BEFORE they made the announcement but sadly this is what we’ve come to expect

    Ultimately this goes back to the problem I mentioned at the end – you need employee trust to truly manage organisational change well, but right now TfL are unlikely to get any employee trust without undertaking an enormous amount of organisational change. Caught between a rock and a hard place really – although it is to a large degree a problem of their own making.

    One thing I would say though is that both the leak of the original internal consultation in 2010, and the Operational Strategy Discussion Paper in 2011 came from the Unions. With that in mind, I don’t think it’s entirely surprising that TfL are taking an “announce the basics then consult” approach here. Let’s be honest – any attempt to discuss it internally first would have been leaked and spun before the ink was dry.

  27. Josh says:


    LHR T4 is a bit of a walk from the terminal too.

    T5 is understandable because not only is there an information desk in the terminal building arrivals hall, but the station isn’t even LUL run, which is why it isn’t in any category I presume.

  28. ngh says:

    The press coverage suggested 750 job losses with savings of £50m once everything has settled down and change cost is paid for.
    Those numbers suggests a fully loaded cost per employee of £66,666… using a rule of thumb for 1/3 extra on top of salary for employer NI, pension and training costs that would suggest salary of £50,000 admittedly training cost would be higher than for an average company, but something doesn’t add up here given published TfL salaries in job adverts…

    So any thoughts as to what they haven’t mentioned yet?

  29. ngh says:

    re Josh
    11:27, 26 November 2013

    Fixed for you;-)

    T5 is understandable because not only is there an information desk in the terminal building arrivals hall, but the station isn’t even LUL run there is a HEx sales desk where they will try not to tell you the Piccadilly line exists which is why it isn’t in any category I presume.

  30. Matthew Dickinson says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens with ticket offices on London Overground and Crossrail as a result of this decision.

    Although the ticket office at Ealing Broadway is run by FGW, it does have an LUL ticket machine.

  31. Robin says:

    The comment about this working on DLR stations is right – when the lines are functioning. As soon as there’s unexpected disruption it falls apart, and becomes very difficult to find information about how to change the journey to account for the disruption. When you’re on the DLR train itself there’s the PSA to ask, but if you’ve got off the train or have just got to a station you’re stuffed.

    Also, he mentions the stations being safe. I have been assaulted on a train, and needed to get assistance at a station. Had it been unstaffed, as the DLR platforms are, what would I have done? I’ve also had verbal harassment on train platforms – again, the stations being staffed *at ticket offices* meant I knew where to go for assistance. On the DLR there’s nowhere to go for help or support.

    If nothing else, keeping staff in a known location at stations means those in need of direct assistance know exactly where to go. This is invaluable for many people, including many disabled people. Has the impact on disabled people for this change been done?

  32. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Matthew D

    Your posting has reminded me.

    Years ago, there were separate ticket windows for LT and BR services, not only at Ealing Broadway (which is understandable), but even at Greenford Central Line Stn! (They guy who got the BR window at Greenford wasn’t kept very busy)

  33. Moleman says:

    Greg, the Siemens mockup was a sales pitch, don’t take it too literally. LU hasn’t even issued a spec yet.

    PofP, farringdon is not sec 12 at the moment. It will be once crossrail starts running

  34. Len says:

    “Oh, and I’ve been wondering how much of the “3%” still using ticket offices are actually tourists, especially from overseas, who find the current machines difficult to use, either because the instructions aren’t available in their own language (which, of course, new machines could easily be) or because they don’t know how what station to go to for their destination so they have to ask. Anyone have figures?”

    The chances of a machine speaking a tourist’s language are massive compared to the chance someone in the ticket office speaking their language. For a tourist it is often a choice between reading English or your own language, at your own speed, from a machine or having to shout through thick glass at a person who probably only speaks English and with an accent they are likely less used to. My mother speaks and understands English fairly well and comes to London a couple of times a year but often has difficulty immediately understanding gateline staff with London accents, let alone if they are behind thick glass in a noisy ticket hall. She would rather use a machine than a ticket office whenever she has an issue with her Oyster.

    Aware that generalisation is a tricky thing, my personal experience with using transport systems overseas is that I prefer machines over people precisely because of the language thing. I will try to do as much as I can on a machine before having to resort to speaking to a person. I don’t always speak the language of the country I’m visiting so often the staff would communicate with me in a language that is non-native to them.

    All in all, I feel this tourist thing is red herring. If tourists couldn’t possibly travel on the Underground without ticket offices why is usage of them so low? We have many millions of tourists a year, if they were so reliant on ticket offices, these ticket offices wouldn’t see so little usage.

  35. @Moleman,

    I stand corrected. I was led to believe that it was.

  36. Littlejohn says:

    There seems to be an underlying assumption that getting people out of ticket offices is necessarily a retrograde step. Back in the 90s (and I acknowledge that things may have moved on since then) I frequently bought a ticket at Ickenham using a Forces Railcard (different rules to the current one). You were given a Travelcard endorsed Forces with different availability (valid after 10.00 only but also valid to Watford, Amersham etc). Ticket machines at the time couldn’t dispense these so you had to go to the ticket office. All too frequently there was not a soul to be seen behind the glass and it could be easily 5 or 10 minutes (and a missed train) before someone appeared from the depths. Outside central London, just because a ticket office is manned (‘personned’?) it doesn’t automatically mean that someone is available.

  37. Jon says:


    There are alarms or help points on every DLR and underground platform, this would probably be quicker than going to staff anyway as control can radio someone to come to you. Plus on DLR most is above ground so possible to call police yourself.

  38. Andrew says:

    Was the announcement timed to coincide with the news of the slavery case in Brixton?

  39. Alex Frost says:

    I don’t see how ticket machine + (optional) help from a member of staff in the ticket hall is any worse for the passenger than someone hidden behind the dusty window of the ticket office.

    All tourist concerns can be dealt with by adding more languages and optional selection of destination not by station name but by landmark (“give me the ticket to Big Ben”).

  40. Disappointed Kitten says:

    The problem with Boris’s scheme (apart from the glaring embarrassment of a massive U-turn on a key election manifesto promise) is that it is clearly bonkers. There could be an argument for the closure or part-closure of under-utilised “local” offices but the example of Euston illustrated above raises some serious questions. At present it’s a highly congested station and there is always a queue at the ticket office of a large number of visitors, tourists and Londoners. Is Boris really suggesting that all these people will be more efficiently served by gathering around a bloke with an iPad in the middle of the ticket hall? The ticket office is designed to do this job – there’s a counter to put your wallet down while you pay, there’s a dedicated space for staff to handle transactions instead of fumbling about in mid-air, it’s set to one side so as not to block the thoroughfare. and now we learn that these staff will be selling theatre tickets too! So what’s the plan? Use the tourist desk on the main concourse? You can’t get tube tickets in the tube, you have to go upstairs. No supermarket would send its customers to another shop to pay for their shopping – it would be commercial suicide.

    Ticket gates often malfunction and fail to scan legit Oystercards and the ticket office is the place to sort it out. So what about those passengers who have Oystercards problems and get stuck on the wrong side of the barriers? Do they have to phone the call centre to negotiate a release? Because that’s coming, once they decide post-2015 that the “visible” staff are too expensive. And then the refund – a call to an 0845 number to argue the toss over an “incomplete journey” on a mobile becomes so expensive as to be not worth bothering about. Once they start cutting back the call centre staff to save money, we can all start getting used to a continuous loop of Vivaldi hold music charged by the minute. You can always blow 4 quid on a bus to travel to the nearest “Gateway station” to queue up with the tourists to try and negotiate a refund, but I suspect TfL are banking on us giving up and letting them keep the money.

    It walks like a bad idea, it quacks like a bad idea. It is a bad idea.

  41. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I know you don’t need to buy tickets or an Oyster Card given you’ve got a Freedom Pass or similar but I am surprised you are not aware that NR managed ticket offices at Underground stations (as at Walthamstow) are perfectly capable of issuing a credit card sized ticket that will work on the Underground. It will be issued as from Walthamstow Central to the applicable zonal combination (U123 for a trip to Oxford Circus). This is a very long standing arrangement and there is nothing I’ve seen to suggest this will change. I believe Walthamstow can also handle Oyster card transactions at the NR ticket windows as well as at the passenger operated machines.

    Similarly it is perhaps worth saying here that LU equipped a number of its self service machines (I don’t know how many) with a card hopper to allow Oyster Cards to be sold via a machine. I believe the cards come pre-encoded with a fixed amount of PAYG value. Once in the customer’s hands they can add other ticket products if they wish. I would also say that LU introduced a “staff sign on” capability at self service machines at least 12 months ago (possibly longer) that allowed a roving member of staff to resolve incomplete journeys, register an Oyster card etc. This means some of the ticket office functions are already in the machines but have to be undertaken by staff in the ticket hall. I expect that LU is upgrading the staff functionality even further to move most processes to the self service machines.

    TfL / LU have two choices here – they can somehow retain the “back stop” functionality for customers at LU stations that currently exists via self service machines rather than at the ticket office window. By “back stop” I mean the fact that there are all sorts of things you can’t do at Oyster Ticket Stops, at NR stations, at DLR stations or at self service machines. People are always directed to a LU station or the Oyster Help line. People have been taught to expect help with their Oyster cards at LU stations. The second option is to simply withdraw a whole load of processes and the associated products or facilities (e.g. railcard discounts, card registration, incomplete journey resets). I suspect the second option has been ruled out as unacceptable although I have a lingering doubt that some “difficult” transactions will go to the Gateway Visitor Centres. This could impost a time and financial cost on passengers who would have to travel to Zone 1 to undertake certain transactions. I leave it to others to ponder if this is acceptable.

    For those pondering the locations of the Gateway stations and the Visitor Information Centres (VICs) I would suggest that the locations have been selected because there are already TfL Travel Information Centres at these locations. Therefore these offices simply get rebranded at very little cost. Putting VICs at Waterloo and London Bridge as suggested in some comments would cost money to create and run for probably marginal benefit. Paddington appears to be an exception but then ticketing facilites there are usually swamped with people trying to book on to the tube system. You’d think it wasn’t possible to buy through tickets from NR stations to the Underground network!?

    I have to share concerns about the risks related to single manning of stations with staff forced to stand in freezing ticket halls. The point about cash handling and cash servicing is pertinent and if staff have to move from the ticket hall to the “secure suite” (to give it its proper term) then they are at risk of being clobbered when opening the door to where cash is held. This is going to need some serious work to minimise the risk to staff. All sorts of things can happen – note jams, coin jams, change replenishment, ticket or Oyster card stock running out – that warrant access to the rear of the machines if people require immediate service. I believe some of the “card only” devices are front serviced as there is no cash inside them.

    The other aspect here is that this policy change will also affect future station modernisations and new build as there will be no need to allocate space for ticket offices and secure staff facilities. Clearly space for ticket machines will be needed but I wonder if these will always be rear serviced in future.

  42. Andrew says:

    @Pedantic of Purley

    Even more importantly, you couldn’t mix old generation and new generation stock on the same line with platform edge doors installed so replacing the trains, when that day comes, will be a nightmare.

    Paris managed it by having the doors on the new Line 1 trains in the same places as the old ones.

  43. Christian Schmidt says:

    Two comments:

    1) There are many busy station without any staff (visible or otherwise) at numerous rapid transit systems around the world.
    2) I cannot see stations staffed by a single person (as proposed for the local stations) being aceptable, a single person with passenger contact will always want the knowledge that there is back up and support available on site.

  44. TRT says:

    The cash handling and secure station area point made above is quite simply the most valid fly-in-the-ointment for this plan. They still need people to service the machines, so they will still be cash handling, which commands a salary premium, and requires risk assessing, training etc. You can’t go renting that secure ticket office space out to Amazon or Patel/Smith/McColl or whoever wants to open a concessions stand there. They are often close to the gateline too, due to the need to provide an Excess Fares window, so entry and exit into the space is limited and in the way.
    And what happens with the Excess Fares windows? To be replaced by another machine?
    The lack of supervisors is also an issue. Very often an incident at a larger station like Euston will require one supervisor to take charge of the station whilst another takes charge of the incident. I don’t like the idea of shared supervision on the metro stations too. There needs to be a responsible grade to handle incidents immediately and direct other staff appropriately. There HAS to be a lead grade at every station; you can’t run them all as inverted mushrooms with one stalk to six caps.

  45. @Andrew,

    Paris managed it by having the doors on the new Line 1 trains in the same places as the old ones.

    Yes but Paris runs main line size-ish trains where the door positions are pretty much established. Any new deep tube stock (not just a clone of existing stock to top up numbers) is going to be *radically* different. A lot of research has been done to work out, given the new and different constraints, what the optimal door configuration is and it is not the same, or even similar, to what currently exists.

  46. Greg Tingey says:

    I know that arrangement used to hold, but I wasn’t aware that it still applied.
    I do hope that, especially at “joint” stations (Whatever the nominal ownership) like Upminster, Baking, Walthamstow C, Harrow Hill, etc (The list as a long one) that sanity will prevail & the “NR” ticket offices will continue to be allowed to sell LUL tickets.
    Incidentally, I still have an Oyster, though I haven’t used it for over a year – because, at present, I have a GA pass ….

  47. ngh says:

    Why not London Bridge as a gateway station?
    Probably easier to add it to the list after the rebuild of the NR station when things have settled down.

    Presumably plenty of non-transaction information terminals could be added to stations and platforms – effectively a touch screen computer with browser access to TfL, National Rail Enquiries and TOC websites only?
    The sighing of these could presumably be quite flexible as they would be staff intervention-free

    The addition of wi-fi in stations is also presumably about encouraging passenger self-help so the staff get less questions.

    The current tube line status screens are useful but how about maps in stations (inc platforms) being displayed on 60″+ screens* so that disrupted lines (or parts of) could be highlighted (such as cycling 1 second on, 1 second completely vanishing?) to make journey re-planing during disruption easier. And if hell freezes over the TOCs could follow similarly!
    Also makes swapping to night tube maps very easy or not having to update maps during blockades such as at future works at Bank or Jubilee tunnel repairs much easier.
    [*They showed they could do it last week at the press conference!]

  48. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    Two minor points

    Once I put an Oystercard through and the message came up telling me to “seek assistance”, yet there was nobody there (Kew Gardens, 11:30p.m.) So next day I went back and “sought assistance” and told them what had happened. A test showed I had double scanned on the way out. “Was that all?” “Yes”

    On another occasion, I bought a one day travelcard (Hampton),but as I went through the barrier my oystercard inside my jacket pocket, caused the gate to bleep. Next day my oystercard was empty. I considered the cost and time spent arguing for a refund, and decided against it as being too much trouble. How much money do they make from such overenthusiastic ticket machinery??

  49. ngh says:

    Re Castlebar 14:27, 26 November 2013

    I foresee a big market in wallets with metallic liners to prevent unintended card payments with the rise of contact-less payments in general…

  50. Mosealot says:

    @Anon 0845
    Victoria is presumably for Gatwick arrivals, Similarly Liverpool St for Stanstead, Paddington for Heathrow and St Pancras for Eurostar and Luton airport.

  51. StephenC says:

    The lack of gateway facilities at Waterloo and London Bridge is a concern (favouring north of the river again…). Plus, I thought Earls Court was a big hotel location. Overall its a reasonable plan, although I’d have preferred to see a minimum of 2 staff at each location (if only to cover for toilet breaks!)

  52. TRT says:

    @ngh. Frequently annoyed by the cycling of information screens at NR stations. The static information, such as “doors close 30 seconds before departure” and “Unattended baggage can cause…” I don’t care about. I don’t need it on the screen for what seems like >1/3 of the time of a two page train destination screen.
    And Euston… you need to see before you exit through the gateline whether you need to turn left or right, down the suburban 8-11 tunnel or go up the mainline escalator – but the indicator board there is (1) tiny and (2) shows the trains by time rather than platform. Simply repeaters for 8-11 departures on the wall opposite the barrier that can be read from over twenty feet away would speed up the general milling about in the area where two meet and greet people are on the diagram up there. You know, they trialled mobile CSAs a few years ago… It was OK, but that was in addition to the ticket office being fully staffed and open.

  53. Anonymous IV says:

    Many thanks for the article and all the well-informed comments above. I think I’m beginning to be able to cut through the fog and spin a bit. ‘Gateway’ seems to me the only category with a clear meaning. The selection is, as others have pointed out, rather arbitrary. But then perhaps any selection would be.

    There seems to be a big jump between ‘Destination’ (9 staff in the example) and ‘Metro’ (3 staff). PoP identified ‘Metro’ as the lowest category for ‘Section 12’ (i.e. sub-surface) stations, which must have 2 staff present by law to open. 3 gives a safety margin for one to be absent, have lunch etc. But this does not explain what the dividing line really is. One possibility is that ‘Metro’ will be capped at 3, while ‘Destination’ means any station that for any reason needs more than 3. I see that almost all sub-surface interchanges are ‘Destination’, the exceptions being Kennington and Stockwell. Perhaps some call for local indignation there!

    The distinction between Local A and Local B, which appears on the map Mike helpfully linked to, but not in the announcement, is also intriguing.

    All the above goes to suggest that that the meanings given in the announcement are basically a load of bullshit. One set of possible meanings minus the crap might be:
    ‘Destination’: very busy or complex station requiring more than 3 staff
    ‘Metro’: 3 staff (can get by on 2)
    ‘Local A’: 2 staff (can get by on 1)
    ‘Local B’: 1 staff (now here it gets interesting: a station with a staff of 1 will be unstaffed, e.g. while that 1 has lunch — is this a foot in the door for unstaffed stations?)

    Does that seem plausible? Perhaps it’s generous and the figures should be lower — could Metro really mean 2-3 staff, usually 2?

  54. Steve L says:

    It seems to me that almost every task performed by a member of staff sitting at a ticket office window could instead be performed by someone out in the ticket hall, using either a wifi-connected tablet, or a staff login to a ticket machine. The use of touchscreens on the ticket machines means that it is (relatively) to add/modify functionality by means of a software update.

    If there is an incident on the station that calls all of the staff away from the ticket hall, the last person to leave the ticket hall just has to flick the switch to open all the gates (whilst leaving the readers active). Arriving passengers will have touched in already, and so will need to touch out; Departing passengers will still need to touch in because they have to assume that the barriers will be in use at their destination.

  55. Anonymous IV says:

    Just spotted a 3rd exception to the sub-surface interchange = ‘Destination’ rule: Old Street. What has Highbury got that Old Street hasn’t?

  56. Anonymous IV says:

    Oh, and Warren Street. My apologies. Scrub that rule. That makes the choice of ‘Destinations’ more of a mystery, though.

  57. AlisonW says:

    So how long until all iPad-weilding staff are mugged for their iPads then? If they are solo-on-site I would guess on day 1. This seems a *very* expensive option for TfL; maybe they should make them more secure, like embedding the tablets into the walls so they can’t be stolen, and maybe enclosing them so that passengers, sorry, ‘customers’, can’t see TfL-internal data on the screens (or, indeed, customer data about other customers – the use of tablets floating around is an information privacy nightmare).

    btw, there is no need for cash-handling issues to require access by staff, it could just be outsourced wholesale to some security form to empty the machines, as with filling up cash machines in banks and elsewhere. Indeed staff should probably have *no* access to cash anywhere to make attacking them a little less likely.

  58. Southern Heights says:

    @StephenC: London Bridge and Waterloo don’t surprise me at all, once I thought about it. Most travelers into these stations are either commuters or people living sufficiently close to London to be in town reasonably regularly.

    If you land at Gatwick then everything points you to go to Victoria on the Gatwick Express, as I recall, trying to find the cheap (non-GE) ticket to London Victoria last time was not as simple as it could be.

    For Waterloo, the reasons are pretty much the same. The numbers coming from the far west (Exeter and beyond) through there would be too low when compared to Paddington.

  59. Southern Heights says:

    @AlisonW: If you equip the staff with Blackberry Playbooks or WinRT Surface’s your problem would be solved! 😉

    Sorry, couldn’t resist it!

  60. Alex Frost says:

    Disappointed Kitten, the ‘bloke with iPad’ is not supposed to do all that. His/her job will be to help people choose correct options in self-service machines (which will be capable of handling pretty much everything possible in closed ticket gates) – basically to show technically challenged how to press the touch screens and for tourists how to switch language.

  61. Alex Frost says:

    @AlisonW With all the cost-cutting they will probably end up with ultra cheap shitty Android tablets that nobody in their right mind will want (then again most Android tablets are in this category already 🙂 ).

  62. ngh says:

    RE Southern Heights 15:55, 26 November 2013

    Exactly, a custom rugged industrial tablet that can survive being dropped quite a few times also with easily replaceable batteries and preferably with an in built oyster / NFC / ITSO reader built would also be completely undesirable to the undesirables…

  63. John Bull says:

    Disappointed Kitten, the ‘bloke with iPad’ is not supposed to do all that. His/her job will be to help people choose correct options in self-service machines (which will be capable of handling pretty much everything possible in closed ticket gates) – basically to show technically challenged how to press the touch screens and for tourists how to switch language.


    The way to think of it is as being like the self-service tills in most Supermarkets. The options are all in the standard machine, but staff are there to help people use them or – when necessary – to take over and access “staff only” functions in order to issue Oyster refunds etc.

  64. straphan says:

    @Christian Schmidt: In Germany, where most underground stations (on full metros or tram systems with tunnel sections) are ungated and unstaffed, there are significantly more incidents of anti-social behaviour and violence against passengers and train drivers, especially when calculated on a per-journey basis. Indeed, there is the famous example of the Stadtbahn station at Essen Hbf which had purple lights installed a few decades ago, since it is more difficult to see veins (and inject drugs into them) in purple and ultraviolet light. Such things are unheard of in London. London Underground is and indeed feels much safer than German public transport systems precisely thanks to the presence of staff at every station.

    @Andrew: The current door layout on deep tube trains is – I would argue – a relic of old end-of-carriage gating arrangements and is not the best design to deal with the crowds that use the tube today. Even if TfL decide not to procure new trains for the deep-level tubes from Siemens, I expect they will have a similar carriage/bogie/door layout to the mock-up sat at the Docklands – which in itself is radically different from the current arrangement.

  65. utterlee says:

    “The way to think of it is as being like the self-service tills in most Supermarkets. The options are all in the standard machine, but staff are there to help people use them or – when necessary – to take over and access “staff only” functions in order to issue Oyster refunds etc”

    And given most peoples’ experience of self service tills in supermarkets, with one fraught employee running around trying to keep all the plates spinning whilst the customers getting increasingly irate, I think we all know how horrible that’s going to be!

    Topping up Oyster and renewing season tickets is all fine and dandy, and the current machines are fine for that, but when it comes to dispensing Oyster Cards, Annual Season tickets, getting refunds etc, I can see it all getting quite complicated and difficult.

    Also, as others have mentioned, I wouldn’t fancy being the only member of staff on a Local station, without the safety of the ticket office, nor would I be that thrilled about having to stand up all day, but then I am quite lazy.

  66. Caspar Lucas says:

    Straphan 16:47:

    Surely the door layout on deep tube trains is in no small part a consequence of the tops of the wheels poking above floor level and needing to be hidden under longitudinal seats? Articulation presents opportunities to change things here (should it be adopted).

  67. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ TRT – thanks for mentioning the supervisor issue. The proposal at outer areas is what I think is termed a “challenge”. Management of incidents is the crucial issue here and how a supervisor is supposed to get from station “a” to station “b” if the service is suspended because of an issue at station “b” I am not sure. Are all station groups going to be given a staff car or van to get round this issue? Dealing with passenger health issues also ties up staff which will mean that there is no customer assistance for others if there is no supervisor present and the sole staff member is dealing with the ill passenger. Passengers suffering illness is a daily occurrence network wide and presently TfL and LU generally have a good reputation for looking after people even if you can argue it’s not a key task of running a rail transport system.

  68. JimJordan says:

    I think a radical rethink on ticket machines is needed. I have been frustrated by the complexities of the all singing all dancing machines that are generally being provided these days. When London Transport had machines in the old days they were usually single value only. You put your tanner in and got your sixpenny ticket out. Easy – virtually a no-brainer.

    Modern machines are like a totalitarian interrogation. You work through a list of wants until you realise that you put something wrong in and it is down the snake to square one.

    Could an analysis of what people buy result in a number of machines with a very limited range of options? I put this forward for consideration.

  69. straphan says:

    @utterlee: I for one actually prefer self-service tills. Given the queue for the self-service is much faster, I generally find the process of paying for my purchases there much faster overall. Unless I happen to be buying alcohol…

    @Caspar Lucas: You are very much correct, thanks.

    @JimJordan: I expect the ticket machines of the future to be even more complex, as they will have to deal with things you can currently only do at a ticket office. If you look beyond London, there are many places on the National Rail network where offices have been shut and replaced by ticket machines, which have been deliberately limited by the TOC to make them easier to use by most. As a result, you now have plenty of complaints from people wishing to buy a ticket to travel further afield than “their” franchise lets them, but who have to instead purchase only a ticket to the nearest station with a ticket office and then queue there to buy the rest. Given that results in a break of journey this usually makes their travel more expensive.

    TfL currently have a plethora of different types of ticket machine (or so is my impression – I hardly ever use them as I have PAYG with auto top-up), which increases confusion from the outset (which queue do I join?). What I would like to see is two types of machines, which are clearly labelled – one to deal with simple and quick things, the other to deal with more complex queries. Just like at larger rail stations, where you have windows for those travelling today, and windows for those asking for the meaning of life (ekhm I mean buying advance tickets).

  70. Timmy! says:

    This is all very interesting – the proposals, articles and comments. For ticket sales, I presume that when I renew my annual Travelcard I head to a Gateway station and join a large queue with my company cheque (as a season ticket loan). Or, more likely, I pay from my own cash and get a season ticket loan after my purchase.

    My biggest issue with machines is the lack variations in tickets – for example, if I want to travel to Cambridge from the zone 3 boundary I join a ticket office queue. My alternative is to buy a more expensive ticket albeit a few quid more from a machine. This could mean the ticketing and fare structure will become simpler albeit possibly more expensive. On a more positive note, machines can easily support multiple languages.

    I think staffing and closing of ticket offices has been trialled already at local London Overground and Tube stations (Honor Oak Park and Caledonian Road for example). No massive detriment in quiet periods from my anecdotal experience although trying to beat the Monday rush on a Sunday evening sometimes doesn’t work!

  71. Overground Commuter says:

    @Castlebar (Contra Crayonista)

    Stratford still has two ticket offices for LUL and NR tickets at the main and Westfield concorses. The NR ticket offices managed by Greater Anglia is also Oyster enabled, but if you need a railcard added or have an issue with Oyster, you’ll still need to go over to the LU side.

  72. ngh says:

    Re Timmy! 18:15, 26 November 2013

    This is all very interesting – the proposals, articles and comments. For ticket sales, I presume that when I renew my annual Travelcard I head to a Gateway station and join a large queue with my company cheque (as a season ticket loan). Or, more likely, I pay from my own cash and get a season ticket loan after my purchase.

    This could cause accounting nightmares for you and your employer so best not to attempt.

    I suspect a website upgrade might be needed to help reduce the need for some of part of certain activities after all it would be silly to not attempt to reduce the 3% further.
    For example could part of the season ticket admin be done on-line in advance with TfL then sending your company accounts department an invoice, the company posting the cheque (or electronic transfer) to TfL processing centre who would then update everything centrally with the data uploaded to the card the next time it is swiped (in a similar manner to certain auto top up PAYG features?)

    Auto complete should help reduce the number of oyster issues to be resolved if the amounts are still wrong but small enough passengers won’t bother trying to claim?

  73. Andrew says:

    Will any stations get back the entrances that were blocked up for ticket offices?

  74. Moleman says:


    The rebuild has been designed to sec 12 regs (material choice and lots of new emergency egress routes) in anticipation of Crossrail so a bit academic i suppose.

  75. Geoff says:

    TfL should not under estimate the challenge posed by stations like Euston. I often arrive here (via London Midland ) around 7pm on a week day evening and I am staggered by the enormous crowds queuing to buy tickets from the windows – sometimes single manned. The queue loops around the barriers several times – I would be surprised if the wait was less than 20 minutes. No regular commuter would accept this. It would need a half dozen ticket windows to keep the wait to something reasonable.
    The mass of people is so great they block the path to the gates for those already in possession of a ticket and made worse by quantity of luggage on display.
    I can’t say I’ve waiting long enough to say with any great certainty but I have the impression I don’t hear too many non English speakers – so I can only assume most are visitors to London from other parts of the UK.
    I agree with all those that have said the current ticket machine interface is too intimidating for the first time user. For all the talk of a technologically literate populace – I propose many people ( including myself ) are reluctant to try a new technology in public for fear of making a mistake or looking foolish – particularly if you have a queue of impatient travellers standing behind you.
    A strong argument in my view for a single unified user interface on all NR and Metro ticket machines throughout the UK.
    Perhaps Euston is one station where you ditch the machines and quadruple the ticket offices.

  76. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I strongly suspect that if I-Pads (or similar) are used then they will be so restricted in their capabilities that they won’t be worth nicking. Anyone who has encountered TfL’s IT network will understand what I am saying. It is worth noting that Go Ahead London have apparently deployed I-Pads with the customer assistants on the New Bus for London operating route 11. These allow remote shift sign on / off and contain information relevant to route 11 and the sights along it plus other transport info.

    For those questioning what facilities the ticket machines are unlikely to offer but a ticket office does then how about printing pre cut ticket stock like a Gold Record Card for Annual tickets or providing a print out of the journey details held on an Oyster Card? I would also be surprised if a refund against a debit or credit card could be processed via the card reader integrated into a passenger machine. Now it might be that TfL is going to fix that somehow but I’d be surprised. I’d also be surprised if you could pay for an annual ticket (most well over £1,000) at a passenger machine but I might be out of date as to what the banks and merchant service organisations now allow for unsupervised transactions.

    @ Greg – I would be surprised if joint stations run by TOCs would withdraw LU ticket sales unilaterally. They would need to agree that with TfL but the withdrawal of Oyster card facilities at some TOC ticket offices due to ticketing system technical obsolescence is a concern. If nothing else TOCs earn commission on ticket sales so they’d need to notify TfL of any change as a business obligation if nothing else. The other issue, and we cross into night tube territory here, is what happens at stations which are run or part run by TOCs. If such stations normally close during the night then running trains to those stations will require some arrangement with the TOC. This partly applies to Walthamstow Central and Finsbury Park for the first phase but there are ways round TOC station entrances at both places. Ealing Broadway *may* be an issue for the Central Line in phase 1 but it is possible that the Crossrail concessionnaire will have taken over operation by the time the Night Tube commences and therefore I assume TfL will specify Fri and Sat overnight opening.

    It becomes more difficult with the sub surface phase when Wimbledon, Barking and Richmond come into scope when I imagine the TOCs will be standing with hands outstretched saying “give me the dosh”. I have tried to check station opening hours but cannot find them on the NRE website – just ticket office times – so I am working on an assumption that these stations do close overnight.

  77. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Geoff – Although I do not use Euston often I have certainly witnessed the same scale of congestion in the LU ticket hall as you. I tend to think “good grief where have they all come from?” and “thank goodness I already have a pass” as I walk to the ticket gates. The same congestion happens at Kings Cross St Pancras and Victoria. One thing is that many people seem not to realise that they could probably make the same transaction using TOC owned ticket machines in the NR part of these stations with negligible queues. Clever TOCs may choose to “market” this aspect of their service as being better than LU. In terms of spreading the load it would probably be a good thing to do today!

    On your “new technology” issue I will confess to being completely bamboozled by a M&S self service till because they had made the tills in one store “left handed” so the basket had to go where your shopping bag normally sits! Took me over a minute to work what on earth was going on. My second confession relates to a self service machine in a main post office – I’d used it once before with no issue. On my second attempt, when there were huge queues for everything, I got it completely wrong and was so embarrassed I didn’t dare start the transaction over again. I’ve never used one since! I think your hope about an unified ticket machine screen layout across the UK will never arrive – simply because there is little consistency between LU’s ticket range, that of the TOCs or Metrolink or the Tyne and Wear Metro. Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham trams are excluded as they have conductors! There isn’t even consistency between TOCs within the same ownership groups or where differing TOCs manage adjacent stations on a route.

  78. Ben says:

    Andrew – Dont suppose you could name a few of those stations could you?

    Four stations don’t make sense to me on that map wrt catagory – Arnos Grove, Oakwood, Cockfosters and Ealing Broadway.

  79. Ian J says:

    New FAQs from staff seem to be being added to the site as they are answered – some newly added answers with a bearing on recent comments here include:

    “Approximately 120 additional new ticket machines will be introduced across the network from summer 2014”

    “Ticket machines will be upgraded to have more intuitive screens to help customers purchase their tickets more easily. All ticket machines on the network will be upgraded to have the same screens. They will be able to offer low value pay as you go refunds on Oyster cards.”

    “we have just started trialling iPads… we will select a device that best meets our needs, subject to affordability”

    “It is proposed that staff will be able to carry out security checks, CMS, view rosters, view train service information, manage lost property, respond to customer queries using real time service information, view faults, manage POMS, access emails and manage annual leave from their hand held device”

    (CMS = Customer Management System??, POMS = Passenger Operated Machines?)

    “The revenue team are currently planning a trial of the latest cash management equipment which will reduce the complexity of, and time spent on, floating and servicing activities. If implemented all grades would be able to float POMs.”

    (float POMs = empty and restock ticket machines, I guess)

  80. Andrew says:

    Stations with blocked-up eutrances include Great Portland Street, Rayners Lane, Southgate and Warren Street.

  81. Anon5 says:

    Perhaps Virgin might step in and sell Oyster cards at its shops on board Pendolinos heading to London – for an appropriate commission of course.

  82. Greg Tingey says:

    Precisely – par example
    Self-service – to the left or right?
    Where do you put you own bag, in which you want to put your purchases – I normally try the “other” area – & the machine tells me off!
    Then ..
    Press “Start” followed by “I have brought my own bags” – or the other way round – but surely one presses “start” first?… And it then always tells me to finish, before I can even swipe my first purchase.
    I have (I’m sorry to say) actually sworn at an innocent shop-assistant, because of this total crap – & I really do NOT like being condescended to by a junior shop “manager” who thinks that a qualified engineer with an IQ>140 is some sort of senile geriatric.
    /RANT OFF …..

    However, this is highly relevant to going all-machine at TfL stations, isn’t it, if one thinks the problems through. The prospect is not a good one.

    Overall, this has the makings of a total disaster, especially from the point of view of visitors to London. I expect most of the capital’s people will manage, but “furriners” (i.e. anyone from N of the Trent or W of Swindon, never mind from outside these silver shores) are going to be in deep doo-doo, very quickly.
    I wonder how long before LUL/TfL have to backtrack & admit error?
    [ We all know the answer to that one, of course … ]

  83. @Greg,

    I wonder how long before LUL/TfL have to backtrack & admit error?
    [ We all know the answer to that one, of course … ]

    Well I know my own personal answer. They won’t have to because it will all basically work out fine. And I will add this example to the list of things that soothsayer Tingey warned us will cause doom and didn’t happen.

  84. TRT says:

    I can’t think of a single off the shelf tablet device with a battery that could last a whole shift, so you’re going to have to have a bank of these things charging up somewhere secure, much like the radios do presently I guess, but at least these (usually) last a whole shift!

    Agree with the Euston comments. There’s always a queue for the ticket office during opening times. They trialled a kind of triage assistant there five years ago, someone to go up and down the lines sorting people out, like the post office do.

  85. Anonymous says:

    Given the purpose of the excercise is to put more customer facing people out in the ticket hall I wonder what influence the last example of this, the “Ambassadors” during the Olympics had on this decision.

    There appear to be similarities, the Ambassadors had Ipad devices and stood on the unpaid side of the ticketline and their distribution from my observations appeared to be focused more on those stations with Gateway and Destination (Inc some Olympic Venues) rather than metro and local stations.

    From what I recall they were a bit of a mixed bag, some would stand around looking anonymous while others would be proactive and helpful. I guess that the ambassadors in most cases had minimal operational experience compared to the full time LUL staff which led to some waiting to be approached by customers rather than identifying customers in need, approacing and helping them.

    I also noticed the ambassadors at cycle hire and DLR stations, one or two were a bit isolated so it would be interesting to note how many Ambassadors were assaulted and / or had their devices stolen. Maybe there should be a FOI request?

    I recently went abroad to another European destination and not once did I engage with a member of staff, I got my ticket from a machine and any members of staff I did observe were at the largest stations. There were even engineering works to negotiate although this mas made easy to understand by dual language maps and tannoy announcements which was fortunate.

  86. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Anonymous 10:19

    “……………..I also noticed the ambassadors at cycle hire and DLR stations, one or two were a bit isolated so it would be interesting to note how many Ambassadors were assaulted and / or had their devices stolen. Maybe there should be a FOI request?………..”

    Seldom have I seen a more valid reason for an FOI answer from the acolytes. Go for it!!

  87. Fandroid says:

    I think that many people on here are getting a little over-excited. All the observations on practical problems should be relayed to LUL, so that they can design the ultimate system to suit the travellers’ needs.

    My OAP Canadian cousins came fully equipped with Oyster cards on their first visit (the travel guides to London recommend them) and took to the Underground like ducks to water. My only assistance that was needed was in how to use them on buses.

    Big value seasons. Surely they should become online-only purchases? Companies who make loans for these can surely adapt themselves to BACS transfers (they would probably prefer them).

    To reduce those massive queues at Euston and elsewhere, LUL needs to make more effort in marketing itself and its facilities at the origin stations, or even paying the TOCs to market tickets on the trains (as someone here suggested for Virgin’s shops) .

    Nothing that’s been suggested is an insuperable problem, and the whole thing makes sense to me, as long as they mould the station by station proposals to fit the normal customer profile there.

    Surely the Overground has just one security guard at many places at night? Why is that a problem for the Underground? Staff will have somewhere secure to go – the toilets! Help-points are probably better than a dusty ticket office window on the wrong side of the barriers, as they should give an immediate response and summon the local staff. Passengers just have to get used to using them.

    There is no actual need for TICs to be at the stations. There could be a central London one at say City Hall. Obviously there will be space at existing stations, and that’s where people expect them, but there’s many a transport system elsewhere that happily provides customer services from real offices on the surface!

    I like the idea of maps on screens. Having the display changeable for night services and engineering works would be terrific. I have seen such screens in Germany, but they have been very limited in their functionality. Here in the UK, NR ruin their scrolling screen info by including ‘security’ warnings and other padding that detracts from the real-time service info the punter really wants.

    TOCs have long equipped their revenue staff with ruggedised machines that sell tickets and provide timetable info. Why can’t LUL use similar things, rather than playing with muggable I-Pads?

    I agree with PoP that the TOCs should heavily advertise that their machines at, say Paddington, Euston etc will happily sell Travelcards. SWT machines even have a single button on the top-level screen that is dedicated to them!

  88. straphan says:

    @Fandroid: back in the day when I still needed a season ticket (fortunately I have my own two wheels to get to work now…) I found the whole process a little bizarre… Surely a much easier way to get round this is for the company to transfer the money to the employee’s account so that they could sort the matter out themselves? They could of course squander the money on something else, but then how would they get to work and would that be the company’s problem?

    On a slightly different note, however, having had some major issues with my bank being too proactive with transaction safety, I wonder how many banks would permit someone to make £1500+ transactions with their debit cards using the internet or via Chip’n’PIN?

  89. Anonymous** says:

    I’m also familiar with Euston during the peaks, and agree the bulk of people queuing up at a ticket office appear to be British nationals. I’d say it’s worst than at King’s Cross, especially when you consider the two stations of the former see around 50 million passengers annually compared to 36 million at Euston (not to mention the greater number of people who head to the LU station from the wider area).

    Part of the problem is the small size of the LU ticket hall at Euston, so I wonder if we should copy some other countries who have those cube-shaped machines for metro tickets on major station concourses and even in airports, like Schiphol.

  90. John Bull says:

    I wonder how many banks would permit someone to make £1500+ transactions with their debit cards using the internet or via Chip’n’PIN?

    Although I should probably be too embarrassed to admit it, I topped £1500 in Game at Westfield Stratford on Friday. I paid on card and authenticated by Chip ‘n PIN. Went through fine – didn’t even get a “um… was that you?!” call from HSBC (and I had my phone in my hand as I was expecting one).

  91. Paying Guest says:

    @Straphan 11:07 “I wonder how many banks would permit someone to make £1500+ transactions with their debit cards using the internet”

    I have done so regularly with Lloyds, HSBC and First Direct. No problem provided you tell them that it is something you will be doing. Likewise with chip & pin.

  92. ngh says:

    I wonder how many banks would permit someone to make £1500+ transactions with their debit cards using the internet or via Chip’n’PIN?
    I paid for my car using debit card with chip and pin with no fuss and no phone calls…
    But the bank will have know the dealer would have all the id needed for DVLA purposes and that card and buyer name matched.

    So it shouldn’t be beyond TfL to come up with something now there is the incentive to reduce Ticket Window type transactions.

  93. Steven Taylor says:

    Re large credit /debit card transactions. I have just retired after working in the City all my life.
    The card companies do also look at the recipient for the funds. For someone like TFL, South West Trains etc, this would flag up on any as a `top rate` (i.e. minimal risk) organisation.

  94. Arctic Troll says:

    On a slightly different note, however, having had some major issues with my bank being too proactive with transaction safety, I wonder how many banks would permit someone to make £1500+ transactions with their debit cards using the internet or via Chip’n’PIN?

    I’ve just paid for my flat on a debit card: one month’s rent, agent fee and deposit. Topped two grand. It went through without even the slightest hint of a niggle.

    I’ve used a ticket office twice in the last nine months. Once was to get my annual travelcard, and one was to hand in for refund an old Oyster I didn’t need anymore. It’s easy to see that one or both of those transactions could be done at a machine, if the appropriate equipment was installed. I didn’t even use a ticket office when I got my girlfriend an Oyster card, as the machine at Euston dispensed it.

    The only concern I have at places like Euston and Kings Cross St Pancras is that removing the ticket counters will make the queues worse. At present using the machines is good because all the slow people- the people who don’t know what they’re doing and are incapable of reading simple instructions- use the ticket windows. I don’t want to have to queue with them!

  95. Pedantic of Purley says:

    And of course it is minimal risk for TfL because if the transaction is subsequently rejected or the money doesn’t appear in their account they simply put the Oystercard number on the “lost or stolen” list thus rendering the card useless. Their actual loss would be small. If the person involved would not have otherwise have made and paid for the journeys debited to the Oystercard one could even argue that the true loss of revenue is zero.

  96. Martin Smith says:

    I bought last year’s on-Oyster Travelcard season by chip-n-pin on my debit card (my employer moved from issuing cheques payable to LUL to transferring money to employees’ bank accounts last year) without First Direct/HSBC batting an eyelid.

    Squandering the money on something else isn’t easily done – the employer needs a copy of the ticket from the employee within a few days of purchase (because loans to employees for season ticket purchase aren’t treated as a taxable benefit, the Revenue need proof that the loan has been spent appropriately).

  97. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I am not suggesting that because M&S decide to differently “hand” their self service tills that LU’s ticket machines will be a disaster. I was merely pointing out that I was caught out – if M&S had put a simple sign saying “basket here” and “bag here” at the appropriate places it would not have been a problem. I have used LU machines a few times and usually manage without any difficulty and their functionality now is rather different from the days when I used to test the fares data for them!

    On the wider point I sort of agree with PoP and Fandroid that this is unlikely to be a unmitigated disaster. However it really does need some good quality analysis of the pinch points by time of year, day of week, time of day and location. Some places may cope fine all year and then collapse in a heap come the annual fares revision when there is surge in ticket purchases. People will rightly be annoyed if they find themselves unable to buy a ticket at the “old” price because there is a queue of 200 people at a single machine.

    To my mind the thing that is not obvious here is the “bigger picture” of how LU’s decision on ticket offices fits in with the Future Ticketing Project (all phases), ITSO developments on National Rail (including South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT)) and any sensible initiatives that can be implemented to encourage through ticket purchase before arrival in London. Through ticketing to LU and out boundary day and Season Travelcards have long been available but perhaps need to be more strongly promoted? Promoting Oyster PAYG auto top up and making it more flexible would also help take the strain off ticketing facilities at termini where people may arrive with an Oyster card already but need to add value to it before travelling. If there is a strategy that is agreed or at least broadly defined it would be helpful for this to be set out to the public so they can see that someone has done some thinking about their needs.

    In the context of the “roving staff” I have sort of done this role during LU strikes when us office wallahs were asked to help out. While I’ve not had formal “customer service” training I managed pretty well working on my own for 7 hours out in the street at Turnpike Lane dealing with a constant stream of people arriving at the locked tube station entrance. I had no whizzy screen, phone or I-Pad so I had to pick my moment to dash downstairs and get a service update from the Station Supervisor who had come to work! I did have a bus map in my pocket and a print out of the local bus spider map. Some bus inspectors who turned up stood back and watched me for 10 minutes and then toddled over and said “oh, you do know where the buses go then. That’s a surprise for someone from 55 Broadway”. Well duh! They then went round to the 29 bus stop to deal with the scrum of passengers.

    Similarly I have done sessions at Seven Sisters standing in a freezing draught for over 7 hours helping lost foreigners find their way to T Hale (it was closed during the strikes) or dealing with the ticket machines and travel enquiries. Ditto at Walthamstow where I faced the massed hordes of Vic Line passengers alone – the other office people were hiding in the bus station! Most passengers are decent, some are understandably angry at being mucked around and the odd one goes off at you. I think I was even called a traitor of the working class once. I have also bamboozled other colleagues who have seen me in action and then asked “how on earth do you know all that info?” Err, by using the transport network extensively.

    I think what I am trying to say is that the roving job can be fine but you really need access to good info and a decent uniform to keep warm or cool as necessary. I never did an evening shift as I’m not so sure I’d want to be in the cold and dark until 0100 or even overnight while working alone. That would be a different challenge altogether and I wonder if LU will change the scope of assistance at such times to reduce the risk to staff? – for example not accessing the secure suite to deal with coin or note jams in ticket machines.

  98. timbeau says:

    “For those questioning what facilities the ticket machines are unlikely to offer but a ticket office does then how about…………………… providing a print out of the journey details held on an Oyster Card?”
    The cycle hire kiosks can do this, and bank cash dispensers can give mini statements, so why not?

    “Surely a much easier way to get round this is for the company to transfer the money to the employee’s account so that they could sort the matter out themselves? ”
    HMRC would have something to say about that – an interest free loan used for anything other than travel to work is a taxable benefit in kind

  99. MikeP says:

    @JohnB – no need to be embarrassed 🙂

    @Fandroid – I note that the TOC mobile ticket issuing machines (they have some multi-letter abbreviation that I forget) have character-mode LCD displays. As Any Fule Kno, the major power drain on “modern” battery-operated devices is the display, thanks to all the whizzy graphics that the lusers demand. That will be the challenge for TfL – getting a device that can display enough information in the right format yet give an 8-10+ hour battery life on pretty-near constant use. I think anyone who comes up with such a device should mint it.

    Now waiting for someone to give me the URL of said device…..

  100. ML says:

    @ngh “The press coverage suggested 750 job losses with savings of £50m once everything has settled down and change cost is paid for.”

    I don’t have any inside knowledge, but there are two changes happening at the same time:
    – changing the staffing arrangements/closing ticket offices – which reduces the staff required
    – introducing night tubes which will increase the staff required

    Perhaps the 750 relates to the net reduction in staff from the two changes, but the £50m relates to the saving from the changes in working arrangements only, and hasn’t been reduced to allow for the cost of the extra staff for the night tubes.

    One thought which this provokes is that perhaps combining the two announcements is not just a PR ploy to get the travelling public on side, but also a sensible move to offset the number of job losses that would otherwise arise from the changes in working arrangements.

  101. Anonymous says:

    Battery life won’t be a problem — the only reason that iPads etc. have such poor battery life is to keep cost, weight and size down, because that is what consumers like. There’s no way TfL will buy iPads for all their staff — they’ll get a customised device to suit their needs, which will be better-equipped in some ways (bigger battery, more robust, integrated Oyster reader), but lower-spec in others (no cameras, lower-res screen, no video support, smaller “hard drive”, slower processor, less pretty…)

  102. ASLEF shrugged says:

    WW – I can top the “class traitor” remark, I once had a passenger berate me on the day of an RMT strike when obviously I was working and not on strike. I also once got congratulated for coming into work then spent a good five minutes arguing that while I disagreed with taking strike action I actually thought RMTs grievance was legitimate and that management were at fault.

    ML – it’s 950 jobs going from stations, which I am told is more than the number of ticket office staff, with an extra 200 TOps for Night Tube.

  103. straphan says:

    Thanks to everyone who provided me with examples that other banks do remember who the money in the account actually belongs to. I shall have to have a chat with the people at my local Barclays branch soon. It will not be a pleasant one.

    All this got me thinking about season tickets and ticketing in general. I think the season ticket system in London and the surrounding area is fundamentally unfair. Generally, the longer ticket you buy, the higher discount you get compared to using single fares. However, buying an annual ticket in one go is beyond the reach of many Londoners (plenty of people do not get paid – say – £1200 net per month). Those in stable employment who work for certain organisations (mainly middle-class jobs) have the option of getting a loan through their employer. Those not so fortunate have to buy either weeklies or monthlies whenever they get paid – and thus end up paying more for public transport per year than those who earn more than them. I find that rather unfair.

    I happened to be a student in Bremen, Germany, in the first half of the previous decade. The good people at the VBN (Verkehrsverbund Bremen-Niedersachsen, the local authority organisation who control most aspects of public transport in the area) came up with a novel idea at the time. They introduced the “BOB Ticket” – which was a plastic card with a chip. The card had to be inserted (no contactless technology in those olden days!) into a reader, and a ticket bought. At the end of the month, the VBN sent the user an itemised bill (much like a mobile phone company would). The smart trick here is, though, that the VBN automatically calculated the best possible combination of fares for the user, based on the journeys they made. The VBN, like most authorities in Germany, has a complex zonal fare structure, which is difficult to navigate – they were aiming to make it easier for people to use public transport much like they use their phone, and ensure they do not lose out.

    Now my thinking is: could this not be applied in London? The PAYG system already has daily capping – could we not extend the cap in time? Whilst devising the capping system would no doubt be complex in itself, think of how much complexity this would save elsewhere. There would be no more season ticket loans. Ticket machines would only have two options for their users: buy an Oyster Card, and top up my Oyster. Attendants would no longer have to advise people on which ticket is best – just buy an Oyster, the system will sort it for you…

    And most importantly, this system would make using public transport so much easier for everyone who registers for it (provided it worked properly!). Also, this would correct what I think is a fundamental flaw with the fare system, where the better off are able to pay less than the poor.

    …and now back to Earth – would the increase in journeys be actually something TfL would consider desireable? Would they be prepared to take the revenue hit? And how big would the server farm have to be in order to make all these calculations?

  104. Greg Tingey says:

    WW & PoP
    Actually you both have a point
    PROVIDED LUL/TfL really think it through & provide lots more, up-to-date & easy-to-use ticket machines, with really clear instructions, then, yes, it could work very well.
    However, I have a horrible suspicion that they will just up the number of machines, with a few new ones & leave it at that, or something similar.

    The money in ANY bank account BELONGS TO THE BANK – it’s not “your” money any more – sorry, didn’t you know this? AIUI, that is the legal position.

  105. Graham H says:

    @straphan – but the rich buying annual seasons are lending more money, for longer to the operator… in the world of finance, that means a better rate.

  106. @Greg,

    I understand your concerns but this whole thing seems to have been thought through in some detail and is not just a knee-jerk reaction to budget cuts. We’ll see.

    The money in ANY bank account BELONGS TO THE BANK
    Well off topic but I think the answer to that is “true but misleading”. Within the framework of the Theft Act something can “belong” to more than one person. So, if you buy a car on hire purchase and take it to the garage to be repaired, in some sense, it belongs to you, the hire purchase company and the garage at the same time. Theft involves taking property belonging to another and that “another” could be the hire purchase company, you or the garage. And believe it or not it can you can, in certain circumstances, be convinced of theft for stealing your own property or criminal damage for damaging it.

    So if that money is stolen from your bank account, the bank, as an owner, can report the theft and take legal proceedings to get it back. What is more, potentially, all this could happen without you realising the money has been taken. So all in all you ought to be grateful that the bank, in some sense, owns your money.

  107. Paying Guest says:

    @Straphan – if you restricted the discount on annual seasons to the same as monthlies (pro rata) there would still be some customers (but I suspect not that many) who would buy them just to save the faff of renewing them so often. Nevertheless, given the loss of loan income as pointed out by Graham H, it would be interesting to see the sums showing any impact on fare prices of the alternative arrangements to offset that lost loan income

  108. ngh says:

    Re Greg Tingey 14:52, 27 November 2013

    Indeed – If the first half of the roll-out goes over budget (could be things as simple as Wifi signal black holes that need extra repeaters installing so the tablets can work everywhere on all the stations reliably) then there could be pressure to cut costs on the second half of the role-out to get the whole programme on budget…

    It will be interesting to see if they include a significant contingency in the programme budget…

  109. ngh says:

    Re Graham H 15:05, 27 November 2013

    but the rich buying annual seasons are lending more money, for longer to the operator… in the world of finance, that means a better rate.

    On a similar thought – Would that possibly be why some of the TOCs were so opposed to Oyster on NR services as the Gold Card buyers aided the TOC cash flow?

  110. straphan says:

    Re. bank accounts: Oh crap, I’d better resort to the ol’ sock in the mattress trick then…

    @Graham H: I fully understand that paying for season tickets provides TfL with ‘cash up-front’. In theory. In practice, everyone tends to buy their annual season in the closing stages of December so as to avoid the annual increase on January 1st. I would think the difference in rates and the % increase in fares more-or-less cancel each other out…

    Where I am coming from with this is that whereas it is theoretically possible for everyone to buy the cheapest ticket given their patterns of usage, this is not really the case in practice. However, what I am suggesting could potentially solve a lot of problems thrown up by the announcement about the closures of ticket offices. All you would ever need to do is either buy an Oyster card, top it up with credit, or query a journey/transaction. The first two you could do either at a station or online, and all three via a telephone hotline.

    @Paying Guest: I am not proposing to scrap annuals. I am proposing to scrap season tickets as they are altogether and introduce universal capping instead. Whereas today the Oyster PAYG system caps your expenditure on a daily basis if you have paid as much as the cost of a daily travelcard, all I am proposing is to extend this. This would mean the system will cap your spend for the week if you have spent the equivalent of a weekly travelcard, cap your spend for the month if you have spent the equivalent of a monthly travelcard, and cap your spend for the year if you have spent the equivalent of an annual travelcard.

    Aside from the financial implications of this, the actual way in which the capping is done would have to be changed. The system would have to recognise that if I e.g. normally commute from Zone 2 to Zone 1 but decide to go to Hampton Court one weekend, I should be capped for a Zone 1-2 travelcard + pay for the trip to Hampton Court separately, as two single fares. I have some ideas about solving this, but I think that may be a little too far off-topic.

  111. IslandDweller says:

    @Overground Commuter 1826 comment.
    The Greater Anglia ticket office at Liverpool St can add railcards to Oyster, so I don’t see why their colleagues at Stratford can’t do the same.

  112. Graham H says:

    @straphan – I think you are probably right that eventually Oyster and future pre-loaded tickets will go the way of a period cap on the sum spent, tho’ whether that is a Good Thing is debatable, and I can’t see why both a Swiss-style kilometre bank and a traditional period unlimited season aren’t technically possible.

    To offer solely a capped “kilometre bank” will lead to fiendishly difficult arguments about the annualisation rate (that’s the number of assumed journeys each season holder is assumed to make). The reasons for having discounted seasons are actually quite diverse. Besides the cash up front point (which enables the operator to securitise the cash, as it’s raised in advance of the spend to which it relates), the railways have traditionally taken the view that if we can capture the punters for their daily travel to work, giving them “free” travel at other times is likely to attract them – and, more importantly their spouses out of their cars at weekends and so on.

    Logically, the clustering of renewals at the time of the fares increase is a one-off hit (as it happens every year) whose impact on the effects of discounting were smoothed away years ago.

    Politically, it will be a brave politician who does away with traditional seasons…

  113. timbeau says:

    “I happened to be a student in Bremen, Germany, in the first half of the previous decade. The good people at the VBN (Verkehrsverbund Bremen-Niedersachsen, the local authority organisation who control most aspects of public transport in the area) came up with a novel idea at the time. They introduced the “BOB Ticket” – which was a plastic card with a chip. The card had to be inserted (no contactless technology in those olden days!) into a reader, and a ticket bought. At the end of the month, the VBN sent the user an itemised bill (much like a mobile phone company would).”

    That says a huge amount about the difference between German and British authorities’ relationships with their customers. Would any UK operator trust its “valued clients” to pay up to a month in arrears? Even at an excess fares window you get the third degree.

    Operators like season tickets because it reduced the number of ticket windows and machines they need. If every annual season ticket holder one had to pay every day, you would need over 200 times as many transactions.

  114. Fandroid says:

    TfL/LUL ought to be able to deal with the rush just before annual price increases. The rush problem is no different when doing it by means of machines than it is doing it at ticket windows. After the mad scrum at the very first of these events, the canny punter and LUL ought to be able to predict where and when the best places/times are for the least hassle transactions. Here I’m guessing wildly- Waterloo or London Bridge on a Sunday (or even Walthamstow Central)? It’s really no different than for TOC commuters who have to renew seasons, and sensibly don’t try to do it at 7.30 am on a Monday!

  115. Fandroid says:

    MikeP. The portable ticket machines used by TOC revenue staff are AVANTIX. These are successors to SPORTIS – which reminds me just how long BR and its successors have actually been using them (decades). Is that time enough for LUL/RMT to be reassured that they won’t explode on first use?? They apparently weigh 2kg and use touch-screen input. All the ticket/timetable data is held on an SD card, so if all the ticket-issuing paraphernalia is done away with then they could be a lot lighter and a lot less bulky.

  116. straphan says:

    @timbeau: I don’t think that VBN would have lost out much from this scheme. Even if someone defaulted on the direct debit when time came for VBN to collect their dues, they would have only cancelled the card and made the punter pay for any future tickets the traditional way. Even if debt collection failed, they would have lost not more than maybe 50 or 100 EUR on each case of default. In any case, what I’m proposing for London is based on people using PAYG – no risk of default there…

    @Graham H: I would argue that such a scheme would win plenty of votes from those, who cannot afford longer season tickets at present. Plus what I am suggesting is a simplification of the way you pay for public transport and a means to ensure the passenger always gets the best deal – also a vote winner.

    As far as securitising the cash is concerned, you are right that TfL (and TOCs) get a significant proportion of their annual income at the beginning of the calendar year. However, remember they lose out in a way – people are paying last years’ rates for this years’ travel. My proposed system of annual capping would smooth out the cashflow, which in itself would have some benefits to TfL’s accounts – albeit with annual capping they would be receiving somewhat less income towards the end of the year.

    As far as I am concerned, traditional season tickets were a win-win situation for the operator and passenger alike. On one hand, they gave the operator cash in bulk (and in advance), and enticed the punter to make more journeys. The punter, as the most frequent user of the services, got a discount. This was all fine and good in the days when everyone had to travel to work 5 days per week, and when annual or indeed monthly season tickets were something people could afford to purchase themselves rather than having the employer do it for them. Nowadays, many more people work or commute for less than 5 days a week, and TOCs are struggling to come up with the right ticket offer for these people. What I am proposing would address these issues by ensuring that people would get the best deal regardless of how often they commute, and who they work for (and how much they earn). I also disagree these proposals would serve as a dis-incentive to travel off-peak. Quite the contrary – make some more journeys on the weekends, and you might just spend enough to get a monthly travelcard.

    Also, I never suggested anywhere that the discount factors for weekly, monthly, and annual travelcards should be fiddled with. This is indeed a political hot potato that I would not want to go anywhere near.

    I also don’t know what ‘Swiss-style kilometre bank’ you are referring to. SBB’s key discount offer is a “Halbtax-Abo’, where you pay a fixed sum for a card which then lets you have a 50% discount on all fares purchased over the period of its validity. This is not similar to I have suggested.

  117. Graham H says:

    @straphan – the Swiss half fare Abo works like a Gold Card offering a set discount on any purchase. With the kilometre bank, you buy so many kilometres of travel at a fixed discounted rate. You can use them as slowly or as fast as you like. I think it is the latter arrangement you have in mind and I agree that that would meet the needs of irregular travellers. (I had thought you were arguing that alongside the introduction of such tickets in the UK, you wished to abolish seasons on the grounds of (un)fairness to those who couldn’t afford to buy for the maximum length of time – glad to see that I have misunderstood and that’s not what you were saying – bringing morality into the fares structure wouldn’t be good!)

    As to the TOCs losing out because of the bunching of purchases just before the fares rise, they only lose once at the beginning of history, as it were; thereafter the effect is more or less neutral for subsequent cycles of increases and renewal. Put perhaps less whimsically, next year’s purchase brought forward is merely this year’s deferred. The offset occurs only once in a commuter’s life…

  118. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    I remember when the “E” bus routes were imposed on Ealing’s 55, 97 & 211

    To relieve pressure on the OMO driver/conductor fare collector, you bought a (card) strip of tickets and used them one at a time, each journey. I forget how it worked because it was a long time ago, but passengers saved time and money by tearing a ticket off the strip and dropped it in the fare box. The OMO spent less time with queues of people wanting single tickets, then some change, so it seemed a “Win, Win” situation for all. Couldn’t something similar be done today now that the 5 day week commute seems to be disappearing, but a set number of journeys still needed and thus discounted for regular travellers??

  119. Long Branch Mike says:

    OMO being One Man Operation methinks. Now One Person Operation (OPO).

  120. Geoff says:

    Technophobia Rules !
    In front of the ticket machine for the ferry on Sydney harbour front during the Lions Tour with a number of burly Aussies standing behind me. I ended up paying at least twice the fare I should have done in order to hurry through the transaction.
    At Waitrose – consummed by panic at the self service check out when I realised I hadn’t weighed and barcoded my potatoes in advance. Only to be shown by someone young enough to be my grandaughter that the device can weigh and calculate the price itself. Now I have seen this functionality before – yet faced with the problem I couldn’t solve it.
    Joking aside , this is a serious point – facing a new technology and under time pressure from a queue behind you is an unpleasant experience. Many people choose to avoid it.

  121. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ L B Mike


    But in 1968, at the time of Ealing bus route conversion, it was OMO as women were not considered strong enough to drive buses plus other lame excuses for not letting it happen.

  122. Malcolm says:

    Oyster refunds from a machine! Well if a machine can be given the responsibility of deciding whether to trust the passenger when they say that their incomplete journey wasn’t to Outer Mongolia but only as far as (insert nearby station), then just what is the point of the Oyster system assuming Ulaan Bataar in the first place?

  123. timbeau says:

    “I don’t think that VBN would have lost out much from this scheme. Even if someone defaulted on the direct debit when time came for VBN to collect their dues, they would have only cancelled the card and made the punter pay for any future tickets the traditional way.”

    Certainly, but the attitude of the TOCs that all passengers are potential fare dodgers suggests that such a system would never be adopted over here. Or maybe Germans are less likely to try to cheat the system – observe them all patiently waiting for a “green man” crossing signal even when there is no traffic about!

  124. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – TfL are clearly headed towards the model you suggest with contactless bank cards (CBCs) and then a later conversion of Oyster to act as a “token” which generates transactions that TfL process later in their new back office computer system developed for CBCs. The later Oyster conversion phase is not yet approved as a project according to the approvals programme that TfL publish.

    At present the gate and card talk to each other and conclude the calculation for the fare due / validity confirmed and then update the Oyster card. In other words there is some “intelligence” at the time of using the system. With CBCs we move to daily multi modal capping early next year. The next phase is weekly capping that will have to deal with nuances like your Hampton Court day out in a fair and transparent way. Given the complexity of the fare structure and almost endless journey possibilities there are huge issues involved here in determining what any base validity (Z12 in your example) is and then what the “extras” are. This gets ever more complicated as you stretch out the validity period.

    As I have said before TfL will run an “account” for people who use TfL services including bus and rail travel, bike hire and congestion charge etc. Clearly that will be linked to a bank account and some way of the account holder authorising / confirm charges against their bank account. I would expect that when we get to the “dumbed down” Oyster stage that TfL may offer the traditional “buy a Travelcard for a month” or your suggestion of “travel as you like and TfL charges you the best value combination of daily / weekly / whatever prices”. Clearly this does not quite achieve what the London politicians are baying for in terms of “part time seasons” where I suspect the politicians do not want people charged a daily rate for three days – they’ll want 3 sevenths of the weekly price which is a different financial proposition altogether if you’re TfL or a TOC (due monies via apportionment processes). I think if we do move to innovative products then the pricing of them and their relationship to things like season tickets will be one of the most difficult issues to resolve given the parties involved.

    I am currently pondering what ticket to buy for next year (even without knowing the prices) as I am probably going to make a stonking loss on the annual ticket I currently have. I am sad enough to record all journeys and the single fares I’d have paid so can take a view on how well I’m doing in using up what I forked out.

  125. Si says:

    Don’t forget, Timbeau, that jaywalking is illegal in Germany, whereas waiting for the green man (and even crossing at a crossing) is merely advised in the UK.

    We only have the risk of being hit and unable to sue for damages if we don’t wait for the green – so will happily do it when we perceive it safe to do so. In Germany they risk getting fined, even if safe to cross on red, so they will obey.

  126. straphan says:

    @timbeau: The main reason why Germans (and most other nations) wait for the green man is because there exists an offence which the Americans call ‘jaywalking’, punishable with an on-the-spot fine. There is no British English equivalent for this term because… there is no such traffic offence in the UK! This is why pedestrians don’t bother looking at lights over here and also why I have to sing that wonderful Ozzie transport anthem “Dumb Ways to Die” as loud as I can muster every time I cycle past the pedestrian crossing at Bank in the morning (with a green light shining in MY face, not theirs…).

    @Graham H: I was not suggesting abolishing seasons at all. I was only suggesting that the higher discounts which are currently available to annual season holders are also made available to those, who do not have the good fortune of being able to fork the cash up-front or working in a company which gives you season ticket loans.

    This is different from the kilometre bank (I think Czech railways have something similar so I understand the concept – still can’t find reference to it on the SBB website) in that you do not really pre-pay for anything (much). All you do is use the standard PAYG mechanism of paying and getting your expenditure capped if you exceed a certain threshold within a certain period of time. The only innovation I am suggesting is that the cap applies not just to day travelcards, but to extend the capping mechanism to weekly, monthly, and annual travelcards. That allows those not-so-lucky the benefit of paying no more than an annual season for their years’ worth of commuting without the need to (a) fork out the money up front; or (b) change employer to one that gives them a loan. It also allows us to do away with the need to purchase season tickets and the subsequent plethora of options you have to navigate through at the ticket machine. All the options you would need at the ticket machine would be “buy an Oyster” and “top up my Oyster”. The system would ‘do the math’ for you. How complicated that ‘math’ would have to be is a separate question…

    All this does, however, come with the disbenefit of TfL not getting a large chunk of their revenue in one go. it could potentially also lead to a drop in revenue as people who have hitherto bought 52 weekly tickets (well, ok – 51 mostly since most don’t work at Christmas) or 12 monthly tickets will now pay only the equivalent of an annual travelcard over the course of the year. On the plus side, I think this would make the system much easier to use and would encourage people to travel more (especially off-peak), thereby possibly negating at least some of the revenue drop.

  127. REVUpminster says:

    In the past I worked as a supervisor. We worked alone around the clock except for 5 hours in the am peak when we had a part timer. We kept the ticket office open except for our meal relief and cashing up time and after 10pm. We often had to stop selling tickets to attend to an incident on the platform which could extend to travelling on a train or going down the track. What got to me in the end was that I would come to work and find the station unmanned and the keys at the next station and when my shift was over have to leave the keys at the next station as there was no one to take me off. At night some stations were never locked and this was a conscious decision of the duty manager. In other words for outer London stations these proposals are nothing that has not happened in practise.

  128. Ian J says:

    @Mike P: “That will be the challenge for TfL – getting a device that can display enough information in the right format yet give an 8-10+ hour battery life on pretty-near constant use. I think anyone who comes up with such a device should mint it.”

    Apple are indeed minting it. All the London Underground applications are likely to involve some kind of web interface to an internet application, and reviews indicate that you can indeed get 10 hours of web browsing from an iPad (eg. here:, even before you allow for plugging it in during breaks etc. and the fact that it won’t in fact be in constant use (as staff will be trying to get passengers to use the ticket machines as much as possible).

    As for why you would use a consumer tablet (be it Apple or Android) rather than ruggedised bespoke hardware: well an Avantix Mobile ticket machine costs about £2500 (see here: and that’s before you pay Atos Origin to develop the software you need, for which they will no doubt charge you an arm and a leg (and add a big risk to the project). You can afford to drop plenty of iPads at that cost.

    As for muggings, well, mugging someone in a place as flooded with high-quality CCTV as a tube station, to take a device which can be automatically tracked, and rendered useless remotely, would require a special kind of stupidness.

  129. Graham H says:

    @Straphan – no, actually I had understood earlier in this thread that you weren’t advocating the abolition of period seasons, and I thought I had acknowledged this. What I was trying to do was to understand your reasons for extending the discount to non-season users. So far, you – I hope I don’t put words into your mouth – have suggested others’ “good fortune”. Now there are arguments for using fares as a form of social engineering and for cheap fares for all (after all, why stop at discounts for multi-ride tickets -people on payday loans struggle to find the pelf needed to buy even a single fare) but these arguments have not been set out here yet. The essential difference between season discounts and the other forms of discounted travel that you suggest is that it is in the operators’ interest to introduce them; with the others that isn’t necessarily so because they cost the operator money that has to be found elsewhere. It’s a lot like saying that everyone should have “family size” prices even when buying an individual -sized small packet…

    BTW I suspect the reasons the Swiss are coy about advertising their kilometre bank scheme are much the same as the cloak of obscurity that ATOC draws over the “All-system” “BR” pass. (Currently priced at £10k, I believe)

  130. straphan says:

    @Walthamstow Writer: I am glad to see there is some movement in that direction. I also hope that Oyster Cards or some other physical form of ticket that is separate from a bank card will be retained? There are plenty of people without a bank account (and plenty more who get their bank card stolen/blocked) who use public transport in London… Also – TfL appears to me to be somewhat unrealistic with regard to uptake of CBCs. I have one, but I don’t really know anyone else who does. Also, despite Pret and M&S rolling out CBC terminals across most of their stores, I have yet to see anyone (but me – I love the convenience!) pay by contactless. This suggests to me this is a slightly more widespread problem.

    With regard to part-seasons, etc. – given the fact, that the system will be able to (and already can!) collect your entire journey history, the fare-setters will be able to set the price for these however they like. They could – say – give you a 10% discount if you made 6 peak journeys within a week. You are correct in saying that this will be a nightmare to agree and apportion, but when has revenue settlement ever been easy?

  131. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    ” cloak of obscurity that ATOC draws over the “All-system” “BR” pass. (Currently priced at £10k, I believe)”

    Not heard of this, unless you are referring to the all-line rover, priced at a slightly more reasonable £730 for 7 days, or £1073 for 14 days, itself not exactly trumpeted from the rooftops by ATOC, and emasculated by the recent decision of some operators, with more accountants than public relations staff, to restrict its use on Inter City services to and from London before 10am..

    (Is £10k for a whole year?)

  132. Greg Tingey says:

    No, NOT Walthamstow Central – the season-ticket renewal queues are “interesting”.

    “Technophobia” indeed
    Yesterday, on the way to pick up the Dec/Jan issues of “London Drinker” for distribution, I bought both “Modern Railways” & “Rail” at the LST Smiths’ …I tried to follow the machine instructions exactly, & it failed again – I was condescended to – & I pointed out that “It doesn’t work (again) – & I am following the instructions exactly (again)”
    So I paid direct to someone behind a counter. [ Again ]
    Grrrr ….

    CBC’s worry me, even though my debit-card is one.
    Was it you who said your Oyster got “slurped” on one occasion as you walked past? Not tinfoil hats, but tinfoil pockets. Could be interesting at “security” gates, such as Eurostar, couldn’t it?
    … & straphan
    Err … 3/5 of a weekly season, since seasons are calculated for a 5-day week.
    And, more like not 52 or 51 weeks, but 47 or 46, when 4 weeks’ annual leave + “Bank” holidays (& Yule) are taken into account

    That’s disgraceful. And hideously unsafe. It shouldn’t have happened then, & it should not happen now.
    Question – this is, surely, something the unions, especially TSSA (?) should be concerning themselves with?

    Ian J
    Unfortunately, that special stupidness exists ….

  133. straphan says:

    @Graham H: My argument for extending these facilities is one of fairness. Most people, who cannot afford to buy an annual season ticket already make enough journeys per year so that an annual season would have saved them money. As they cannot afford to fork out the cash up-front (or do not work somewhere they can get a loan) they pay a higher price per journey than those who can do so. Furthermore, the cost of the season ticket for those who take out a loan is lower still, as (from what I understand anyway) the instalments for the loan are deducted by the company from their base salary, i.e. before tax. This is what I consider unfair.

    Extending the capping over time to cover the whole range of tickets is also in the operators’ best interest. Making it simpler – and slightly cheaper – to use public transport will entice more people to use it (unless TfL would actually want to avoid this!), make more journeys, and lead to an increase in revenue – my educated guess anyway…

  134. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Straphan

    By your comments, you have reminded me of something which I have always wanted an answer to. Can anyone help??

    Years ago, Ken L’s administration instituted a “Fares Fair” regime. Tube fares went down, ridership increased. Bromley Council challenged it, won, so fares went up again, and ridership fell. Has anyone produced a chart or table showing/comparing ridership AND REVENUE before, during and after “Fares Fair”. I think there might be some lessons to be learned from it that would be relevant to the present day.

  135. MikeP says:

    @straphan – no, the capital repayments on the loan must be deducted from net income, otherwise the season ticket itself would be a benefit-in-kind (and therefore taxable).

    The exemption is on the loan interest – normally, an interest-free loan to an employee would be classified as a benefit-in-kind (with the benefit being the difference between the interest rate actually paid and the market interest payable, as determined by HMRC).

    Exceptionally, a season ticket loan is exempt from this.

  136. straphan says:

    @Mike P: thanks for clarifying this issue. I think I got confused between a season ticket loan and the Cycle Scheme. The Cycle Scheme loan is most certainly deducted from your base salary (i.e. before tax) which explains why cycle stores can get away with charging absolutely ridiculous prices for bikes and why every cycle commuter simply MUST get themselves a competition-ready road bike with all the trimmings.

    @Castlebar: I think there is enough research into fare elasticities in London (albeit some might need refreshing). What I am wondering is whether – given the severe pressure on the capacity of the tube system and the need for very costly infrastructure interventions – TfL would be very keen on reducing the yield per passenger journey, even if it increases revenue overall…

  137. Graham H says:

    @straphan – I’m afraid I think the question of fairness isn’t one for operators any more than it is for, say, supermarket owners. More for some means less for others and contrarywise – not a decision for a bus or rail undertaking. Put simply, reducing the fares for those less able to pay means either increasing it for those who can or increasing public subsidy; it’s a zero sum game.* There is, in any case, an enormous body of research that shows that the best way of helping poor people is to give them cash, not benefits in kind.

    *Actually. it isn’t precisely so if the numbers of poorer people travelling is increased because of cheaper fares, compared with a reduction in richer folk who now have to pay more and travel less – in that case, there is an increase in volume requiring more vehicles to shift the crowds at the v ery least.

  138. MikeP says:

    @Ian J – If iPad battery life is really that good in real-world use, why do so many people in our meeting rooms seek out mains sockets to charge their FondleSlabs ?? (usually by unplugging something vital, like all the AV gear in the room, rather than asking)

    Thanks to others for the correct names for ATOC gear – I must confess it seems I was thinking of SPORTIS. I paid no attention to the gear being used the last time I bought away from the ticket office, mostly because I was fuming at how stupid it was to have 2 guys issuing tickets from handheld machines as (presumably) they weren’t authorised to use the ticket office where the ticket issuing speed would have eliminated the stupidly long queue in no time….

    Before I became eligible for an annual loan (like before I’d completed my probationary period) I was paying the game of getting a season starting on a Monday and finishing on the Friday at the end of 5 working weeks, giving me 1 weekend in 5 that I wasn’t paying for. I figured that just maybe if I combined that with avoiding annual leave weeks, Xmas/New Year, etc., I might win over an annual season. But of course life’s never as organised as that, and add in the Oyster PAYG discount (which I use at least twice a month), discount for the good lady when we travel weekends (and holidays), and less hassle, it’s well worth it. Unless you lose it twice in one year. (not that I’ve done that. Yet.)

  139. ngh says:

    Re Staphan 12:41, 28 November 2013

    TfL would be very keen on reducing the yield per passenger journey, even if it increases revenue overall…
    would or wouldn’t???

    Off peak it could possibly make sense for TfL as it could bring in more revenue (which could be spent on capacity improvement?) and encourage more off peak travel if there is a choice, on peak as the passenger growth rates are higher than they can add capacity with minor schemes then not as the revenue won’t go up if you physically can’t squeeze any more passengers on…

    At some point the DfT national rail justification of above RPI prices to increase revenue for “investment” has to start paying off with increases in capacity coming on line???

  140. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ straphan
    I don’t disagree, but I would still like to see the actual figures.

    They MIGHT show a case for reducing fares only in zones 4 and upwards mid-day off-peak, where carriages are comparatively empty, to encourage more local journeys where otherwise there are mostly empty seats.

  141. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I have not had my debit card incorrectly charged by TfL as I never put it anywhere near a bus or tube reader.

    @ Castlebar – I can find LT modal ridership stats stretching back to the 1980s but nothing on revenue take. I suspect it will need access to old LT Annual Reports which are not on line. I think someone will have to find a good library that has them or else the LT Museum archive and then do some laborious research. Fares Fair was in operation for such a short period that it is very hard to draw any firm conclusions as to its efficacy. The ridership stats trend is peculiar but probably affected by the state of the economy in the early 80s. The introduction of Travelcard in 1983 really kick started patronage growth (alongside the economy doing better). I’d argue that Travelcard was by far the better legacy than cheap fares as it is still with us today and still popular.

    @ Straphan – there was a recent short article on the Mayorwatch blog that described the 5 stages of the TfL Future Ticketing Project. One of the later stages would change the Oyster card technology so that people still have a smartcard in their hand but it was not “intelligent” as the current one is. It would simply trigger transaction records as you entered a bus or station and TfL would process those transactions later and worl out any charges due or else reconcile the records to the product you had bought against that card. The card would not hold the ticket product itself from how I understand the proposal. I think what TfL is trying to do is to reduce or remove the “processing activity” that takes place between card and reader and removes the need to write back to the card. Clearly there are a load of practical issues around this which I expect TfL are still working on – one of which is the introduction of ITSO spec cards being able to be read on TfL kit. Clearly there will still be a need for readers to communicate intelligently with ITSO spec cards! So much for a common unified strategy but the DfT are paying so TfL have to implement it.

  142. MikeP says:

    I thought ITSO was a bit of a mess (well, it started in 1998 and is yet to really roll anything out on a reasonable scale, which says a lot). Little did I realise how much of a mess.

    Google coughed a presentation of indeterminate date telling us that card type CMD6 – Oyster – would be supported by ITSO. Then we find a doc from 2010 – – that if I read it correctly says that Oyster compatibility is being thrown under the bus. We also read that recent Oyster readers are ITSO-compliant, but that makes me wonder “Which ITSO ??”

    That’s what I love about standards, there are so many to choose from.

  143. straphan says:

    @Graham H: Of course it is not for the operators to decide questions of fairness. It is for politicians and transport authorities. Such as the Mayor and TfL. However, I am not proposing the introduction of a new ‘benefit’ – I am only proposing to provide existing benefits to all those who actually qualify for it.

    I also do not understand why you treat this matter as a zero-sum game. I think simplifying the way everyone pays for public transport would be overall generative in terms of total journeys and total revenue, but reduce the average yield by a small amount. Never mind the ‘PR benefits’ of having a simple and very easy to use ticketing system. Is that not something beneficial to the operator as well?

    Also, with regard to the issue of benefits overall: if we do talk of this in terms of an extra benefit, I would say extra Oyster credit (this is essentially what it amounts to) would come a close second to cash in terms of ubiquity…

    @Castlebar: You may be right, but we would have to make an allowance for the age of that data – Fares Fair was implemented in 1981 – travel patterns have changed a fair bit since then.

    @Walthamstow Writer: Given that TfL’s current target for the ‘decision time’ (i.e. time from touching the Oyster on the reader to finalising or rejecting the transaction) of the system is 0.5 seconds, I support the move – the less data gets transferred between card and reader the better…

  144. Abe says:

    I’d much rather have politicians who are capable and willing to change their views, so long as they explain why, rather than those who dogmatically stick to a position because “it was in the manifesto” (but I have no time for those who just change because of media pressure). Times change, technology improves, and customer behaviour alters, so it makes sense to look at what is possible. By announcing the consultation now, TfL is able to gather the views of both its staff and its passengers and take the time to use feedback to get what will hopefully be the right solution. Media crowing that “Boris has reversed his position” now, or potentially that “TfL have reversed course” if they decide to retain a few ticket offices is pointless and unhelpful. We should applaud those who consider change and don’t bow to media and political pressure.

  145. Graham H says:

    @Straphan – let’s take this in easy stages:

    – “provide existing benefits to all those who actually qualify for it”. To “qualify” for “benefits” you have to buy in advance at present. That is the only way you can “qualify” for it; no one else does “actually” qualify for it. You are proposing to extend the qualification. So you must be able to say, firstly, why, and secondly, whether that is the most sensible way of doing it/spending the money.
    -“benefit” – it’s not a “benefit” like a social security handout – it’s a deal: lend us your cash and we’ll give you a kickback. Benefits don’t work like that; they are handed out as of right. No one has any sort of right to a”deal”, however.
    -“zero sum game”. If you are an operator, you have to cover your costs. If you charge one class of punters less, you have to find the balancing amount from somewhere else. In the case we are talking about, there are two, and only two options: raising the fares for those not receiving the “benefit” extension, or asking for more public money. For sure, lower fares for those who will receive the “benefit extension” will have some generative effect but it will also encourage, through the normal price elasticity mechanism, more punters to travel at peak times. That will call up extra costs in the form of more train capacity and ultimately more lines. Assuming thaTt the fares elasticity within the Oyster area is about the same as it is for NR commuter services generally, extending a 25% fares discount to everyone, will create a hike in volume of about 12 1/2% – not an insignificant amount to find room for.
    -“fairness” – the same logic which argues for discounted fares for irregular users leads, ineluctably, to reduced fares for those who buy single tickets (these are likely to include the poorest in society who cannot afford to buy even a multiday ticket. Why exclude them? Unfair or what?). When everyone has a “benefit” all you have done is reduce the revenue base.
    -“benefits for operators” – of course the punters like simple ticketing and I fully share that view, but operators – not necessarily. That is why fares have become more, not less, complicated and new technology is only encouraging them, alas. And it’s not just fares; any perusal of current marketing and pricing developments shows very clearly that all manner f suppliers of goods and services would dearly love to tailor the price and service offer to the individual punter.
    -“ubiquity” of Oyster nearly as good as cash? Hardly. There are, even now, plenty of indigent folk who don’t use public transport at all, either because they can’t, or can’t afford to, or don’t need to. Getting “benefits” to them in form of cash is a much less regressive form of welfare.. The same point relates to all other benefits in kind – concessionary bus fares (no use to those who don’t have a bus….), free television licences for the elderly, and so on.

  146. Anon5 says:

    I think the reason we don’t have jay-walking laws here goes back to the introduction of the red and green man crossings which faced opposition in Parliament from politicians worried it would impede on an Englishman’s right to roam. The compromise was to make the red man suggestive not compulsory. Australians who stand open-mouthed at us crossing the road whenever we like are just as surprised to learn we have historic public rights of way across private land.

  147. Kit Green says:

    In the medium distant past, even before red and green men, most (all?) controlled crossings were at road junctions. Since the earliest Highway Code pedestrians and horses have had right of way over vehicles at road junctions. I presume this is the history of why pedestrian lights are advisory.

  148. Ian J says:

    @MikeP: “why do so many people in our meeting rooms seek out mains sockets to charge their FondleSlabs”?

    You’ll have to ask them. Actually, talking to users and understanding their needs is always a good idea for anyone involved in IT, and sadly a rare ocurrence (your reference earlier to “lusers” speaks volumes).

  149. Fandroid says:

    To put some perspective on the debate about smartcards, I commend the LR Commentariat to read the letters pages of the December Modern Railways. There, a reader describes his experiences with the TWO smartcards he has to carry to travel on the various Nottingham buses and trams. So much for a unified national system. When he described the local reality to a Swedish expert his reaction was ‘that’s not smartcard that’s dumbcard!’ . All a reflection of our government’s blinkered love of ‘efficiency driven by competition’.

  150. stimarco says:

    @MikeP: those “fondleslabs” might (a) not be iPads – most tablets out in the wild are cheap, cut-rate models running some flavour of Google’s Android system – and (b) not need a charge. No computer can compensate for the ignorance of its owner. iPads can, and do, achieve 10 hours of battery life. This has been proved independently in any number of reviews.

    However, I doubt that iPads will be rolled-out. This sort of infrastructure tends to be leased from a contractor who will usually want to offer a complete turnkey system of hardware, software and, if necessary, ruggedisation. That means either Android, a Windows device, or some such. (iPads might be possible too, but Apple aren’t really interested in corporate sales. They’re very much a consumer-focused company.)

    Just providing full WiFi coverage for each and every Tube station to support these devices will be an expensive process in its own right. Chances are the contractor hired to provide that will also be responsible for either providing or specifying the handheld units that connect to it.

    “All a reflection of our government’s blinkered love of ‘efficiency driven by competition’.”

    That love is also a spectacularly ignorant one. Efficiency is not driven by competition. Quite the contrary, in fact, as anyone who’s ever seen, let alone used, the rail network south of the Thames can attest.

    All this talk of fare systems and revenues misses an important point: we’re assuming that paying at the point of use makes sense in the first place. Given that public transport serves primarily to bring workers to the businesses where they work, and that without the infrastructure, said businesses would simply be unable to function, there is a clear case for said businesses to foot the bill, rather than their workers. After all, it’s the businesses who choose where to set themselves up.

    The UK’s business economy could easily fund all these networks entirely through taxation instead. Why should workers pay for the privilege of travelling to their employers’ worksites? There’s no earthly reason in this day and age why a bank or other finance institution should concentrate all its offices in the centres of major cities.

    (And, yes, there are existing examples of such systems.)

    For visitors and tourists, simply offer a limited set of Travelcard-type options. (I.e. 1 day, 7 day and 1 month passes.) For regulars, an Oyster-type card that is limited solely to providing journey data for planning and research would suffice, although facial recognition is arguably good enough if you want to remove the expense of managing those cards entirely.

  151. Snowy says:


    Completely forgot whilst contemplating the hardware & software options that I’d forgotten to think how they would be linked to the system! Thanks stimarco.

    Presumably above ground stations could use normal 3/4G signal without wifi infrastructure but there must be many examples of others where this wouldn’t work.

    Virgin have rolled out wifi at several stations but will TfL have to negotiate for access or will a new system be required? I can’t even remember if the signal extends to the booking hall or just the platforms! Or does TfL already have it’s own wifi system in place? Anyone know?

  152. Chris says:

    The Virgin Media wi-fi *is* the TfL wi-fi system. As well as allowing customers to browse Facebook while waiting for trains, its objective is to provide staff with up-to-the-minute communications and updates.

    So the roll-out of iPads or other tablets/smartphones is part and parcel of the roll-out of wi-fi in Tube stations.

    Part of the announcement this week was that wi-fi will be extended to all underground Underground stations to complete this process.

  153. ngh says:

    Re Snowy 10:53, 29 November 2013

    I raised the Wifi issue over 80 posts further up and was a little surprised no one bit then.
    3G/4G can be blocked in requested by Police etc. in emergencies (post Madrid) which wouldn’t be ideal for TfL, so presumably the primary choice will be WiFi as it also keeps all the data within the TfL system especially as they already have good wired comms to all the stations.
    Making sure the wifi works reliably when the stations are full of passengers (especially if they are carrying lots of metallic objects like folded brollies if it has been raining.) is a lot harder than making sure it works when installing it while the station is empty and there aren’t trains running at night…

  154. stimarco says:


    4G and WiFi – possibly a mix of both – are the most likely technologies. (Possibly 5G, if the rollout timeline is long enough.) My money’s on WiFi though: it’s generally easier to work with. A single router could cover an entire rural two-platform station with ease. Install WiFi on the trains themselves too and those roving supervisors mentioned in the article will be able to stay in touch at all times.

    (Note: GSM-R, which is based on the older ‘2G’ mobile phone technology, is already in use for voice communications across much of the UK’s rail network. However, this has similar bandwidth to an old dial-up modem, so it’s no use for our purposes. In any case, the GSM-R network is a key safety feature that should be kept entirely separate from other systems.)

    The key will be the backhaul, for which the only viable candidate is fibre-optic cabling across the network to link everything up to the data centres. (At least two such centres would be preferable, not just for basic resilience, but also for backups and general network security: you really don’t want the system going down for long periods!) Luckily, TfL have an awful lot of very large, roughly circular, ‘ducts’ under London’s streets.

    What you then nail onto that fibre-optic cable backbone should be modular enough that replacement and upgrading is easy to do. WiFi tends to get a new version every few years; for users, upgrading to the latest WiFi technology is usually just a matter of swapping out the router and upgrading the computer or tablet you use to connect to it. That makes upgrading TfL’s stations to cope with WiFi technology upgrades relatively easy: just replace the routers dotted around the stations.

    One unusual side-effect of WiFi improvements is that each step up also improves reception.

    London’s Tube tunnels also have another problem: space. There simply isn’t a lot of room, so you’ll need to fit lots and lots of tiny antennas (the “pico” and “micro” class radio frequency – “RF” — enhancers mentioned in the article linked below).

    This article gives a brief insight into what’s involved, but consider that Rome’s Metro has just two lines (with one short branch on the older* Line B). The tunnels are built to much later standards than London’s older Tube tunnels, with greater clearances too. Even so, fitting out both of Rome’s metro lines took about a year. London has a hell of a lot more network to fit out.

    Compared to this, the choice of iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, or even bespoke tablet hardware barely even registers on the overall budget. Installing that infrastructure will cost millions. The price of buying enough iPads for all the station staff won’t even cover the mortgage on a small flat in South London.

  155. Paying Guest says:

    @ Stimarco – “This sort of infrastructure tends to be leased from a contractor who will usually want to offer a complete turnkey system of hardware, software and, if necessary, ruggedisation”. – and TfL would be crazy not to require a turnkey solution with responsibility for meeting overall system performance goals placed squarely on the contractor. Otherwise this type of project is the classic breeding ground for “it’s not my network at fault; it’s the wrong sort of tablet” get outs and vice versa.

  156. stimarco says:

    I had no idea TfL already had WiFi infrastructure. I must have missed that…

    Looking at TfL’s own website, it’s clear Virgin have simply installed routers linked to their existing cable infrastructure as only stations are covered; the tunnels (and trains) are not.

    Given TfL’s desire to have roving supervisors, getting something working in those tunnels is a must. What if a train carrying a supervisor is held up in service? I know the drivers have access to voice communications, but that’s hardly an ideal backup and it cannot transmit (much) data either.

    TfL will need to roll out a system-wide data network if they’re really serious about this.

  157. stimarco says:

    (Oops: I forgot to expand on my asterisk in my earlier post…)

    * Rome’s Metro Line B was actually the first to be built, with the initial part of the line opening in 1955; Line A’s core was opened in 1980. The reason for this naming oddity is that both lines were originally planned way back in the 1930s, with some initial work on Line B beginning during this period. The oldest part of Line B, being mostly on the surface, was built first as it was much easier and cheaper to build.

  158. Snowy says:

    @ ngh

    So you did, apologies. I thought along the lines of passengers using it only rather than making the leap to the fact that staff would need to use it as well.

    Presumably keeping staff in front of the gates to assist allows a minimum number of routers to support staff reducing the need for extra tunnel infrastructure to keep costs down initially. As for role out network wide I have a vague memory of the W&C being used as a trial for wifi however having not been on it for ages, I cant remember if it was the platforms or the whole system!

  159. straphan says:

    @stimarco: none of the examples you quoted have a transport infrastructure anywhere near as complex and expensive to maintain. So far Tallinn has been the largest city to offer free public transport, and I would love to see what happens when they need to buy new vehicles, do major reconstruction, or build new routes – it will be pure cost, no revenue…

    @Graham H: I think it’s clear this is a matter of policy and philosophy, and that we both have differing views on the matter. Also, you seem to approach the matter as if TfL was a for-profit operator. It is neither – it is a local-authority run authority which has a prominent role to play in terms of policy setting and execution.

    In any case, I think it’s somewhat futile to continue to debate which system is fairer than the other, so I propose to establish a list of differences, agree to disagre, and restrict ourselves to discussing the practical implications of extending capping.

    So here goes:
    – ‘extension of qualification’: I always thought the point of a season ticket was to provide a discount to the most frequent users of a service in order for them to use more of it. This was provided in the form of a season ticket, because in the ‘old’ days it was nigh impossible to register how many trips someone actually made and it was difficult to refund them. Now that this is all possible at a touch of a card there is no point to inconvenience the passenger by forcing them to pay for their transport up-front. And since TfL is a politically-led body, I think they should consider the implications their policies have on public transport users and Londoners in general.

    – ‘benefit vs deal’: I never said anyone has a right to a particular benefit or deal. What I am asking is whether it is right to ask poorer people to pay more for their commute? As a transport authority, TfL is the right addressee of such questions.

    – ‘zero-sum game’: I do follow your argument, but I do not agree that normal elasticities apply here. Most of the people affected already commute – they will only be paying less for journeys they already make. There will be some increases as a result of people making more journeys off-peak (e.g. those that use PAYG currently), but I don’t think there will be that many in the peak. Maybe with the exception of those who switch from the bus to rail (national rail and underground) because they will now be able to afford to do so.

    – ‘fairness’ – the concept of fairness is a subjective one and we appear to have different ones.

    – ‘benefits to operators’ – given the fact, that the fares system now has a bucketload of data to play with, we can differentiate fares offers more than before and it is much easier to do so. What I am trying to point out is that it is now possible to take the decision away from the punter and let the system calculate the best possible option. The current system makes the punter responsible for making a decision regarding the fare they pay, and then forces them to live with the consequences – like Walthamstow Writer, who apparently is losing out on his annual season. Whilst WW won’t really be deterred from using public transport in the future, others may get fed up and switch modes. As an operator or authority you can say it’s their own fault for not ‘doing the math’. But is that really a customer-focused reaction?

    – ‘ubiquity’: point taken. I prefer to take the view that ‘every little helps’, but that is again a difference of opinion.

  160. Fandroid says:

    To continue the thread started by straphan. His proposal of taking the Oyster capping process beyond the daily Travelcard limit and extending it to weekly, monthly and annual seasons makes a lot of sense. However, I see problems for the operator in the complexity of sorting out a varied travel pattern into the right ‘season’. The computer in the back office make make exactly the right call, but the Oystercard holder might be completely mystified by the consequent financial adjustments that the back-office computer carries out several weeks/months down the line. If the individual punter attempts to reconcile the cost adjustments against his/her (rusty) travel records, then it could cost the operator a lot of time answering queries.

    However if a punter knows reasonably well what his likely commuting pattern is going to be (and every season ticket purchaser has to do that currently), he/she could be asked to input that info online at the start and even make a choice between weekly/monthly/annual capping, with a possible option to extend the period as time goes on. Then the reconciliation job would be a lot less mysterious. I’m sure there are potentially more ways of making this work, but if it were introduced, then starting with a modification of the existing system would help customer understanding.

    How this might fit with contactless payments is another whole can of worms!

  161. Graham H says:

    @straphan – yes, let’s agree to disagree (in fact, I do agree that policy is a matter for the GLA, not TfL). Just on a factual point, tho’, even operators in the public sector have a statutory duty to balance the books “taking one year with another” as the Parliamentary draftsman puts it. We wrote that into the 1984 Act as with all its predecessors; were it not so, then the operators could run up huge deficits without any chance of repaying them/ succumb to political pressure to run down the assets to pay for cheap fares. (As if any politician would stoop so low…)

  162. Littlejohn says:

    straphan 14:50 raises an interesting point about a subject on which I have sometimes pondered – what is the purpose of a season ticket? Is it as straphan suggests ‘to provide a discount to the most frequent users of a service in order for them to use more of it’? While this might be a reason for the purchaser to buy one it is unlikely to be the reason that the operator provides it. For the operator the ideal is surely a season ticket with minimal use. Is it because of some vague notion of getting a discount for bulk buying? I have an idea that in some operations (Paris in the early 60s?) if you bought a strip of pre-paid tickets/carnets it cost less than buying them individually. Or is it because when you buy a season ticket you pay for it up front, so the operator has the use of your money for up to a year before you make the journey? If it is this one then the discount ought to be greatest when the cost of borrowing is highest, as the operator can invest your money and reduce his own borrowing requirement. Does anyone have any thoughts or inside knowledge?

  163. Fandroid says:

    Littlejohn. There must be some commercial trade-off in that seasons dramatically reduce the ticket selling overheads. Even supporting ticket machines must be a fairly costly business. It’s the conundrum that seasons are strongly connected to peak travel (so is a discount appropriate?) that really must keep the heads being scratched. Off-peak seasons ? Now you’re talking!

  164. Littlejohn says:

    @Fandroid. Yes, thanks. Savings on the cost of selling tickets should have been my 4th option but I forgot to include it. My only excuse is that I live close to Newbury Racecourse. This is Hennessy Gold Cup weekend and the tannoy is very intrusive today (adverse weather conditions).

  165. Graham H says:

    @Littlejohn – I suspect the explanation of the origin of season discounts lies in history as much as anything. In the nineteenth century, operators offered seasons (as, for example, the Met) to build the traffic. The puzzle is as to why this didn’t change when the traffic built up. Certainly, the Southern’s pre-War attitude hinged on protecting and nurturing the season market. Certainly, there is the point about the punter lending them money up front and in an era of stable interest rates such as the nineteenth and earlier twentieth century, fiddling with the discount rate to reflect interest movements wasn’t worthwhile. Now, of course, the thing is politically well embedded and a wise politician leaves well alone.

    More subtly, I think there have been changing views over the last century and a half about cost allocation.. If you asked a nineteenth century railway manager whether the peak cost more per passenger mile than the off peak, I very much doubt if they could have answered you. Even between the wars, rail, tram and bus operators’ behaviour suggested that they didn’t think there was a significant difference. After the war, the concept of marginal costing and heroic attempts to allocate out the entire costs of running the railway (insofar as people knew/understood what those were) led to the general assumption that peak travel consumed more resources pro rata and so was less profitable. In NSE, I decide to challenge that and found, when looking at our business and operating structure that the peak more than covered its cost in terms of revenue, but the off-peak (which also had significantly discounted fares) didn’t. One of the reasons for this was that there was a large body of cost which was attributable neither to peak nor to offpeak but simply to the cost of the railway’s existence. If anything, that has probably worsened with the recapitalisation of the industry at privatisation. Marginal trains are very cheap to run provided they don’t call up any extra infrastructure. Indeed, about one third of NR’s costs would arise even if they didn’t run a single train, and another third wouldn’t vary directly with the volume of service.

    There are also the cost of sales arguments, as you say, although presumably these get weaker with the (slow) spread of new distribution channels. [Never managed to persuade colleagues to sell seasons by post/courier, alas]

    I think (stress the word) that what this means now is that the argument for season discounts has come back to the money lending argument. Short term and overnight rates are very attractive and it is right in terms of the theory of regulating monopolies such as a commuter railway, that such cost/revenue effects should be reflected in pricing. [You don’t really want me to rabbit on about that, I’m sure…]

  166. peezedtee says:

    Barry Doe in his column in RAIL magazine regularly points out that season tickets make no sense in terms of market economics. Their holders travel very largely in the peaks, because those who travel off-peak can get a cheap off-peak return, or whatever they are called nowadays. So we are giving a discount to peak-time users, even though (he says, though Graman H now seems to be contesting this) it is the peaks that determine the operator’s costs, most notably the cost of providing quite a lot more rolling stock than would be required if there were no peak and much of which lies idle the rest of the day. Therefore in Doe’s view the season ticket should if anything cost more, not less. (This is of course a “bean counter” view rather than a “public service” view.)

  167. Graham H says:

    @peezedtee – it is Doe that is so retro! Basically, the point is that although here are extra costs (as you say) associated with the peak, the revenue is very much higher than the off-peak. The reason for this is that in the brave new railway, only about 10-20% of the costs are caused by the extra peak asset requirement (if that), whereas, the peak revenue is about 100-150% higher. The thing is that in excess of 70 % of all rail costs are fixed or vary only slightly with time of day and location. The vast bulk of rail costs are either not attributable to running the train service (for example, over 1/3 of NR’s costs are debt service) or cannot be attributed to a particular area or time. We used to believe what Doe believes and the result was the Beeching Plan… The “public service view” as you say is that Beeching should have asked the question “Why do we subsidise the railways?” He would have come up with a very different proposal if that had been his brief.

  168. Fandroid says:

    Ah but the savage capitalist would test the elasticity of demand by reducing the season ticket discount factors until at least either the trains ceased to be overcrowded or the total income dropped. The balance point might be at 80% seat occupancy! Brave politician needed to try that one out at his next press conference!

  169. timbeau says:

    I am reminded of Yerkes’ point that the straphangers are the railway’s profit margin. Off peak frequencies may be less than peak hour, but load factors are much higher. Most railways couldn’t make their way (and certainly their building couldn’t be justified) on the basis of off peak traffic levels, without the crush loaded peak hour services subsiding them. Yes, we’re getting a discount, but there’s an awful lot of us!

    And much of the discount reflects the fact that the ticket isn’t actually used every day – the discount on an annual is approximately six weeks’ worth – with annual leave, bank holidays, maybe the odd day off sick or away on business, that’s not such a discount after all is it?

  170. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – and that, presumably is where Regulator Man enters… (Actually, your savage capitalist would price up his monopoly until the ROC was maximised. That might mean quite a small railway system, I suppose. Indeed, there was actually a Swiss railway company – the predecessor of the SudOstBahn, whose investors decided that they had earned enough from their capital and simply closed the railway and wound up the company, moving their capital somewhere else more lucrative…)

    Note to LBM – ROC = Return on Capital

  171. Graham Feakins says:

    @Littlejohn – Having ‘always’ been a Southern (Region) season ticket holder, it is easy to explain the incentive to the user. A monthly season was cheaper than 4 weeklies, a quarterly was cheaper than three monthlies, whilst an annual was cheaper than four quarterlies, resulting in some six weeks’ discount over the year as compared with the equivalent weeklies. Add-on days to the season were charged pro rata. During industrial disputes with no trains, seasons were automatically extended by the number of days of disruption. All attractive features for the commuter.

  172. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @Fandroid – from what I understand TfL will certainly get as far as weekly capping for people using CBCs in the relatively near future. Your observation about working out the “right season” element and what trips lie beyond that (and would be charged as fare extensions) is, to my mind, the biggest challenge given TfL’s “best value” commitment that exists with PAYG already. There are clearly lots of other challenges in getting a new system to work and we’ll see how that pans out in due time. I see from an article in the Standard that the launch of CBCs on rail modes is now back to early Summer – that’s about 4 months later than the last estimate. The passenger trial which TfL are recruiting for now is the next immediate stage in the project.

    Through acceptance of ITSO spec smartcards issued by TOCs by TfL ticketing equipment (gates etc) is also due in the New Year. Southern have got as far as Victoria and London Bridge with their Key Smartcard which means readers on their equipment can read Oyster and ITSO cards.

    @ Straphan – Graham H has beaten me to it but all the transport companies in the public sector have a duty to balance their books. This places a constraint on them *and* on the politicians as to what they can do. This is very evident from the repeated statements from Boris that he cannot fund (i.e. resolve the zero sum game) from introducing bus to bus transfer tickets, part team season tickets or early bird discounted seasons. He has turned all of these down flat in recent weeks and months despite some of his Tory Assembly members now supporting such initiatives. He always cites the problem of funding the inevitable loss of income from introducing these schemes. TfL have tightened the rules on peak / off peak fare calculations, caps and removed non Z1 caps over recent years to build up the revenue take in subtle ways that rarely make “headline news”. There is possibly not a huge lot more that be derived from doing those sorts of things but we’ll see soon enough for 2014 (here’s hoping the news emerges next week). The loss of revenue grant from government poses risks to TfL’s budget in coming years so not diluting the revenue base is extremely important given pressure not to push up fares too much. Boris has had his RPI+2% formula unilaterally overridden by Government which has narrowed his room for manoeuvre over several years despite some compensating income from the DfT.

  173. ngh says:

    Ending the season discounts would be almost certain electoral suicide, besides anyone like to guess the season ticket (loan) uptake in HMT? 🙂

    Nationally TOC season ticket revenue was £1.890bn in the FY 12-13 (mostly in London and SE) with the discount being equivalent to £230-250m nationally??

    HMT might actually take a more positive macro view of the discounts than LR commenters looking through the micro(scope) might think. Removing the discount will reduce (or even eliminate) passengers’ discretionary spending sucking a lot of cash out of the economy (at least £100m a year on the most conservative of estimates in the Southeast before TfL added in) with all the multiplicative knock on effects as the money flows round the economy with the government taking it share on successive occasions. It could lead to inflationary wage pressures making the UK even less economically competitive than our neighbours (the existing high housing costs in London and the SE don’t help competitiveness either it is all).
    There will be plenty of other potential changes that could suck money out of potential consumers hands that are on HMT’s radar screen looming much bigger and that keeping the discount helps alleviate. Potentially the biggest being the changes post FSA mortgage market review that have effectively ended interest only mortgages with virtually all new owner occupation lending being repayment mortgages (London and the South East over index on interest only mortgages). Nationally assuming constant property prices over time this will suck £1.8-2bn a month out of (discretionary?) consumer spending (total retail spending is about £80bn a month) or saving. Each percentage point rise in Bank of England interest rates takes out about £1.1bn a month in extra interest payments away from consumers (passengers). [Look very carefully at the non sound bite parts of Carney and Osborne’s relevant speeches lately, also see Carney’s interview in tomorrow (Saturday’s) Guardian]

    The current DfT /HMT approach seems to align with Graham H. in that grabbing revenue is from unregulated mainly long distance fares where there is competition from air/coach / car. Subsidising commuter rail fares is cheaper than building roads to accommodate everyone driving instead – it all depends how you frame the analysis (the current example of this might be that electrifying Southampton-Oxford-MML for container freight is cheaper than adding a 3rd lane to the A34…)

  174. AlisonW says:

    The big reason why the availability of season tickets for peak time travellers matters so much is that the system could not cope with the pressure of issuing that many tickets so fast; there is a direct saving in the overheads of ticket office staff or machine maintenance. That the holder gets 7-day travel, or multiple journey options in a single day are, for many users, an unused feature. Season ticket = fast throughput (especially in the morning). A similar argument applies to the sale of return tickets below the cost of two singles (indeed, sometimes below the cost of *one* single!)

  175. MikeP says:

    @IanJ. Indeed, I do ask them. In fact, I don’t need to. They tell me. It’s because of the time they’ve been using them without charging them, leading to them not having enough charge to complete their work unless they’re plugged in.

    My “luser” comment was ironic. Along with the Molesworth langauge. I know the written word can lead to the loss of ferrous content, so my apologies for that. For the avoidance of doubt, the graphic user interface has been a major factor in increasing the accessibility of computing gear, and a decent touchscreen interface has catapulted it further. Some types bemoan the fact that we’ve got all this increased computing power doing nothing more than whizzy graphics when the good old character-mode systems were soooo much more efficient. When I say it, it’s tongue-in-cheek, because investing computing power in usability is absolutely the right thing to do. Once we can chat away to the kit, and it chats back, even more compute power will be invested in that sector.

  176. MikeP says:

    @Fandroid Off-peak seasons ? Isn’t that the famous “Ticket to Ryde” ?? With the added benefit that the season payment is a fraction of the total cost….

  177. Transport Insider says:

    On the topic of TfL’s poor change management capability – the company is now trying to change pay and reward for junior staff which involves a variable degree of pay and weakens the pension. This is at a time when they might be needing the same Head Office staff to help customers during tube strikes. A stupid tactic beyond belief.

    Mind the so called “senior managers” (i.e. not Sir Peter and Directors) were told after the Games that they had a done a great job- and that their pay would be frozen. For a fifth year running…

  178. Mark Townend says:

    A large discount price break over daily peak fares is obtained buying weeklies. For example a check on BR Fares:!fares?orig=RDG&dest=1072
    reveals the current weekly standard season from Reading to London Terminals is £99.40. The daily peak anytime day return fare is £41.20 so the weekly is a little under 2.5 x the daily fare, and could give up to 7 days unlimited travel over the permitted network of routes. That is a tremendous bargain really, and I think a big question is whether that high level of discount should cut in fully at the weekly purchase or be incremented more smoothly across a wider range of bulk buy options and capping plans, and that might include a small reduction in the single purchase daily fare.

  179. Fandroid says:

    AlisonW. Discounts on offpeak returns are an oddity of the UK rail system. They don’t exist in Germany, and we had a German visitor once who failed to understand that concept and paid just about twice what she should have done. Mind you, I haven’t found any peak/offpeak fares in Germany either. There are just some time restrictions on some day tickets (Travelcard equivalents). UK discounted returns only exist to a limited extent for Anytime Returns and I suspect the discounts there are an acceptance that travellers will just buy singles if their return journey is not during a restricted time. I’m guessing, but I suspect that offpeak day returns were invented to get new people to travel on the trains at times when they would otherwise be empty- ie encouraging leisure-oriented day trippers, rather than people whose journey was a necessity. So really just a marketing concept to fill all those empty seats. I doubt that the savings on ticket office overheads played much of a part in their creation.

  180. Anonymous says:

    Ealing West?

  181. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Anonymous 12:35

    Mornington Crescent!

  182. Anonymous says:

    One difference between the machines and the counter is that the machines don’t take either 1p, 2p or 5p. Will this be rectified? If would seem very wrong to deny someone who has the exact money the right to travel.

  183. REVUpminster says:

    yearly season tickets used to be based on 40 times the weekly rate. ie £15 a week = £600 per annual. With most people then only getting 3/4 weeks holiday it was good value.

  184. A Nonnymouse says:

    I find that the Railway Children collecting boxes take 1p, 2p and 5p. It’s very difficult to get change from them though. Will this be rectified?

  185. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Revupminster. AFAIK there is no obvious pricing relationship between day fares (single or returns) and a 7 day season. A monthly ticket is 3.84 times the 7 day price. An annual, as your rightly say, is 40 times the 7 day rate. London Travelwatch did some research earlier this year and very few people had any idea that an annual gives 12 weeks “free” and that is also gives Gold Card benefits in the London & South East area. As someone else remarked further up it would be a brave politician who fiddles about with these pricing multipliers even if there is a perception that season tickets are “too cheap” in the context of costs (and yes I have seen Mr H’s very interesting comments about cost vs revenues in the peak).

  186. Greg Tingey says:

    it would be a brave politician who fiddles about with these pricing multipliers Which is why some people are getting so exited about the posible loss of “direct” seasons in Z2,3,4,5,6 along the Chingford & Enfield barnches.

  187. Anonymous2 says:

    Weekly capping.
    OK, firstly I have a railcard. Are they proposing to link railcards to CBCs, or just do away with the discount altogether??

    I did not travel yesterday or the 2 days before. My journeys for the next 8 days will be:
    Sunday (today): Z5-2 single – £1
    Monday-Saturday: multiple journeys within Z2-5 daily
    next Sunday: two buses – £2.80

    Obviously, I will be getting a Z2-5 travelcard from Monday to Sunday, and using PAYG for my single trip today. I would wager that an automatic weekly cap would overcharge me by £1.80. Even if I didn’t have a railcard, that would be £1.20 overcharged.

    There are even more complicated scenarios, which I currently have to work out every month due to my irregular work shifts (e.g. if I start and finish during off peak, it may be cheaper not to get a travelcard for that week/month in part due to railcard) AND my irregular place of work.

    I enjoy this kind of stuff so I don’t mind working it out. 2 years ago, I was quite proud when I calculated that I would save 20p by having 3 overlapping travelcards for one day! However I had already lost out a bit by underestimating my leisure travel, which caused me to miss one zone off my (at the time) annual travelcard.

    Actually, the fact that seasons can be started any day of the year is a nice feature of TfL / UK rail fares. Many cities (e.g. Hong Kong, Toronto) have monthly pass options which coincide with a calendar month, and in the case of HK you can only buy it during the fortnight around the 1st of each month.

  188. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The thing is that in excess of 70 % of all rail costs are fixed or vary only slightly with time of day and location

    This would seem to be entirely consistent with a pie chart shown by Southern Region many years ago in one of their commuter handouts. The allocated costs as: track one-half the total costs and trains, signalling, stations each amounting for one-sixth of the cost. Allowing nowadays for stations being a mix of staffing (TOC) and infrastructure (mainly NR) and the portions would seem entirely consistent.

    This seemed to be the point that Beeching grasped and tried to tackle. Without subsidies it was only going to go one way. The collary of this is that if you believe that railways and social mobility is basically a good thing then the only sensible thing to do is maximise the benefit of these assets – even if you increase your absolute losses – by using them to the benefit of society. As investment on the London Overground shows, a large investment means overall subsidy goes up but subsidy per passenger goes significantly down. So, providing the demand is there and can be provided with existing assets, it is near on madness to only provide a half hour service in the evening on lines like Victoria – Orpington seen from the wider picture of society in general even if a more frequent service does not cover its fixed costs.

  189. Graham H says:

    @PoP – indeed, one of the key features of railway costs (and probably those of any other infrastructure based sector, such as the ESI) is “step functions” in cost. As you say, you can go on adding, for example, extra trains at marginal cost until you reach the point where you trigger more track and signalling. Provided that doesn’t happen, the marginal cost of running extra trains is quite-to-very low. For amusement, I calculated (this was in 1996), the cost of a marginal LTS train off peak at around £55 and a GATEX marginal off-peak train at £15.40. (Shades of Sherlock Holmes in which “special trains” could be summoned and almost immediately boarded, and paid for on the spot – no, I don’t intend to look into whether the LBSC kept a loco and coaches on hot standby…). The point is slightly clouded these days by the mileage-related leasing deals that some TOCs have, which leads to “perverse” train formations, but the principle is still right.

    Of course, the whole question as to what is really at the margin is entirely dependent on the highly artificial cost structure in the industry since privatisation, although to be fair, that is no different to the equally artificial cost structure before 1997 . There probably isn’t any “true” costing system for any industry which has a lot of shared assets – it all depends on why you are asking the question. (O for Q may be the best attempt so far, however).

  190. ML says:

    But the trade off changes when the infrastructure and/or train usage is at its limit, when the marginal cost of providing for extra peak travellers will be sky high, but the marginal cost of extra off-peak travellers is minimal

  191. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “Shades of Sherlock Holmes in which “special trains” could be summoned and almost immediately boarded, and paid for on the spot – no, I don’t intend to look into whether the LBSC kept a loco and coaches on hot standby”

    The chase was from Victoria to Dover, (with Holmes eluding Moriarty by baling out at Canterbury), so this would have been the “Chatham” line (LCDR), not the “Brighton” (LBSC) . (Holmes eventually makes it to Meiringen and the Reichenbach Falls via Newhaven, so would have used the Brighton later in his journey.

  192. Alan Griffiths says:

    It seems to me that all the TfL staff affected by this change will be expected to spend most of their working hours standing. That will be an issue for some who are perfectly healthy enough for their present roles, but may be approaching retirement. Retirement some time after the date their employer is asking them to decide whether or not they want voluntary severance.

  193. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – thanks for the correction (it’s a long time since I read the story – possibly before I was of an age to understand the detailed difference between the two operators). Meiringen still worth a visit but the Reichenbach falls a mere trickle when I went.

    @ML – exactly so. The resulting instability in allocated costs – especially with transient open access operators – is one of the very real difficulties that the EU has chosen to ignore in its model access charges.

  194. Fandroid says:

    Alan Griffiths. In the industry that I was in, most staff (me included) used to pray loudly and in public for their employer to offer them redundancy when they were ‘approaching retirement’. The deals were always better than simply waiting for the day. Sadly, no-one did offer me severance! Also, the vast majority who did go never had a moments regret. Some found very interesting new opportunities out there. Some others were happy doing their own thing or just taking it easy. However, I do agree that there needs to be some consideration of the potential change from a sedentary lifestyle to a standing one, even if it’s only to find ways to positively encourage staff to get fit.

  195. Alan Griffiths says:

    I know what you mean, Fandroid, but we live in difficult times. I know of people being declared redundant a few months short of the age and length of service that would make their pensions payable.

  196. Anonymous says:

    Hand on heart who really believes getting rid of ticket offices will the end of it viz staffing levels

    Isn’t the long-term aim of all this to stage-by-stage turn the tube into the DLR . . . just like National Rail is going: No ticket offices, no waiting rooms, no toilets, no staff . . . once those horrible unions agree to this, they’ll find ways to reduce the staff they are proposing should be transferred into the so-called ticket halls.

    Thanks London Reconnections for reminding us what a lair Boris Johnson has been over this – and what shameful behaviour of the Tory London Assembly members who walked out so this issue could not be debated.

    I always thought it was crazy that you could not buy a National Rail ticket at a LU ticket office? Why not? Why can’t you go to any tube station and simply buy a ticket to Brighton, Swansea or Edinburgh? What’s all this “got to have a separate ticket’ business in the 21st century? How about a fully intergrated public transport system – oh, can’t have that (“costs too much” . . . “too complicated” . . .). I know TfL would never agree to that because you could be finding a way to keep the ticket offices open.

    But how much has been saved – how many billions in fact over the last 10-20 years in pensions, wages, and other benefits from (a) getting rid of all the bus conductors (b) getting rid of all the tube guards. How much is being saved via Oyster and not having paper tickets? Plus and not handling cash any more? and over the next 10-20 years getting rid of all the ticket offices?

    Its madness moving towards forcing everyone to use ticket machines. What about the elderly? What about the disabled? What about tourists? what about the queues in the rush hour when the machines break down? I’ve been at a station recently when all the oyster readers were”Closed” what to do? Oh, ring an 0845 number and pay to sort it out yourself . . . or if you’re a tourist tough. You lose £4 or so. I’ve been at a station when there was a power cut – as I a had bike l could cycle to the next and “touch out” – but most people can’t. If there card wasn’t registered then its quids in for TfL. We need tickets offices, and we need people to help people out.

    Switching stage by stage to using mobiles in the long term is such a bad idea – who wants to be getting that out late at night to “touch out”?

    Unless of course there is a long-term plan to destaff the tube and rail systems?

    And does all this impact on

  197. Ian J says:

    @Fandroid: “I’m guessing, but I suspect that offpeak day returns were invented to get new people to travel on the trains at times when they would otherwise be empty”: that was my understanding – wasn’t it Herbert Walker’s Southern Railway that first introduced cheap day returns? The point being that electrification had reduced the marginal costs of operating off-peak trains (no need for a fireman, much less maintenance needed), so it made sense to keep that expensive third rail and stock in use as much as possible and to fill the seats off-peak with price-sensitive leisure traffic.

    On 1p and 2p coins: how long before the UK follows the lead of Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and starts rounding to the nearest 5p?

    @anonymous 00:13: “Isn’t the long-term aim of all this to stage-by-stage turn the tube into the DLR”: Given that TfL have introduced staff to Overground stations that never had them under Silverlink, I doubt it.

    By the way, you can buy tickets to a range of National Rail destinations from at least some tube ticket machines.

  198. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    It is getting to the stage where the elderly who live outside London, and thus do not qualify for free travel other than by bus, will be intimidated into NOT coming to London because it (tube and surface rail travel) will be too confusing, complicated and difficult for them. Some of the airlines are already doing this to the “grey market” (which doesn’t spend so much with extra luggage, in flight and in the airport shops), with ‘on line only’ ticketing.

    London is not there yet, but is heading that way.

  199. Fandroid says:

    Anonymous 00.13.
    A massive majority of London passengers love Oyster. There may be problems, but so there were with buying tickets at ticket offices. One glance at the queues is enough to decide most people. Oyster hassle is at a level that people now generally accept as about right. For those who think ahead, queuing is totally eliminated. That’s speeded up individual journey times without spending tuppence on faster trains (or consuming more energy).

    The plans show exactly how they mean to deal with the elderly and the disabled. There has been at least one commenter on here who has explained the difficulties of helping such people via a dusty ticket window. Staff immediately to hand will be a lot better than queuing at a ticket office. I can assure you that ‘National Rail’ is not closing down all the ticket offices, waiting rooms, toilets and staff. Here in SWT territory, the facilities get steadily better and better on more and more stations. Staff even help people having trouble with ticket machines! Train information is better than it ever was all over the national system.

    Do we really need, or want to pay for, all those lost bus conductors and tube guards?

  200. Fandroid says:

    Castlebar. The elderly round here (outside London) have a very simple way of dealing with the complications. They buy a zones 1-6 Travelcard (using their Senior Railcards) from their departure station and use that for everything. The only serious reason for me having a PAYG Oystercard is because I often travel for a charity and claim expenses using the journey record printout.

    On my airline travels I certainly haven’t seen any diminution of the ‘grey market’! Us old devils get in the way where-ever you go!

  201. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Fandroid
    “………………They buy a zones 1-6 Travelcard (using their Senior Railcards) from their departure station and use that for everything…………”

    Yes, but the majority currently buy that Travelcard from a human behind a staffed ticket window.
    Just remember how common milkmen were 20 or so years ago. In 20 years from now. staffed ticket offices will be as rare as milkmen are today.

  202. Fandroid says:

    Castlebar. “Yes, but the majority currently buy that Travelcard from a human behind a staffed ticket window”

    Evidence for this statement?

    Milkmen have gone because people buy their milk from supermarkets. Perhaps we’ll be able to buy rail tickets there in future?

  203. Steven Taylor says:

    From my travels abroad, if at a smaller station, I have often been directed to buy tickets from a shop near the station. Even at Wimbledon, before I had my over 60s free pass,for Tramlink, I was directed to buy my ticket from the convenience store at street level. So with what looks like the inevitable demise of most ticket offices in the future, surely there should be additional non-railway outlets for the purchasing of tickets.

  204. Graham H says:

    If this happens on a large scale, at some stage, the problem of the 9% commission paid to third party sales is going to have to be tackled. The airlines went down the third party distribution channel route and have regretted it ever since (and clawed some of it back via the internet).

  205. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Graham H

    Exactly. Mr Patel and his family all need (and deserve) to be paid for selling tickets

    When but will it ever be admitted that it would have been cheaper to sell these tickets at the station, and pay a guy in a ticket office to do it, than pay corner shop owners their 9%s. I would rather pay the fixed salary (plus pension rights etc) as a “known” fixed cost, rather than an unknown amount of commission at 9% which could be well in excess of what I would have paid to full time staff..

  206. Gio says:

    At many termini, there are so many tourists buying Oystercards at ticket offices for the very reason that they cannot buy them anywhere else before they get to London. It amazes me that you cannot obtain this card on a train from elsewhere in the UK on a London-bound train from a ticket inspector or newsagent, nor on a plane flying into Gatwick etc. Why not? You can buy Gatwick Express tickets onboard a plane I’ve noticed, charging far more than is necessary. If you deal with selling the main format of ticketing before tourists arrive at railway termini or LUL stations in their thousands, you wouldn’t have the queues and aggravation we currently have. Joined-up thinking.

    On a second point, touchscreen ticket machines are notoriously frustrating to use. On NR machines, I have to poke with force, using my nail rather than fingertips, just to the edge of the outline of most onscreen buttons to get them activated. Why? Can’t someone program these to work a bit better? That alone would save time. (If you’ve used these at Brockley station you’ll know what I mean).

  207. Moosealot says:


    I’m not sure you’ll find many companies that prefer fixed costs over costs that are directly proportional to revenue.

  208. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Gio – It is possible to buy Oyster cards away from London – on Eurostar and at Stansted and Gatwick Express ticket offices. The Oxford Tube and National Express also sell them.

    You can also order Visitor Oyster Cards (PAYG only) and paper Travelcards in advance over the web and in nearly 30 countries around the world via agents. The TfL website is also available in 15 languages – again rather better than many other such websites for city transport networks. They usually stretch to 2 or 3 languages. I would say that is quite a lot better than is possible for many places with large volumes of tourists. It may be necessary for TfL to vastly increase the promotion of these facilities to take pressure off at the “gateway” stations but we cannot say that there are no off system sales facilities. There quite clearly are and they are comprehensive. All the info is easily accessed via the TfL website – as I’ve done to draft this reply.

  209. Ian J says:

    I think the “killer app” for tourists will be contactless debit/credit card acceptance, because then the whole issue of having to obtain a special card, pay a deposit, interact with a ticket machine, etc. simply disappears. I wouldn’t be surprised if the main function of those “greeters” at Euston in the diagram is to ask incoming passengers whether they have a contactless bank card, and if so suggest that they go straight through the barriers.

    Of course this depends on TfL getting the technology to work well, but they have until 2015 to get it right.

  210. The other Paul says:

    “they cannot buy [oyster cards] anywhere else before they get to London”
    To add to what WW has already said, you can buy a visitor Oyster card online and get it sent to almost anywhere in the world. The problem is more convincing them that this would be a worthwhile and sensible thing to do.

    Tourists can be wary of the “destination presale” – all too often, items presented as “deals” are misleading; they can be poor value or pre-empt a choice that might otherwise have been made differently. I think many travellers will make the assumption that it’s safest to wait and get a ticket on arrival, and may not appreciate that this may involve crowds and lengthy queuing.

  211. Greg Tingey says:

    The Other Paul
    Like GatEx & HeX rip-offs err … ticket sales to gullible tourists, you mean?
    Quite so.
    We have this problem going to Paris, sometimes …..Do RATP do on-line in advance, now?

  212. answer=42 says:

    according to, you can only buy tickets, such as the 1-day Mobilis, from métro stations and shops in Paris and Ile de France. Tickets are for either single/multiple trips or set numbers of days by zone. So no stored value.

  213. answer=42 says:

    You can also buy RATP tourist tickets online

    I think it’s a bit of a ripoff. On the other hand, the métro ticket machines, although they can be set to English, are even less intuitive than the London ones.

    @Ian J
    Contactless bank cards are not well known outside the UK and perhaps France. I believe that the USA has a separate standard. What’s more, most people are afraid (usually unjustly) of the exchange rates that their bank will charge. The solution, of course, is for the UK to adopt the €uro! (stands well back and waits for Greg to explode).

  214. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Answer=42 / Greg – I usually buy a Mobilis when in Paris. I got one of the “ID cards” (no longer needed btw) many years ago so I just need the actual tickets now. I tried in vain to find them on a RATP ticket machine at Gare du Nord. At the Metro station nearest my hotel I went to what I thought was the ticket office and asked for a Mobilis ticket. The man behind the window leapt out of the office and showed me where to find them on the ticket machine! The issue being, of course, that there wasn’t a ticket office at that station just an enquiry window. Talk about not knowing what was going on ! Still I now know to “swivel” through the menu screens and where to find Mobilis. You can also buy more than one ticket at a time and you just write the date on them before first use which is nice and flexible.

    It’s a shame RATP’s smartcards are only used for season tickets and have to be personalised with a photo *and* registered to a Paris address. I assume this is because employers part finance the cost of the Carte Orange. I have contemplated buying a weekly ticket before but the hassle is far too great. I am surprised that RATP have not provided a PAYG type facility having gone to the trouble of installing smartcard technology across their system.

  215. Fandroid says:

    From my Canadian cousins’ experience, I think the good guidebooks strongly recommend Oyster. It was the first thing I told them about staying in London, as I really didn’t want them going around buying single paper tickets for the Tube, and being monumentally ripped off. However, they said “we’ve read the guide, we already know!”

    While Plusbus provides the single ticket transfer from train to bus for many British towns and cities, I’ve always thought of the Day Return type Travelcards us out-of-towners buy as the London equivalent.

    Manchester has a very limited equivalent – buy a train ticket in Greater Manchester to one of the central stations (Manchester CTLZ), and you get free onward Metrolink travel to any central stop. Manchester buses are a nightmare, although there are plenty of them. Strangely enough, it’s on Manchester’s Oxford Road (and its extensions) that nose to tail buses are the norm. Is there something in a name?

  216. Fandroid says:

    I came into Euston last night at 21.00. All the Tube station ticket machines had queues of at least six each, and the ticket windows had a queue of about a dozen. I suspect there were a lot of students on the move yesterday, as I noted on my travels in Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.

  217. Greg Tingey says:

    – that’s not a good precedent, given the (overall) very small number of new machines TfL are “promising” to install. Taken together with the inability of machines to handle some complicated transaction, the prospect of really long queues of really annoyed, confused & frustrated people is not a good one.
    I do hope I’m wrong.

  218. straphan says:

    @Walthamstow Writer: A PAYG facility in Paris would not provide that much more value added given the flat fare structure on the Metro network within the municipal boundary. Also, bear in mind you do not have to touch out in Paris – you would have to install gates at all exits, which would cost a lot and may not be feasible at certain constrained stations in the centre.

  219. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – Sorry but I don’t understand your logic for not having PAYG in Paris. Given we manage PAYG on buses without exit validation the same process could easily apply in Paris for the Metro. The RER and suburban rail is gated in the central area for entry and exit and this stretches a fair way into the suburbs. Given the system is equipped for the reading of Carte Orange on the Navigo smartcard I don’t see the issue at all. It’s all about introducing a new product that could take a great deal of pressure off overburden ticket issuing facilities. The only aspect that might be a bit taxing is handling the “gates within gates” concept where you can be inside the Metro and then face more gates to change to the RER in the central area. This can catch the magnetic system out sometimes as I’ve managed to get trapped at interchange gatelines in Paris for no apparent reason!

  220. Malcolm says:

    We manage PAYG in London, either on trains where exit validation is required, or on buses/trams where it’s not. But when you touch in, it is always to one or other of these modes – no bus shares its Oyster reader with a train. In Paris, if the equivalent of an Oyster was used, then at a station with Metro and RER, you’d have to have completely different gatelines depending on which of these you were going to use.

  221. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – Paris is unusual as the RER is *completely* segregated from the Metro. There is no open interchange between the systems (well not that I have found). There is no need for more “different gatelines” – they already exist.

    [apologies if what follows is “egg sucking” mode for you.]

    The magnetic ticket technology can cope with recognising an entry to the Metro system and then a subsequent entry to the RER within the central area. It also copes with someone entering the RER, travelling by RER and exiting and then entering the metro to complete a journey. The t+ single ticket also allows bus to bus, bus to tram, tram to bus and tram to tram interchanges within 90 mins of first validation. There is no Metro to bus or tram interchange. The wider RER, outside the central zone, and the Transilien suburban rail network is ticketed in a similar fashion to how our TOCs do things – point to point tickets even if prices are zonally based. You can also buy through tickets to / from the central zone (RER or Metro) to the wider RER / Transilien network. This parallels the through ticketing arrangements in London. I await with interest how the advent of Crossrail affects ticketing arrangements in London and further afield.

  222. Malcolm says:

    Not egg-sucking, and thanks for the info. I have obviously not paid as much attention as I thought I had, on my relatively few recent (i.e post-1980!) visits to Paris. On such visits I have always used Paris Visite (or whatever it’s called now) and have not paid much attention to where the gate lines are.

    I certainly thought that, within the central area /perepherique/ metro area, one single ticket is valid for as long as you stay on the system – which could be all day. I also thought that this continued to be the case even if you partly used RER, so long as you didn’t come out onto the street or leave the said area. From what you say, this last bit can’t be quite right (or can it?).

  223. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – you may well be correct that you could, in theory, wander around all day on one ticket within the Paris urban area if you say inside the system. I’m not sure what would happen if you ended up a second RER gateline. I also don’t know if there is a time limit on tickets used solely on the Metro / RER in the urban area. I used a day ticket to try to avoid such risks.

  224. Greg Tingey says:

    Point of information.
    Season Ticket loans are not “Tax-Free”.
    Howver, if they are under £5000, then the loan is not subject to Tax as a “Benefit in Kind”

    Or so I’m told ….

  225. Greg Tingey says:

    Abother way of closing a Ticket Office:
    “This Ticket Office is closed until further notice, as a result of a rodent infestation”

    … As currently displayed on the main (down side) office at Walthamstow Central.
    [ The office in the original (up-side) building has re-opend for extended hours … ]

  226. Milton Clevedon says:

    Acronymically speaking, this is clearly a case of ‘Retail Availability Temporarily Suspended’ …

  227. Moosealot says:

    How about Rodents Avert Ticket Sales?

  228. Milton Clevedon says:

    I think ORR should be told, otherwise their numbers will be wrong…

  229. Greg Tingey says:

    btw …
    The sweets-biscuits (& newspapers) shop-outlet right next door (Thickness of a partition) to the aforementioned ticket office is … still open.

  230. Greg Tingey says:

    Oops, I forgot, re. Milton Clevedon’s remark.
    “ORR” = Office of Rodent Regulation ?

  231. TRT says:

    I can’t help but think that at peak times and at places like Euston where there is always a queue for the ticket office, this idea of having a member of staff in the open fielding responses is going to cause a breakdown of the British way of social order. What I mean is, what are people going to do without the queue? Querants are going to be pushing in in front of others, there’ll be no barriers to make a formal line, someone buying a ticket will be bumped with “just quickly, which platform for…?”, if a fight breaks out or a member of staff sees a problem, they could be tempted to break off in the middle of a financial transaction to sort it out, doubly possible given the new grading structure.

    Hmm… so, what will the British do without the structure of a queue?

  232. Fandroid says:

    @TRT. No-one queues at London bus stops any more, so I imagine they will readily adapt to the new free-for-all in Tube ticket halls. Us country cousins have got used to asserting our precedence (with elbows and proffered notes) at crowded bars, so we’ll adapt fairly easily to harassing LUL staff. (It’s only foreign tourists who queue in London these days- they consider it to be part of the cultural experience).

  233. Long Branch Mike says:

    @ fandroid

    I for one as an eager anglophile look forward to queuing in England for the cultural experience, starting with the queue at Customs at Heathrow, whilst the Wife sails on through on her UK passport through the EU line …

  234. Greg Tingey says:

    NOW Walthamstow (C) main ticket office is closed because of “An electrical fault”
    One wonders if a rat short-circuited itself?

  235. Walthamstow Writer says:

    For those who may be interested there are two TfL papers on the ticketing system and new contract scope for the “Electra” ticketing systems procurement on the TfL website.

    The Quarterly Investment Report cites end of March 2014 as a possible date for the introduction of contactless bank card (CBCs) acceptance on rail modes in London and the introduction of multi modal daily and 7 day capping using CBCs.

    In the Project Approvals document there is confirmation of the planned tph for the enhanced Victoria Line service due by April 2016. Isn’t there an election the month after that deadline?? 🙂

  236. Graham H says:

    I noticed this morning that LU have started making announcements about the need to keep your Oyster in a different place to your contactless card or else (“else” being unspecified). To those not in the know, this would be a pretty disconcerting thing to be told.

  237. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – some announcements refer to “card clash” which I understand but is probably meaningless to the average person. The problem, of course, is that the updated software, which can read Oyster and Bank Cards, is being deployed to the gates and validators. People, who keep cards together, may end up constantly presenting their wallet and getting nowhere as the reader is unable to detect which card to use. In very busy conditions this could cause a crush at gates and lots of cross people stuck behind the poor soul not understanding why they can’t get through a gate that probably worked fine last week.

    The other possibility is that a bank card might be detected at the start of a journey instead of an Oyster card and therefore the card holder (if using PAYG) might end up with an incomplete journey on a bank card and one on the Oyster card if that is successfully presented at the end of the journey. This could happen depending on how people keep cards together and how wallets are presented to readers.

    I see from the TfL papers that ITSO roll out is now possible but is dependent on the TOCs, TfL and DfT reaching commercial agreements to govern the use of the cards. I note only Southern aspire to issue out boundary Travelcards on ITSO while SWT wish to extend their Stagecoach Smart seasons to Waterloo where the readers would need to process ITSO spec cards and collect relevant data. The use of ITSO spec cards on buses remains to be resolved. There are some “pointed” remarks about TfL’s ticketing initiatives being delayed to accommodate the DfT and also delays due to ever changing ITSO specs. Looks like it has been far from plain sailing trying to cope with “immature” ITSO technology.

  238. Graham H says:

    @WW – yes, it was the phrase “card clash” which meant, I guess, something to me but, as you say, is probably meaningless to most passengers. A proper explanation rather than a tannoy announcement is needed really. BTW, I also understood that there was a risk where people kept both cards together of a double bite, or the logging in being on one card, but the logout on the other, with presumably dire financial consequences. Is this so?

  239. Greg Tingey says:

    And some of us are inherently suspicious of contactless bank cards, I’m afraid ….
    But, if you live outside the GLA area, & have both an Oyster & a bank-card, you could be in a real bind, couldn’t you?
    [ Doesn’t apply to me in sunny zone3! ]

  240. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – to be fair to TfL they are stepping up the level of information through the use of adverts on the tube, buses and at bus shelters. I have also heard a radio advert about the expansion of contactless acceptance. They have also updated their website info about contactless payments.

    I am not aware that two reads and writes can be made to different cards in one transaction e.g. trying to enter at a ticket gate. The reader will either reject both or write to one of them but possibly not the one the user expects. Your second scenario of one card being written to on entry and a different one on exit is distinctly possible and acknowledged by TfL in its information. Clearly we are a few weeks away from a formal launch and I expect there will be a big publicity push when the date is finalised. I suspect most people will want to talk to someone about how the facility works compared to Oyster so I’m wondering if TfL will do “road shows” at stations to help raise awareness.

  241. AlisonW says:

    oddly, I’ve had ‘card clashes’ with my Freedom Pass … despite having no contactless cards. Whether a card of another passenger was being read at distance I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m staying contact free as long as I can.

  242. Greg Tingey says:

    (And others)
    The answer is simple, provided you remember.
    This is what I do:
    Geriatric’s pass in top jacket pocket.
    Oyster (Hasn’t been used for over a year, but valid) in back of diary in other-side inner jacket pocket.
    Debit / Contactless card in folding wallet in trouser pocket.
    Something like that SHOULD avoid wrong payments?

  243. ngh says:

    Re Greg, Alison

    Personal experience yesterday morning on an entry gate on the Northern line:
    Woman who was passing though the next gate but a little in front obviously had a contactless card in the bottom of the side pocket of her rucksack which tripped the oyster reader while my oyster card was still 12″ away…

  244. ngh says:

    PS I foresee demand for wallets/purses (or even small pencil cases) with metal mesh or foil liners will go up!

  245. Graham H says:

    @Greg T/WW I look forward to TfL’s advice including a section on “How to dress”.

  246. Chris L says:

    I have a brand new 60+ Oyster card in my wallet which starts next Monday.

    I intend to swap it with my normal oyster card which has worked perfectly from the plastic wallet provided by Greater Anglia.

    I will have to pay for 2 stops on FGW from Ealing Broadway by going through the gates and swapping Oysters. Should be fun.

  247. Fandroid says:

    I’m going to have to shift my contactless no 2 credit card. It’s in the adjacent pocket to my Oyster in a blue plastic National Rail wallet. The credit card is there as emergency backup ever since I left my real wallet in a taxi in Nottingham (I did get it back- fairly swiftly)

  248. Littlejohn says:

    Can I display my ignorance of anything technical? There has been mention of contactless cards activating gates when the owner already has an Oyster. Can this happen when the contactless card owner has a paper ticket? When I have a day gricing in London I get a combined NR ticket/all zone travel card. Am I likely to be in the same position as the lady in ngh’s comment (25 February 2014 at 12:12)? If so will I get charged on my contactless card? Or will the traveller who had the gate opened for them by my card be liable to some form of excess for not tapping in properly? Or does this only happen if you have an Oyster AND a contactless card?

  249. Greg Tingey says:

    Not easy, is it?
    I don’t like that tale of a “contactless” going off (so to speak) that remotely… at all.
    The possibilities for fraud are immense, apart from cross-transactional/cross-card difficulties.

  250. Long Branch Mike says:


    “PS I foresee demand for wallets/purses (or even small pencil cases) with metal mesh or foil liners will go up!”

    Not all metal mesh (a Faraday cage which cuts down or prevents radio waves from passing through) contactless card sleeves work well. I’ve read reports of some not working at all. It pays to review the different brands to get a brand that works.

    Note a good metal mesh sleeve will also prevent scammers from reading your bank or credit card just by passing close to you in the street.

  251. Chris L says:

    From frequent bus travel it appears that many people carry the Oyster card in the middle of their purse/wallet and bank/credit cards on the outside.

    Touching the reader didn’t used to be a problem but now is.

    Normally the reader rejects the double card in the wallet. The oyster card is removed from the wallet and works when held against the reader.

    It would help if clear proximity to the reader was clarified – how close to be read.

  252. Steven Taylor says:

    @Chris L
    My experience may be helpful. I have never physically touched the reader with my Oyster card. I just wave it about 1 cm above. Always works for me.

  253. ngh says:

    Re LBM

    Not sure what the frequencies used for contact-less cards and oyster are but the usual rule is 1/4 wavelength for mesh spacing for best absorption. Aluminium foil in a folding wallet next to the notes should work fine to cover the cards.

    Re Greg
    Probably 3″ from rucksack pocket to yellow reader so about as expected. (the rucksack was running along the top corner of the body of the barrier)

  254. Anonymous says:

    This is ludicrous. Surely TfL can tell customers how far their contactless credit card needs to be away from the readers to avoid being incorrectly charged. What is that distance?

  255. Andrew says:

    I’ve had precisely zero trouble with cards clashing… but then I bank with Santander.

  256. timbeau says:

    If so will I get charged on my contactless card? Or will the traveller who had the gate opened for them by my card be liable to some form of excess for not tapping in properly?
    Both – you will have an unresolved journey (started but not finished), and the other person will get one when they touch out having not touched in. Just as would happen if, as I have done with two Oysters in my possession, touched in with one and out with the other.

  257. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Dredging my memory banks I remember that the “read field” above a gate / bus card reader was about 2-3 inches in height and was an inverted conical shape to give a reasonable area for the card to be placed within. I cannot say if that remains the case as the targets have been upgraded to read ITSO and Bank Cards as well as Oyster.

    I am ever so slightly sceptical about cards being read erroneously over many inches of distance. It is not common practice for the read field to stretch over many inches so that cards in trouser or jacket pockets get read inadvertently. I can only imagine some form of fault or misalignment could create that situation. I confess the “dangling rucksack” containing some form of readable card is a scenario I had not envisaged. I suspect there may be many variants on this theme given how many handbags / manbags get slung over shoulders.

    I can understand people being annoyed by card misreads and we are clearly on a new form of “learning curve” and I include TfL in the “we”. Having had a very long involvement with smartcards, including the very first ones on LU, I have never kept more than one card in a single wallet as a matter of routine. The only time I was caught out was trying to add value to an Oyster card when I still had a GVB smart ticket from Amsterdam in the same wallet (just as somewhere to keep it). The LU ticket machine couldn’t cope with two cards being in the “read field”. It took me a minute or two to work out what was going on. When I used to have a staff pass and also a priv PAYG Oyster these were always kept in separate wallets and never presented together. Other cards are kept well away from Oyster cards! I know this sort of faff would drive some people to distraction but, so far, no misreads or clashes for me.

  258. Greg Tingey says:

    Sounds horribly familiar to me!
    [ I didn’t realise that I even HAD a contactless bank card, until a restaurant used mine for payment of a meal I’d just had …]

  259. Greg Tingey says:

    It seems that TfL still haven’t learnt. There is now a threat of renewed strike action by by RMT & TSSA because, according to the unions, at least, TfL have reneged & backed-up on the negotiations that took place previously.
    If this is true, then it is an act of almost unbelievable stupidity by Tf’s so-called “management”. Of course, it might also be union public posturing, but previous form on this subject suggests the former to thsis writer, at least.
    It is to be hoped that sanity &/or a vigorous knocking-together of heads by ACAS will prevail.

  260. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I think we need to be careful. I doubt any active blog participants are involved in the negotiations so we really don’t know what is being said. Any announcements from TfL or the unions are inevitably laced with propaganda as there’s a battle to win public opinion / persuade employees as to the merits / demerits of what is going on.

    The problem with intensive negotiations and trying to roll back a set of proposals is that you risk opening “pandora’s box” of other issues coming in to play. Reading the RMT’s website it seems something has changed but it’s not completely clear what it is. Quite why the RMT are seemingly surprised at the prospect of more cuts and changes in the future I don’t know. It was abundantly clear over 2 years ago that a rolling programme of job cuts and condition changes was likely across all of TfL. There was a load of speculation on the ops side as to what was likely and the trade unions would not be unaware of that speculation. Attacks on pay and the pension scheme are no shock either given the general trend elsewhere in the public sector.

    If we step back it is very clear that a few key factors are coming together – a change to customer practice, technological change, rising patronage, massive funding pressures. TfL have clearly taken a strategic decision to strip out as much cost as they feel they can get away with. The unions quite naturally will wish to resist anything that worsens things for their members or reduces the workforce. For me the big problem is the rising patronage one. We risk crossing over into 3 or 4 other threads but that’s the big imponderable. If you are going to need more staff in possibly only a few years to ensure safe operation you have to wonder what the point is of getting rid of large numbers of people now. We have been here before with LU staffing levels.

    The other problem is that any perceived “backing down” by TfL will be spun as weakness for Boris and that’ll be played out for the next 2 years by his opponents. Still if we have a rolling programme of cuts then we’ll be having strikes for 2 years too. 🙁

  261. Greg Tingey says:

    All too true, hence my shading of any possible blame & not directly attributing any.
    However, as I suspect we both know, when Walthamstow Central’s LUL ticket-office is open, there appears to be a more-or-less permanent queue there. Though how much of that is for “information” rather than tickets, of course I can’t possibly know.
    I remain unconvinced that the very short list of places proposed by LUL/TfL for actual ticket-offices is nearly large enough, but time will tell.
    What I can safely predict is that there’s going to be a lot of empty posturing & grandstanding by all concerned, rather than any useful negotiations.
    THIS is where I would like to insert a “rage” red-faced “smiley” – consider it done…..

  262. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – and here’s an interesting question about W’Stow Central. If LU does shut its office then Abellio will be laughing all the way to the bank as sales will simply move back upstairs. Then TfL will take over with LOROL as their contractor. Will the main line ticket offices then be closed down or will “big railway” politics kick in to prevent this?

    Of course at T Hale and Seven Sisters the National Rail facilities will shut down when LU shuts up shop! I would not surprised, though, to see Abellio demand space in the rebuilt T Hale for their own ticket office. Far too much money at stake with the Stansted service for them to be “neutral” about ticketing at T Hale. I don’t think T Hale counts as a “gateway” station in LU terminology despite the fact that it quite clearly is for a lot of passengers by virtue of the airport flow.

  263. londona729 says:

    I’m disappointed that LU is going to leave Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus,Brixton,etc without a ticket office when there are always queues.

    I agree LU has might have a case for closing some such as Buckhurst Hill or Ickenham but unfortunately TfL doesn’t seem to want to budge on this issue….remember how TfL pushed through Cashless buses despite the consultation results?

    Also LU hasn’t even mentioned consulting the most important people- the public who fund TfL through both fares and taxes!

    I truly agree TfL needs to save money but they could always start stopping staff from claiming expenses for using taxi’s within London! Or not paying £250k+ over 2 years to get more twitter followers and facebook likes….

  264. Greg Tingey says:

    londona 729
    Indeed – I get the impression there’s an awful lot of”willy-waving” going on.
    Yes, some ticket offices are probably redundant & a lot need a lot less staff/time, but closing all but half-a-dozen does strike me as potty.
    We’ll see – after, of course, we have at least one more strike … ( – because, I suspect, someone wants to “test” whether “the unions” are really up for a conflict & secondly they can then claim that they are all marxists who should be sacked etc ad nauseam – which implies that Boris might have issued instructions to be hard-nosed, now Crow is dead ??? )
    The whole thing stinks & no side is free of blame, that’s for certain.

  265. @londona729,

    Not wanting to entirely defend the use of 398 taxis by Peter Hendy which does seem a bit excessive but:

    – remember he is also in charge of taxis so this is also a way of him experiencing first-hand the system he has in place

    – given his salary and the importance of his job it is highly desirable that he uses his time productively. If he is running late for a meeting (due to reasons beyond his control like cabinet ministers delaying him) and that meeting is with other staff on a high salary and a taxi is quicker then it would be economic madness for him not to use a taxi.

    – what would be much more interesting would be to know how this compares with his use of buses as a passenger and tubes etc. He is probably fortunate that he could easily not be noticed in a crowd even if people could just about recognise him. I have certainly seen him in a lift in Holloway Road station and am pleased that he must be very aware of how busy this station is and how inadequate it is during normal peak hours – let alone home match days at Arsenal.

    Would also mention that apart from seeing Boris cycling about I have seen him on once on a local train journey in South East London, admittedly against the peak flow, starting a London Bridge. In true London manner everyone ignored him if indeed they did recognise him. I am sure Boris uses a lot of taxis too but for the same reasons I wouldn’t object to that. I would also note that although Ken used to commute in using the Bakerloo Line he also used taxis a lot.

  266. Chris L says:

    Farringdon is Section 12 because of the canopy.

    The definition is where more than 50% of the station is covered. Bow Road is marginal but covered by the regulations.

  267. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – that’s the first time I’ve seen a reasonably rational comment about Mr Hendy’s taxi use. Most of the commentary has been about the cost and how it is so disgraceful for him to be using taxis and claiming expenses. I’m no fan of taxis but I can see why the very time pressured use them to get about.

  268. londona729 says:

    @Greg Tingey Interestingly the unions seem to be the only force that can halt LU/TfL’s plans….especially as they have shown that they are more than willing to go ahead with something despite a majority opposition in the consultation!

    @POP that’s very true indeed. However surely the tube is just as fast if not faster than using a taxi especially as peak times with London’s infamous congestion!

    I agree that Hendy can use taxi’s to test the service however taxi’s are a very small part of TfL’s portfolio of services and so it would be good to see his taxi use in the full context.

    Also can I say that TfL is been rather deceptive pushing the 3% figure of journeys using ticket offices (87% of journeys use a ticket that’s already been purchased e.g travelcard, PAYG that’s was toppped up before a person travelled on the tube) when 21% of tube tickets are purchased at ticket office- even David Cameron was caught out by LU’s misleading ‘cherry picking’ of the statistics!

  269. Paying Guest says:

    @ londona729 – It all depends on where you are starting from and where you are going to. As a consultant I regularly used taxis when they would be faster door to door, thus saving the client money. For example, Paddington to Hyde Park Corner or Grosvenor Square. I would much preferred to have walked (assuming dry weather), but that would have taken longer.

  270. timbeau says:

    Nothing wrong with using a taxi if it can be justified on time saving, security (of personnel or accompanied materiel), or cost grounds, but that number of taxis does seem to be excessive if they are all for one person, rather than his entire office staff. When I have to claim a taxi on expenses, I am expected to justify why public transport was not used.

    The “trying out the service he is responsible for” excuse is an interesting one: how often does he use a Boris Bike? (often as quick as a taxi)

  271. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I don’t know about frequency but I understand Sir Peter does use Boris Bikes for some trips. There is a dock just behind Windsor House.

  272. Southern Heights says:

    This was just posted on the Guardian, as numbers put forward by the RMT:

    3 %: The number of tickets the Mayor claims are sold by ticket offices.

    23%: Total amount of ticket transactions ticket offices actually have responsibility for.

    I find it odd that the second number is so high given most people now have Oyster.

    Would I be correct in thinking:

    3% – Of journeys involve using a ticket office

    23% – Of ticket purchase transactions are done using either the ticket window or a machine located immediately adjacent to one.

    The key reason is the phrase “ticket offices have responsibility for”, not actually “sell” at the ticket window.

    As this is mostly politics, I suspect the real number is something else again….

  273. Greg Tingey says:

    In the same way, that, when the Walthamstow Central LUL ticket-Office is open, it is very rare for there not to be someone there, talking to the office-staff.
    But they are probably making enquiries, as much as buying tickets … yet the functionality of the office/staff, for use by the public is continual.
    Which suggsts that TfL have at least partially, “got it round their neck”, because, if you replace the office with a roving member of staff with an handheld, is the “Q&A” sessions he/she is going to be subjected to by the lost, confused, strayed & ticket-buyers going to work, because people will be able to crowd round & “mob” him or her?
    I hae me doots …..

  274. John Bull says:


    3% – Of journeys involve using a ticket office
    23% – Of ticket purchase transactions are done using either the ticket window or a machine located immediately adjacent to one.

    Not quite. The numbers are both entirely correct – it’s just that, as Greg suggests, one is an apple and the other is an orange.

    The key thing to remember here is the difference between ticket halls and ticket offices. As with the whole idiotic use of the term “driverless trains” both TfL and the RMT (although in this case more the RMT) are deliberately fudging the meaning of both in order to serve their talking points at the moment.

    The simple fact is that, as TfL (via the Mayor) claim, only 3% of ticket sales happen at a ticket office – i.e. at a manned ticket window within a ticket hall.

    “Ahhhhhh!” Say the RMT smugly, “But that’s not a fair measure is it? Because there are an awful lot of other ticket transactions that take place there that aren’t just a sale! Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!”

    Of course what the RMT are themselves then doing is neglecting to define what they class as a ticket action – I’m guessing Oyster refunds and card cash-ins, for example, make up a good percentage of their numbers, but both are services that TfL are not planning on doing away with – just making the person who was previously sat behind a window do them in the ticket hall instead which, queuing issue aside, many passengers might actually consider preferential.

    But even with the stuff above 23% seems a high number, so what else are they classing in that category? The careful use of the words “responsibility for” makes me think that they’re choosing this also to mean:

    “any transaction whereby someone behind the window told the customer what to buy – be it via a machine or the window itself”

    So if the bloke behind the window said “you need to top up your Oyster – use that machine over there” that would count as a ticket office action.

    One presumes there is also a high correlation between where this 23% of ticket actions take place and the places that TfL is planning on keeping ticket offices as well, so there’s a good chance that a solid percentage of those transactions aren’t being threatened at all anyway. Indeed to a certain extent one can assume that must be the case by the fact that the RMT aren’t making a big song and dance about the contrary being true, which would be a much better talking point.

    That’s all before we ask where both numbers came from – TfL’s from the raw ticket sale data one hopes, but even that isn’t without error or immune to careful interpretation, and is the RMT data from the same source?

    Basically both numbers are true but neither is an entirely fair representation of the state of play – which is why I always find this kind of numerical dick-waving entirely distasteful in any context because it always implies everything but demonstrates nothing.

    If anyone is interested in how numbers are used and abused in these types of context I heartily recommend picking up a copy of The Tiger That Isn’t. It is a relatively short and highly readable book.

  275. Southern Heights says:

    Hi Greg, J.B.,

    So I was thinking along the right lines. Here are the rest of the assertions:

    7.577 Million: The total transactions at ticket offices in 2013, an increase on the 7.418 million from 2012.

    As you pointed out above: Something tells me this number includes more than just purchases!

    14% Projected increase in passenger numbers over the next five years.

    17% Cut in the number of frontline station staff proposed by the Mayor.

    Can’t recall the stats, but they have probably been mentioned on this story. That also takes us to 2019 at which point Crossrail and Thameslink 2018 kick will have started to kick in. Call me a cynic, but the only way to get the numbers on public transport to go down in London is to shut it down or make it impossible to use… If you make it easier, then more people will use it as it’s convenient!

    52%: The number of tube users unable to buy tickets from a machine because it was broken.

    I guess that depends on how you phrase the question. It has happened to me as well, but it was in 2005 or before, at Rotherhithe. Which only had two machines at that time, I think and was often not manned in the evenings and at weekends… At the exit point I simply explained what the problem was…

    56%: The number of voters who said they would not vote for Boris Johnson again for breaking his promise not to close ticket offices.


    66%: The number of passengers opposed to ticket officer closures.

    I think I could get that answer too if I wanted to and asked the right question…. Stats like this really should be accompanied by the question asked so people can make their own assessment as to the truth of it.

  276. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I agree with JB that we must be careful about the numbers and terminology here. The 3% figure is journeys where there is a visit to a ticket office at the *start* of the journey. This conveniently ignores those situations where people require assistance at the *end* of a journey because someone has gone wrong with a charge or their card or they simply decide to renew their ticket on arrival at their home station in the evening that stand in an enormous queue in the morning. This also ignores those people, like me!, who have discount entitlements set on their Oyster Card and who buy annual tickets where a Gold Card is issued.

    There are also issues like handling company cheques for season tickets – no ticket machine can accept those. How do you process a credit or debit card refund at a passenger operated machine? Do the card reader units have the functionality to process such things? What about people who want to buy a ticket that is not available on a passenger operated machine? Or who want advice and help?

    I’ve done the “stand in a ticket hall for an entire shift” routine dealing with a non stop flow of people wanting advice and help with ticket machines. It is no fun, when as Greg suggests, you end up with a group of people all trying to be first in the queue. It’s even worse when you’re standing in a freezing cold wind tunnel of a station.

    I agree both sides are indulging in a propaganda war but having worked with ticketing for decades (and OK I’m somewhat out of date nowadays) I am really struggling to see how you move everything a ticket office can do to a passenger operated machine even if staff can sign on to certain features. This therefore suggests to me that some functions will be scrapped, some products will be scrapped or the process for making them happen will involve a trek to Zone 1 or a Head Office location *at the passenger’s expense in terms of time and cost*. Now all of that may be entirely rational, sensible and cost effective but why are we not being told what the future is *really* like?

    Apart from not wishing to cede management decisions to the glare of a public consultation I suspect that the detailed future picture of ticket purchase and assistance is not terribly attractive which is why LU doesn’t want the detail out in the domain of a public (and political) consultation. It might also mean revealing the full and proper statistics about how people really do use ticket offices and ticket machines. We can’t have people dealing in facts now can we?!

  277. Fandroid says:

    @WW. Your points suggest that in addition to the categories of station that LUL have identified in their plans, there should be some ticket offices strategically located on each line somewhere in outer zone 2 or in zone 3 to enable the ordinary punter to have the more complicated functions sorted. You have mentioned Tottenham Hale. That’s one where the tourist assistance function could be carried out in a location that’s convenient for punters based on the outer northern reaches of the Victoria Line. I’m sure that others could come up with similar locations on other lines.

    Shouldn’t the company cheque issue be solved by a postal application anyway, with the Oyster Card loaded up on its first use at a barrier?

  278. Southern Heights says:

    I can deposit a cheque at my local bank, it scans it and prints a copy on the receipt. a Similar thing can be done for tickets if they go onto an Oyster card. If the cheque subsequently bounces or turns out to be forged, the ticket can always be cancelled (at least I assume the system can do that, it would if I was building it).

    Refunds can be done at a CAT terminal (Customer Activated Terminal). The networks support the transaction. The trick will be to get this right at the user interface level, but just like self checkouts this is all possible.

    If anyone happens to pass Chancery Lane station, I believe some changes to the machines are already being piloted there. I heard something mentioned about Pirate Speak being a language selection.

  279. MikeP says:

    “52%: The number of tube users unable to buy tickets from a machine because it was broken.”

    Ignoring the fact that a percentage isn’t a number, instantly leading me to question the numeracy of whomsoever prepared that document, the percentage seems unbelievably high. I suspect it’s actually:

    “52%: The percentage of tube users who attempted, but failed, to buy tickets from a machine where the reason for the failure to purchase was that the machine was broken.”

    I’d suggest that if that is the case, then we’d also have:

    approx 40%: The percentage of tube users who attempted, but failed, to buy tickets from a machine where the reason for the failure to purchase was that the debit/credit card transaction was refused.” If observation at holes-in-the-wall is anything to go by….

    Do card ticket machines still exist ?? I have no idea, always using an Oyster on auto-topup. If so, and it’s referring to them, and them alone, then I could believe it. In which case, serves ’em right for not having an Oyster 🙂

  280. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – if it was down to me (please no, cries Mike Brown!) then I would have TfL Travel Centres in major town centres across London. These could be in bus stations, tube stations, shopping centres. They could deal with ticket sales, other TfL payments, travel queuries, issue publicity and have top up machines or on line terminals for Oyster checks whatever. What is interesting is that Arriva have made a go of such offices at Milton Keynes and recently Luton. Also Metrobus are refurbing their Crawley office to expand it and Brighton and Hove do a storming trade in the Brighton shop. From memory the Travel Shop in Oxford is in Debenhams and does a stonking trade.

    In short there is a demonstrable commercial case, if you take the bus industry, for face to face customer contact via a retail outlet. None of the bus companies involved in running travel centres are shy of using the Internet or smart tickets either so it’s not a case of being techno phobic. It’s good practice and I can’t believe TfL could not make the case for such facilities if they wanted to. I actually think this sort of strategy could be a winner for TfL.

    @ Mike P – the numbers may or may not be right but machine reliabilty is an essential pre-requisite to a programme of scrapping ticket office sales. Yes paper tickets are still sold from machines although volumes of singles will be fairly low given the huge fares. You may recall the last TV documentary about the Tube on BBC which showed visitors and tourists dying of shock when having to hand over £4.50 for a Zone 1 single ticket! I’d also make the point that a fair proportion of people top up their Oysters regularly with small amounts of value as that’s all they can afford to do. I have even seen people top up with just the fare value! Not every one can run auto top up on a reliable basis especially as TfL’s application of it is relatively inflexible. One final comment is to make the point that even Travelcard holders have to use machines to restore Oyster balances (if they’ve had an extension journey) or renew their seasons. I hold an annual ticket but still have to top up every so often for extension PAYG.

  281. Greg Tingey says:

    I actually think this sort of strategy could be a winner for TfL. Agree wholeheartedly, but – “not invented here” was it? What’s more, that way, they wouldn’t have a confrontational fight (or not nearly such a big one) with the unions, would they?

  282. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – they would have a level of fight with the unions as I think the dispute is not just about ticket offices even though it’s the “headline” issue. As I have droned on about several times (sorry folks) I think the public deserve more detail about what a future station will do and what it will not be able to do. TfL have said some things (undefined) will have to be done at their new gateway centres or by post or on line. We deserve to know what those “things” are. I think a wider concept of travel centres would be take the sting out of some of the job issues but is also readily saleable to the public who would see they’d have a local facility. It’d go down especially well in South London which is devoid of tube stations and TfL Travel Information Centres. After all Croydon Tramlink have had such a centre in Croydon since they opened the network. It seems to do OK.

    With some real forethough it would be possible to have ticket machines facing into the street so that even if the centre was closed then people could top up Oyster cards in the same way that they use ATMs. That’d be a big help at bus stations in a cashless future. Another way to defray some of the cost might be to partner with other retailers so that these “shop and collect” lockers (or similar) were colocated at the same premises. A sort of reverse model of sticking the lockers in old ticket offices.

  283. Castlebar (Real Contra Crayonista) says:

    Well said WW

    MANY people come into London regularly who live just a bit too far out to be able to pop into their local newsagent and top their cards up. Living outside the GLA area, even Esher, Shepperton etc, they have no free rail travel so are flummoxed when they get to an unstaffed/closed ticket office, so some would rather not travel at all than risk the FEAR OF being fined when they have no intention of avoiding payment. They feel completely in the dark about what is going on, and have no say re their concerns nor in the decision making process.

  284. AlisonW says:

    WW: “Not every one can run auto top up …” indeed. When I was using PAYG Oyster to get around I couldn’t use auto because I never used the tube (except in rare unplanned cases) and auto didn’t work via bus machines.

    I think there is also something about auto topup in the way that some people are concerned about using internet shopping. They want what they pay *in their hands* after the transaction, not to have to trust to money being taken from them but the delivery being at some later date.

  285. Malcolm says:

    … auto top up…

    Plus the practical point that if you have unpredictable things like auto-top-up happening to your bank account, you have to keep its balance a good safety-margin above zero, to avoid bank charges. Many people cannot do this, or can only do it with difficulty and worry.

  286. James Bunting says:

    @AlisonW – Auto top-up doesn’t require the Tube to work. My current travel pattern does not justify any form of season ticket. merely individual bus journeys or the occasional one day Bus Pass or Travelcard cap. Whenever the balance goes below £10 it will automatically debit me for a further £20 from my bank account and, at the same time. credit my Oyster with the same amount.

    I used to receive an email telling me the date of the auto top-up, together with the bus route number or station name. This has recently changed to one giving date only. I have queried the reason why and am awaiting a response.
    The one problem that I do have relates to refunds when such things as gate reader faults result in incomplete journeys being charged. These can only be done at a station and, as the result of living South of the River, when a journey is made, not from a ticket office. However, this is not related to auto top-up.

  287. Malcolm says:

    I have succeeded in getting an Oyster refund (due to being wafted out of the emergency exit, due to a football match) by telephone, and refunded direct to my bank account as I had no immediate plans to come anywhere near London. I think I could have done the same thing by eMail instead.

    The problem with auto-top-up and no immediate tube use is the one of getting the value put onto the Oyster card, because (contrary to popular belief) the card in one’s wallet is not in permanent communication with the central Oyster computers, and nor are the Oyster readers. So a rendez-vous has to be organised. It will be interesting to hear the response to James’ query.

  288. MikeP says:

    @WW Agree wholeheartedly with what you say re: travel shops. Would, along with many other ideas, such as assisted service for those unwilling/unable to use their own internet access for govt. transactions, have helped to keep an extensive Post Office Counters network alive. Too late now.

    Thanks for the reminder about paper tickets. I wasn’t suggesting auto-topup as a panacea – just that as I use it, I have little personal experience of ticket machine reliability. I do find the high level of unreliability reported in the RMT figure impossible to believe, at least as presented. If it were so, ticket office queues would be huge. If it’s paper ticket machine reliability only, then it demonstrates the very low absolute number of such purchases – thereby supporting the idea that the impact of ticket office closures won’t be massive. Still needs fixing, though.

  289. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mike P – clearly without detail we can’t know what the RMT stats mean. For those people using machines there are issues with them being out of service, card readers not working and no change being available. IIRC people can choose a top up amount, say £3, and pay £5 and thus expect £2 change. People on tight finances will not wish to overpay and thus need machines with change. At the moment people in ticket offices can float the machines if their change levels are diminished – will that still happen under the roving staff model? This is why we need more detail about how the future model works.

  290. Graham Feakins says:

    From yesterday’s ‘The Independent’:
    “Caffè Ritazza owner eyes empty Tube ticket offices” :

  291. Rational Plan says:

    Noticed the Bus has started announcing the phasing out cash sales. I have a bad feeling about this. The bus drivers at the airport get enough grief from people trying to pay for bus tickets with Notes as it is, I can imagine the chaos when they won’t accept any money.

    They are going to need some better signs to the Oyster desk at Terminal Five.

  292. Graham Feakins says:

    @Rational Plan – Not sure what intending bus passengers you have in mind at Heathrow because I would have thought that most strangers arriving would have tried for Heathrow Express, the Underground or a taxi rather than any bus.

    I know it can be rather perplexing arriving at an overseas airport and intending to use the public transport onwards (generally train, U-Bahn, tram or the like) and finding no machine accepting large-value notes as usually issued prior to departure ‘at home’ by a currency exchange outlet. Then one has to search for a local travel office to try an obtain the required ticket. Chances are, one will arrive ‘out-of-hours’ and everything is closed anyway, so the taxi becomes the only possibility. Few will be those who are aware of the local bus services and in I suggest the majority of places, the buses do not handle ticket issue anyway.

  293. Greg Tingey says:

    I’m (unfortunately) waiting for the first tube-staff-member to be mobbed under by frantic/desperate/ignorant/ drunk/confused would-be passengers, wanting tickets/information/directions/help.
    I’m also just wondering what TfL/LUL’s excuses & explanations will be, whilst claiming that everything is perfect & according to plan.
    Wot, cynical, moi?

    [ Not forgetting the occasional mugging of said staff for their hand-held tablets, of course ]

  294. Rational Plan says:

    @Graham, Just looking at percentages leaves a false impression. Millions may catch a train to central London, but tens of thousands use the buses into surrounding areas. There are lots of cheap independent hotels that are based in the surrounding suburbs that are only linked by bus. This is also London the buses are cheap and run 24 hours lots of local people save themselves £20 quid from a mini cab and catch a bus to the Airport or use buses to interchange with local rail services at West Drayton, Uxbridge, Harrow and Feltham.

    I’ve been delayed too many times by boorish people shouting at the driver about not having change for £10 or £20, which is especially annoying as they walk right past Marks & Spence Simply Food and the Underground ticket desk, on the way to the Local Bus stands.

    As far as cabs go, BAA in their wisdom only allow Black Cabs to pick up passengers from the roads outside the terminal. Cabs from outside the London boundary are not allowed to do so. To get a mini cab the driver must park in the short stay car park and then the passenger must hopefully be able to work out where to meet him in the multi storey. The parking charge is added to your cab fare.

    This is not too much of a problem for people renting luxury cars and meet people with signs at Arrivals. It does put a damper on the usefulness of a big transport hub for non airport users. Many people catching coaches to Heathrow are there to meet friends and family in the West of London area. If a big rail hub develops at Heathrow then the same will happen there.

    It’s all very well for people to talk of low % of people using cash. But when 30 or 40 people get on each London bus, then there is nearly always someone wanting to pay in cash. And a certain percentage of those try and bluff their way with paying with a note.

  295. Ian J says:

    @Rational Plan: boorish people shouting at the driver about not having change for £10 or £20, which is especially annoying as they walk right past Marks & Spence Simply Food and the Underground ticket desk

    Why on earth should Marks and Spencer’s be expected to provide change for the buses if the bus company won’t? And going to the Underground station to get a bus ticket is the kind of thing that is obvious only to those who already know the system well enough that they probably have an oyster card.

    I’ve never understood why bus companies in the UK have such an issue with providing change if they accept cash. I’ve been led to believe that some don’t even provide drivers with a proper float and expect them to organise change themselves. Imagine if any other business operated that way.

    Rudeness goes both ways too. The rudest public transport employee I’ve ever met took askance to me wanting to pay a £6 coach fare with a £10 note.

    It sounds to me like it is made difficult for incoming tourists to use buses already so nothing will really change if they don’t accept coins, except an unofficial policy of arbitrarily refusing banknotes will be replaced by a clearer policy of refusing all cash.

  296. Rational Plan says:

    If you don’t have change for the Bus, buy something from a shop to get change, that’s how I always did it before Oyster came in. I’d never try and beg change from a shop, I would buy something if I’d forgotten to get change organised.

    Also I don’t think you know how tills in shops work. You need a constant stream of small cash purchases to give you enough spare change to be able give change for small purchases paid for with big notes. It won’t take long giving out £17.60 in change for each £20 note for you to have an empty till.

    With 97% of transactions now cashless on a bus you no longer have the cashflow to replace the lost change on large notes.

    I’m sorry half time people wave a big note at a London bus driver it is in expectation of being waved on because they don’t have the change, it at this point when they don’t that the swear words and the occasional banging on his security door occurs. Thats been my experience in West London.

    I’m sorry it’s one thing to try and pay with a fiver, there is a reasonable expectation of change, it’s another to do so with a high value note. Buses are not shops they don’t have the same size tills nor carry the same amount of cash.

    I’ve been around I’d never travel anywhere without finding out how to use local transport. In many places you buy tickets from shops and validate onboard, or are exact fare only and you need to cart around a bag of change, No where do you wave a $50 dollar or $20 euro bill at the bus driver and expect to get on.

  297. Chris L says:

    Not sure how successful the new recorded announcement on the buses will be.

    Suggesting you log on to the TfL website may be a little difficult if you can’t afford a computer.

  298. Long Branch Mike (Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviations Portfolio ie Intern) says:

    @Ian J

    “why bus companies in the UK have such an issue with providing change if they accept cash”

    There are a number of issues driving the removal of all handling of cash on buses (something I know of first hand as I was a bus driver, over here, for a short while):

    – Avoids passenger disputes
    – Speeds loading
    – Driver theft of fares (saw this blatantly happen in front of me on Manchester buses numerous times)
    – Simplifies the driver’s workload

    Bus drivers having to make change is something that’s been phased out of most large North American bus systems for many many years now. However most of these systems have a flat fare, so most passengers know that before getting on. Plus there are bus/transit system fare tickets, with discount tickets for the elderly & young’ns.

  299. Ian J says:

    @Rational Plan:
    If you don’t have change for the Bus, buy something from a shop to get change

    Your attitude is a perfect illustration of why the bus industry has been steadily losing customers since the Second World War.

    When I worked in retail we started with a large float. If we needed more coins and notes to make up the float we got them from the bank. The total size of the till was smaller than a typical bus ticket machine. Providing change was just part of the cost of doing business (and yes we would provide change for people who asked (not “begged”) for it, for parking for example, because in the retail world good will is considered an asset.

    I’m sorry it’s one thing to try and pay with a fiver, there is a reasonable expectation of change, it’s another to do so with a high value note.

    Why not give the fiver you’ve accepted for change from one person back to the person who wants to pay with a tenner?

    @LBM: I agree that removing the driver’s responsibility to take fares is usually the best long term solution. Better than inflated cash fares with arbitrary rules about which coins or notes can be accepted.

  300. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian J – there has been a problem with change giving and floats on TfL routes for years. Once Oyster take up and PAYG use passed a certain level then the ability for drivers to maintain a float reduced. Bus companies gave up providing floats for drivers which meant they had to find change for the remaining cash fare payers out of their own pockets. I’ve lost count of the times when drivers have had to scramble in their pockets and wallets to find change. I just think that’s a daft situation. In recent travels I have only seen one driver have anything resembling a decent volume of change in a little tray he’d clearly made himself. Those few routes that do cross the G London boundary still have reasonable volumes of cash fares (based on comments from drivers who drive those routes) and I think there’s going to be real problems come July 6th on those routes.

    TfL say they have added more Oyster Ticket Stops but where? Why hasn’t the list been published and specific adverts provided in those areas that have gained outlets? Clearly TfL are going ahead with the removal of cash fares regardless as the maths are unarguable. However there are a lot of people who are really concerned about getting stuck and I fear TfL have made a “rod for their own back” because they’ve opted not to provide vending / top up machines at known busy locations which are away from the tube network. I have yet to see a notice or poster on a bus about the upcoming change and haven’t heard the I-Bus message on a bus about the “non acceptance of cats” – supposed to be cash obviously but reports I’ve read show people think it sounds like felines can’t use buses from early July. 😉

  301. timbeau says:

    Good luck if you want to catch a 465 in Dorking – the nearest Ticket shop is in Leatherhead, over four miles away

  302. IslandDweller says:

    IanJ said “Your attitude is a perfect illustration of why the bus industry has been steadily losing customers since the Second World War.”
    But passenger numbers on buses in London are rising……

    Meanwhile. Overheard a bus driver attempt to tell the only customer paying cash on my bus today that the cash option is being withdrawn. She smiled with that bemused look that made it obvious she hadn’t understood a word…

  303. Graham Feakins says:

    @IslandDweller “Meanwhile…” – Splendid! Yes, that is what is going to happen. I can relate that to when I had an annual Travelcard excluding Zone 1. Nobody *told* me beforehand that I would have to purchase a ticket from a machine (then installed) beforehand in The Strand for a night bus across Waterloo Bridge and beyond, rather than pay the driver. He didn’t wait. No obvious indication at the stop either.

    Such a cavalier attitude, to my mind. I can see it being repeated across London, albeit with perhaps (?) only a few intending cash-paying passengers these days.

  304. Ian J says:

    @Paul C: they’ve opted not to provide vending / top up machines at known busy locations which are away from the tube network

    Is there a ticket machine at Heathrow bus station?

  305. Ian J says:

    Sorry, my question was addressed to Walthamstow Writer (or anyone who knows)

  306. timbeau says:

    @Graham F

    When was this? Travelcards, whatever tube zones they cover, have been valid on all London buses since the beginning of 2004. The West End pay-before-you-board cashless area was introduced later the same year. So if you couldn’t pay for cash on the bus, your Z2-6 travelcard should have been accepted.

  307. @timbeau,

    No. Originally the buses were also zoned though the outer zones were lumped together as 3/4/5. Originally there was no zone 6. It was eventually realised that zoning buses was unnecessarily complicated. In reality people tend not to make long bus journeys if they already had a valid Capitalcard (as they we then still called I think) that that had rail validity. So the zoning for buses was removed and use on buses was valid regardless of which rail zones were covered. This probably did not affect the revenue very much but did make things much simpler.

  308. timbeau says:

    Yes, I know the buses were originally zoned. My point was that the zoning ceased before the West End pay-before-you-board scheme started (the machines never issued staged fares, only flat ones). So if the Travelcard was not accepted as out of zone, it must have been when cash was still accepted on all London buses – and if cash was not accepted, the travelcard was valid.

    Travelcard was introduced in 1983, Capitalcard in 1986. The distinction between Travelcard and Capitalcard ceased in 1989. Zone 6 was created in 1991. Bus Zones were abolished in 2004. the cash free west end zone started later the same year.

    Actually, a small correction: bendybuses were cashless from their launch in 2002, but as far as I am aware they operated no night services before the bus zones were abolished in 2004 – indeed the only bendybus service that meets GF’s description (operating over Waterloo Bridge) used to close down by 7pm.

  309. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian J – my ref to ticket machines not being provided comes from having read the recently released “fares revision briefing notes”. These cover a load of policy issues that have been considered by TfL over the years including cashless buses. The briefing note that refers to that concept states that TfL were considering Oyster top up machines at key locations. Clearly they’ve scrapped that idea on cost grounds. The old style “pay before you board” car park style ticket machines are being removed from Zone 1 and those few bus station that had them. I do not know if Heathrow Central Bus Station had one. I went to T5 and T4 by bus a couple of months ago and didn’t see any bus related ticket machines. I was quite surprised at the volume of people making use of the “Heathrow FreeFlow” free travel zone and using TfL buses to transfer between terminals.

    Talk about Heathrow problems is slightly ironic given it has been an utter nightmare location for LU for years. Ticket office queues were vast all day long and LU had to provide a “change desk” at T123 station so people could change the notes they’d brought with them so they could buy tickets from the ticket machines. confess I’ve not been there since T123’s ticket hall was remodelled so it might be better these days but I’d be surprised if it was an oasis of calm. I suspect the buses suffer the same sort of nightmare as the tube stations at Heathrow albeit on a smaller scale.

  310. Anomnibus says:

    I’m curious: almost every country I’ve lived in has cashless transit systems, barring the occasional travelcard-like affair. And even those have to be bought at a machine, shop or the like, not on the bus or metro.

    Everyone knows you buy your ticket / carnet / travel-card equivalent from the nearest newsagent. Newsagents don’t mind doing so as it ensures they get lots of footfall through their shop. In fact, these newsagents effectively provide a surrogate ticket office, removing the need for formal versions of such facilities entirely.

    So, why does everyone expect tourists to turn into dribbling imbeciles the moment they arrive in the city and assume, for no explicable reason, that London’s transport network will accept £20 notes?

    I’m aware that cash fares are still used elsewhere in the UK, but that’s certainly not normal elsewhere. As many a city bus driver has shouted at a banknote-waving character in a 1980s or ’90s US TV show or movie: “What do I look like? A bank?”

    The problem, as I understand it, is that it’s not often obvious where you’re supposed to buy your Oyster / ticket / card as the marketing and logos aren’t particularly consistent or self-explanatory. (“Oyster” is meaningless to most non-English speakers as “The world’s your oyster” is idiomatic and doesn’t translate literally in most languages.)

    TfL and their various associated companies really need to bang some heads together and consider the educational aspects of their marketing campaigns. This needs to be planned and implemented holistically. Saturation advertising and marketing for about a year or so should do it. And they need to make it clear enough for a non-English speaker to understand too.

  311. Malcolm says:

    My experience – as a traveller – is slightly different. Yes, many cities do have predominantly cashless local city transport, and it is certainly a good idea to check out before a visit just what the system is. But most of them do have a cash fall-back arrangement (just like what London is dropping), which is usually at a premium.

    Places where you can buy a ticket at kiosks, newsagents etc tend to be flat-fare areas.

    But it is not just a question of marketing. London fares are ridiculously complicated, and the Oyster protocol takes quite a lot of explaining, even to the most intelligent of visitors. How many tourists get stung by things like incomplete journeys on the Waterloo and City line (gated at one end only), or buses on which you can happily tap in and out (as you must in Amsterdam, and indeed must in London on trains) and get charged twice? I could go on about this for hours, but I won’t.

  312. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – yes London has its complications but it is very far from being alone in that. I could, but won’t, regale you and other readers with a myriad of oddities and complications from Paris, New York, Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong. As one tiny example Tokyo has three (AFAIK) different ways of validating a smartcard on buses depending on where you travel and what company you use! London buses aren’t quite that bad – we just have lots of choice about where to get on and off!

  313. Greg Tingey says:

    The main trouble seems to be … how the hell does one get a ticket in the first place – oyster or any other sort?
    The description by WW of the chaos at Heathrow is symptomatic.
    Getting rid of ticket offices will make it worse.
    Intelligent, directed publicity & advertising is at least part of the answer & TfL don’t seem to be doing very well at it at the moment, do they?

  314. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – Heathrow and several of the main line terminal stations suffer the same problems. They are NOT symptomatic of the entire network. That is why there are supposed to be those “gateway” Travel Centres. Heathrow has always been extremely busy and is probably the most difficult location in terms of ticketing because you have an unusual mix of business people, airport employees, meeters and greeters plus people from around the world arriving or departing on the tube plus vast quantities of luggage. There are also disproportionate numbers of family groups travelling. All of this causes ticketing and congestion problems in the ticket halls, on platforms and escalators / lifts. Kings Cross probably gets close because of Eurostar and main line rail but still not on the same scale as Heathrow.

    There are differing issues across the network. You can hardly expect TfL to be advertising the future brave new world for each station when there’s still no agreement with the TUs and I suspect they’re at the “oh dear, that’s much more difficult than we assumed” stage of a project. I’ve seen this so many times and once you start fiddling about with one set of assumptions then others tend to unravel somewhat. The TO closures are supposed to start in 2015 but when in 2015 I know not. I would like to see TfL’s prospectus for how and where you will be able to do each type of transaction (sales, refunds, hand back of Oyster cards, company ticket purchase, priv tickets, setting discounts etc etc).

  315. AlisonW says:

    Heathrow may have ‘issues’ with access & ticketing to the tube (and train?) but at least it does have that access to public mass transit. Too many airports worldwide* have none.

    * looking especially at the USA

  316. Dr Richards Beeching says:

    A few weeks ago, my partner and I were in Twickenham by chance, not knowing that there had been a major rugby match earlier that day. We were on a bus when about 20 rugby fans boarded all paying cash, many were evidently from Ireland.

    I would not like to be that bus driver, or even on that bus next year, when the driver tells them that their money is not acceptable.

  317. Long Branch Mike (Jr Under-Secretary &c) says:


    Happily in North America, alongside the LRT (light rail transit/train) renaissance is the realization of the importance of rail transit connexions to airports, with NYC/New Jersey airports (though not all yet), Chicago’s 2, Miami, San Francisco – all subway or commuter rail. Vancouver, Denver, Salt Lake City, St Louis, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, etc – LRT. Abuilding connexions are Toronto, Washington DC, Calgary. Planned are Montréal (though the intercity/commuter rail station is walkable and has a free shuttle bus), Houston, Virginia, and LA.

    By no means is this an exhaustive list. Some airport stations are as commuter and intercity rail stations (Baltimore, New Jersey, plus
    Montréal planned).

    These are all part of the aforementioned Network Effect, building a Virtuous Cycle, to the point that all major cities see having a rail transit network, connecting to their airport(s) and intercity train stations as a necessity.

    Complicating that is the large distances that some airports are from their downtowns. DC’s Dulles Airport subway line is estimated to cost $6 billion (that is probably 6 thousand million for UK and French readers), as it has to travel 25 miles or so through suburbs that sprawl everywhere.

  318. Malcolm says:

    Re billions, the so-called English billion is just about dead now. Regrettably or not, this is one area where the American version has pretty well swept the board. Slight regrets about that side of it, and also about the fact that perhaps the bi- prefix was more logical for a million million than it is for ten-to-the-power-nine (which is not really in any sense a double anything). Inflation has meant that billions are bandied around frequently by politicians and journalists (and others), and while there are many people who may not know exactly how big one of those is, anyone who does know, nowadays, treats it as meaning a thousand million.

    As for France, they tend to talk about such things in French anyway, and in that language “un milliard” has always meant a thousand million. I think.

  319. Malcolm says:

    A million can be pictured as the number of millimetre squares on a square metre sheet of graph paper (which are not common in real life, but fairly easy to imagine). For a billion, you have to have a cubic metre block of wood, and saw it up into one-millimetre cubes.

    American readers can do the “math” themselves if they can’t do the metric bit.

  320. Graham H says:

    @Malcom – you have Harold Wilson to blame for that – he introduced that American practice. (We hadn’t got to trillions of things at the time but the effect carried over).

  321. Greg Tingey says:

    Better to stick with the internationally agreed scientific system, then …
    k, M, G, T, P, E, Z, Y
    Going up by a power of 3 each time
    Down is
    m, “mu”, n, p, f, a
    Or just give the power of 10 ….

  322. Malcolm says:

    “Going up by a power of 3 each time”. I think you mean “going up by 3 each time”. Admittedly 3 is a power of 3 (the first power), but that nice Mr Grice says that we should give no more information that is needed.

    As for internationally-agreed, I rather think that saying that something is internationally-agreed is taken by many people, especially Americans and UKIP, as a good reason not to do it.

    I think it’s well past my bedtime.

  323. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes, slip of the typo there, yes, I meant increasing the power by +3 each time, or step, didn’t I?
    Internationally-agreed is not necessarily something UKIP would be against – it just depends, doesn’t it?
    Icdidentally, & totally off-topic … I started using what was then called the “MKS system” in school in 1960 [ Now called “The International System of Units ] and yet there are still people who can’t cope with degrees Centigrade (“Celsius”) walking around?
    What’s wrong with them, or is it our total-lack-of-education system?

    Reverting to railways, of course the old unit of a “Chain” = 22 yards = 20 metres, which makes life so easy …..

  324. Castlebar (Caisleán an Bharraigh) says:

    Getting back to Dr Beeching’s comment of 14:00 yesterday, the point is made there that it is not just central London that gets cash carrying visitors who would ONLY expect to be paying a bus fare in cash.

    I have seen similar situations in Twickenham and Wembley where nearly everyone offers cash to the driver.

    For some it would have been their first ever trip to London (Irish rugby club teams don’t make a habit of getting into important matches at Twickenham, or “the Stoop”), and for others the first trip in many years. Similarly Hull City’s recent visit to Wembley. Why should their fans be refused bus travel when they have the correct fare in cash??

  325. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Castlebar – refused as I would be if I didn’t have the exact fare in the West Midlands or Nottingham or Edinburgh? Yes I can tender cash and I can overpay if I want to but those areas have big operators which run farebox systems with no change provided so you can be stuck and refused travel there if you don’t play by the rules. Interestingly both Lothian Buses and Nottingham City Transport are generally rated as some of the best bus companies in the UK despite their ticketing rules. I do take the point about London’s policy change but we are not alone in having a system whereby sales are all off vehicle. I dare say visitors will adjust their behaviours in due course but TfL need to get the publicity / information right.

    As a small aside I helped some Scottish visitors the other weekend who were in Harlesden of all places. Interestingly they’d got Oyster cards at the station but only loaded with exactly £4.40 PAYG (the bus daily cap). The ticket clerk had presented this as a 1 day bus pass. I have to say I’ve never come across that before and the poor souls were struggling to find the right bus to Shepherds Bush. Harlesden Station is one of those places where you can stand on either side of the road to get a bus (228 or 260) to S Bush. A 228 came past the stop we were at but it wasn’t going to S Bush! Thankfully for our visitors they missed that otherwise they’d have had a wasted trip and wasted £1.45 of their balance. I put them on a 260 and gave them a quick lesson in “touching in”, how to add some more value and how to get a refund of their card – they were returning to Scotland the next day. Quite why the clerk didn’t just put, say, £8 balance on each card to cover the weekend’s travel rather than exactly £4.40 I don’t know. Just goes to show you can find visitors in the most unexpected parts of town and discover some odd ticketing practices too.

  326. Graham H says:

    @WW – reminiscent of the advice to unwary travellers beaming down at Schipol, where the ticket machines will accept only Dutch-registered credit cards and coin: approach a friendly Dutchman and do a deal with him. (of course that may be misunderstood…)

  327. answer=42 says:

    re: rugby / association football matches + cash fares
    Surely the solution is to bundle a 1-day Travelcard together with the match ticket, as was done with the London Olympics.

  328. Anonymous says:

    I have, in the past used A0 graph paper, which has an area of exactly one square metre. However there were less than a million small squares on each sheet because of the margins.
    (Does anyone use graph paper any more? Asking for it used to be a great ploy to unsettle other people sitting an exam.)

    @ all the rest
    I think milliards and real billions are still used in Germany, hardly an economic backwater.

    Slightly nearer topic, I’m not sure about abolition but at least no one will again be shocked at the price of a single cash fare. Does anyone remember the Flanders & Swann line “and if it cost a POUND a ticket”.

  329. timbeau says:

    Others who may be caught out – you get a lift or taxi to the airport to go on holiday, but use the bus to go home again – not using the train or tube, perhaps because you live in the NW or SW suburbs, or your flight is delayed and arrives at 3am. Hard luck if you didn’t pack your Oyster card – or its been nicked by some foreign pickpocket, as recently happaened to a friend of mine.

  330. Castlebar (Caisleán an Bharraigh) says:

    correct, timbeau

    I arrived at Heathrow on a flight (delayed by the French air traffic controllers) and came out of customs at about 2 a.m.

    Needing to get to Hampton, easy for me, just a simple journey on a 111. But another intending passenger needing the same bus to get to Kingston had only been given £50 notes and travellers cheques. “Sorry Luv, yer can’t get on”. (I would have paid for her, honest I would, but I couldn’t swipe my card a second time, and the bus driver wouldn’t accept my $5 US which actually could have given him a profit on the deal)

  331. Greg Tingey says:

    WELCOME to Britain
    ( Not )
    This is the nub of the problem.
    TfL would have been responsible if that woman had been assaulted, wouldn’t they?
    Something has to be done about this conundrum, but what, sensibly?

    [ Will”wave-&-pay” help, if they have the appropriate cards? ]

  332. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Answer=42 – alternatively there is the option of bulk purchase of Bus Saver Tickets by the sports venue / ticket retailer and packaging Saver Tickets as part of the deal. TfL still sell them in bulk to businesses and they remain valid for use.

    I really do understand the concerns people have about cashless buses and I fear the policy will have a very rough “birth” as people get caught out. However do I expect a load of charity if I arrive in Rome (or anywhere else) at 0200 where you can’t buy a ticket on a bus? No. Do I think the newsagent in the bowels of Termini station will be open at 0200 – nope although it was helpful to buy a ticket from there while I was going from train to bus station at a more convenient time of day. The owner had the nouse to put up a multi lingual sign saying what he sold – he got my Euros! Do I have a clue how I’d buy a bus ticket in Rome in 0200 – nope but most people are capable of working out a solution for themselves even if it’s not terribly satisfactory (e.g. more expensive than expected). There is a balance to be struck between personal responsibility and the extent of any “safety net” provided by operators / authorities.

  333. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Anonymous 13:33

    Does anyone remember the Flanders & Swann line “and if it cost a POUND a ticket”.

    If tickets cost a pound a piece why should you swear and cuss?
    Its worth it just to ride inside that 30ft long by 10ft wide
    behind that monarch of the road
    observer of the highway code
    that big six wheeler scarlet painted
    London Transport diesel engined 97 horsepower omnibus.

    All done from memory. One day I will get around to updating it.

    Perhaps we could end it with

    open platform (except at weekends)
    Transport for London hybrid engined 200 kilowatt Boris bus

  334. Long Branch Mike (Trois Rivieres Michel) says:

    PoP are you aware you are channelling the poetic stylings of Greg Tingey, or is it some advert jingle?

  335. Greg Tingey says:

    I can do better than that
    Try this for size!
    NB: I note several factually-incorrect statements in the song – but who cares – I think, in this case, it’s called: “artistic licence” !!

  336. Castlebar says:

    Does anyone remember the Flanders & Swann line “and if it cost a POUND a ticket”.

    I remember it

    I also remember an expression that goes back to music hall days.

    The expression was “in the pound seats” meaning absolute luxury, – the very best seats in the house.
    (Tell that to today’s transport providers)

  337. HTFB says:

    It’s only on topic insofar as the units are helpful for measuring the cost of season tickets, but look: the long-series billion makes no sense at all. All the nominal advantage of counting sixth-powers for million, billion, etc is compensated by the complete failure of the count for milliard, billiard, etc. A billiard is not a milliard squared. The French series starts mille, million, milliard, billion, billiard, trillion, and it’s not at all instinctive what the logic is: how many mille in a trillion? how many milliard?

    Or you can use the British style of calling 10^9 a thousand million, which is wordy and essentially impossible to follow: if the ticket clerk says a SuperSaver return to Cardiff costs two hundred and eight thousand million two hundred million eight thousand eight hundred and two pounds twenty, are you confident you could get the correct change out of your purse?

    Counting in sixth powers means you have to hear as many as six digits before you get to know the scale, which is just too many to be practicable. There is a reason why the SI system gives labels to every third power. The labels rightly make no pretence to a euphonious but spurious logic, either. A little effort learning them pays off in a lifetime’s avoidance of problems caused by mishearing: mega is less likely to be mistaken for kilo or giga than million is for mille or milliard or billion.

    Now that the world is big enough that we need to think about billions and trillions regularly, especially for walk-up fares, we have quite naturally chosen a simple, workable system for naming them. The names could be better but the long series is in all ways worse.

    You say billiards, I say balls.

  338. timbeau says:

    @Long Branch Mike
    Giving away your transatlantic background.
    It was not an advertising jingle, nor a product of Greg’s imagination. Flanders & Swann were English (very English) – comic song writers and performers of the 50s and 60s. Michael Flanders (father of the journalist Stephanie) was the one in the wheelchair (he contracted polio whilst serving overseas in the Navy), and Donald Swann was the one who played the piano. Their best known song is probably the hippoptamus “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud – nothing quite like it for cooling the blood” (and with wonderful rhyming couplets such as “A regular army, of hippopotami” – “his inamorata, adjusted her garter”) –
    Other well known ones
    – “Ill wind” – the story of a French horn, sung (beacuse the horn is stolen) to the tune of Mozarts Horn Concerto
    – “The gas man cometh” – (“Twas on a Monday morning….”): a succession of visiting tradesmen each cause damage that has to be fixed by the next.
    “Have some madeira m’dear” – with the classic example of syllepsis: “she made no reply, up her mind and a dash for the door”

    More on topic for us, as well as the bus (“A Transport of Delight”), were:
    – “Slow Train” – about the Beeching cuts, and
    – “Last of the Line” – the end of trams in London.

    I’m sure many of them can be found on You Tube, and I’ve just found a comprehensive set of the lyrcs here

    Given they were made half a century ago, they haven’t dated as much as you’d expect, although some of the more topical or satirical pieces may be lost on modern audiences.

    mega is less likely to be mistaken for kilo or giga than million is for mille or milliard or billion
    Have you never seen power station outputs quoted in mW instead of MW, or mg (milligrams) written where micrograms was intended (should be a Greek “mu”): possibly with fatal consequences if the figure in question is a dose of medicine.
    See also “Have some madeira, m’dear” and many others.

  339. Pedantic of Purley says:


    OK, waay off topic …

    My favourite is Misalliance about the story of a Honeysuckle and and a Bindweed who fall in love a but are incompatible (“We twine to the right-and they twine to the left!”). It comes across as a really lighthearted whimsical song devoid of all significance rather like Mud Glorious Mud. What you have to imagine is that they are singing this to an American audience in the McCarthy era. Suckered in by the light-hearted nature of the song then then get hit with the last two lines sung very loudly and passionately by two Englishman

    Deprived of that freedom for which we must fight-
    To veer to the left or to veer to the right!

    I also have a soft spot for the line in A Transport of Delight of the “Bonnie Army Lorry”.

    Fans of Flanders and Swann may really like the Muppets version of The Gnu here. At about 1:27 he refers to furnished lodgings at Rustington-on-Sea which is in Sussex – very very dubious on topic reference. Oops, no its not – this is the article on underground tickets.

    Now need to go away and give myself a good telling off for going so off-topic.

  340. @Timbeau,

    If I recall correctly Micheal Flanders contracted polio whilst on a Royal Navy ship off the coast of Norfolk (that is Norfolk, England for the benefit of Long Branch Mike). The tragedy was that if he had been taken ashore, as would have been possible, and given complete rest straightaway, he probably would have made a full recovery. I think Stephanie suggested in a radio programme that ignorance of this fact by the captain as well as a rather unsympathetic attitude by him meant the disease would be life-long.

  341. Greg Tingey says:

    The scientists & engineers have been using the “Go up-&-down-by-3-steps-in-powers-of-10” method for a long time now & it WORKS. Works very well, too.

    And, in case people didn’t realise, my previous link was to a YouTube recording of the original “Omnibus” lyric as sung by the pair.
    “The Slow Train” has now made it to the international lieder scene – I’ve heard it once or twice …..

  342. Castlebar says:



    Effectively Angmering

    Which would be the first coastway station if the Arundel chord were to be built

    So, very much on topic………

    ……..but on the wrong board

  343. Long Branch Mike (JUSAAP - I (A)) says:


    Thank you gentlemen for the cultural explanation. Mrs LBM’s English cultural knowledge begins in the mid 80s with pop songs such as 2 Pints of Lager & a Packet of Crisps…

  344. Graham Feakins says:

    Off-topic – Flanders & Swann – Last of the Line (The last London tram):

    More off-topic from those entertainers (but relevant to devolution/referendum):

    That’s it from me before I get into trouble.

  345. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    I have an email from tfl, 7 Apr 2015:

    “I am writing to let you know that we are now carrying out improvement work at Stratford Tube station; this is part of our plans to modernise the Tube. As a result, we are making changes to the ticket hall and the ticket windows are now permanently closed.

    We have moved our staff into the ticket hall where they can assist you more effectively; the station will continue to be staffed between the first and last train times. ”

    So, out of interest, what is this? – taken 17/05/2015, 12:28 – taken 15/05/15, 9:41

    How is this “we have moved our staff into the ticket hall where they can assist you more effectively…. ” ?

  346. Mark says:

    @Briantist – the second photo shows NR ticket machines. Is the photo of NR ticket windows?

  347. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Briantist – at Stratford there are separate National Rail ticket windows. There was a row with the LRPC (London Regional Passengers Committee) when the JLE was being built as to what ticketing would apply at Stratford when LU took over the management. I was involved in the row – hence why I know what transpired. The issue was the range of tickets and destinations that LU handles relative to a BR (as it was then) station – LU cannot handle nationwide ticketing. In the end LU took over but NR windows had to be provided as the decision was taken not to remove nationwide ticket retailing from Stratford. It seems this standard still applies. That principle also poses an interesting issue north of Queens Park where LU took the stations over but National Rail ticketing was retained. I wonder if LU will ever be able to implement its planned closures at these locations? Also applies at Gunnersbury and Kew Gardens.

  348. John U.K. says:

    Some NR tickets were available at West Brompton, but not sure what the position is now.

  349. Briantist (in theee, four, gee purgatory) says:


    The photos are from the Westfield entrance which has a mixture of NR and TfL ticket machines. There isn’t since the changes anyone at these windows. They have TfL branding, not NR.


    Thanks for the details. It is interesting that these windows are normally closed since the changes. There are going to be many fewer NR destinations from next month when TfL•Rail takes over the Shenfield line stations, as the only Direct NR trains from Stratford will be the two an hour to Cheshunt via Tottenham Hale!

  350. Pincinator says:

    @Briantist What about the Norwich, Southend, Colchester and Clacton services?

  351. IslandDweller says:

    Brainiest. I don’t think that’s quite right. Although tfl-rail are taking over these services, they’re still part of the national rail system. Tfl are choosing to introduce their standards of station staffing (which is generally a good thing). But surely national rail ticket rules can’t be ignored. As a passenger from (say) Maryland can currently buy a ticket from there to (say) Hyndland, they surely must still have that possibility next month, even though tfl-rail are operating the trains/station.

  352. IslandDweller says:

    Relating specifically to Stratford, thanks for the explanation on why there is a separate ticket window there for Greater Anglia. I’ve always found the GA window under staffed, with some horrid queues.

  353. Pincinator says:

    …I just realised you are referring to trains terminating/starting at Stratford.

  354. timbeau says:

    Those are already the only non-TfL services terminating at Stratford, and have been since TfL took over the North London Line service.

  355. Alan Griffiths says:

    timbeau @ 20 May 2015 at 16:15

    Those are already the only non-TfL services terminating at Stratford”

    That’s correct, but all Southend and Southminster services call at Stratford, as do most mainline services.

  356. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Briantist – you’re incorrect about remaining NR services. All main line services, including those procured by TfL, are part of the National Rail network. One of the reasons why Stratford is now so immensely busy is that so many trains now call there. That’s largely driven off the development of Docklands. Therefore all the trains to Norwich, Harwich, Clacton, Braintree and Southend also count as NR trains for which NR ticket selling is needed. That is actually quite different from the time before the JLE reached Stratford. Back then the level of BR service calls was much lower – you certainly couldn’t get a direct Norwich train from Stratford in those days. The station was also a pretty dire place to use.

  357. Greg Tingey says:

    D-G has something to say on this subject, given recent changes.
    What I notice is the tremendous difference in “service” offered.
    Not mentioned, I think, is that some of these places are surprisingly hard to find.
    And, of course, IMHO, that all major termini should have one.

  358. Greg Tingey says:

    OK, trying again.
    Wasn’t there supposed to be a “new” approach to staffing at tube stations, especially truly underground ones?
    With more staff in attendance?

    Sunday morning, 20th September, just before 08.00 ….
    No staff visible at all at Walthamstow Central Victoria line.
    None at the auto-gates at the top of the escalators, with the “entry” gates open. None visible in any of the cross-passages, nor on the southerly platform.
    I wonder what would have happened in an emergency, such as a person being taken ill, or needing immediate assistance?
    Was this contrary to all the supposed operating instructions & safety-cases?

  359. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – based on what I’ve briefly read in the latest Board paper info the new staffing concept isn’t yet fully deployed even though ticket offices are closing.

    On my fairly limited travels on the tube I have seen several instances where there are no staff present or at least not visible in ticket halls. I suspect someone, somewhere is watching a CCTV monitor or 6 but that’s not what was stated. I’ve seen Walthamstow Central with absolutely no staff anywhere and the gateline fully operational – not sure how that works. I happened to go through Kings Cross last week when the North ticket hall ticket office was still open (now closed) – massive queues of people with three clerks working to serve them. No queues in the tube ticket hall as I assume people went where there was obvious assistance. My general impression is that staff are doing the absolute bare minimum they can get away with or there are not enough staff at some locations. I’ve yet to see the “breezy, bouncy super dooper helpful proactive” staff armed with their I-Pads [1] that the blurb promised. I also think a fair slice of the public hate using machines and may well be adopting other purchase strategies which are not on the LU network. I can’t prove that but I’d not be surprised if it was the case.

    [1] apparently these have been bought but some of the supporting IT infrastructure is running late. You couldn’t make it up.

  360. Greg Tingey says:

    OH, dear
    It would appear that even the Evening Standard, which cheer-led for the ticket-office closures may be having second thoughts.
    An interesting read.

    Opinion: Closing the ticket offices at the main line termini was a serious mistake, especially since “foreign” bank-cards won’t work on contactless & even the Oyster machines may not do so (?)
    I also note the usual, breezy, TfL/LUL response that “everything is working perfectly” – when it all too obviously isn’t?

    Does anyone have any better information on this fraught matter?

  361. Greg,

    Lets try and get some sense of objectivity instead of our usual assumptions that doom has just arrived.

    I go through Victoria on many occasions. The queues are horrendous. There is a long organised queue just to use the ticket machines. I have no idea how long it takes to go through it but I would be really suprised if it was anything like an hour. A long single queue always looks daunting but if for multiple machines it is surprising how quickly it can shift. Think of the long queues at Post Offices that actually move quite fast.

    The main point is though The situation appears to be unchanged. It always was ever thus. Even when we had the ticket office. And it is nothing new. I was probably only just wearing long trousers when I can remember when there wasn’t an endemic queue there.

    It may be that with the closure of the ticket office they will be able to install far more ticket machines. What will be far more relevant is what the situation would be like in six months time.

    A factor could be that Gatwick was supposed to have already been “Oysterised” by now meaning you might not have got the hordes descending from the latest Gatwick Airport that had just arrived. By the way, the TfL travel centre at Gatwick is a little booth right by the arrivals exit in the north terminal but when I was last there it was staffed but no-one was using it.

    Again when it comes to bank cards and contact payments can we try and not make presumptions (that are usually wrong)? TfL has to (or had to) negotiate with every separate bank for their bank card to be available on TfL services. At the time of launch there were something like 50 foreign banks that had agreed and so their cards could work. It is an ongoing process so I would imagine it is much higher now. A separate problem, particularly for those from some countries, may be that you to have successfully had at least one chip + pin transaction before your card will be accepted for contact payments.

    So hardly perfect and no doubt masses of room for improvement, which will happen, but not as described.

  362. 100andthirty says:

    For information, and to draw a comparison with what is held as the Gold Standard for intergrated ticketing, I was in the Netherlands last week on an organised tour. They have integrated ticketing which works across all modes. However there are some significant challenges for tourists…………

    1) Non Dutch chip and pin cards don’t work on their ticket machines, nor on their web site.
    2) The only cash ticket machines seemed to take was coins
    3) Every train ticket has a smart chip for which a premium of €1 is charged.
    4) The work around for foreign web sales, apparently, is to use the Belgium SNCB web site, even for journeys wholly in the Netherlands.

    As a footnote, each of us on the tour had NS day tickets which were not valid on other operators’ services. It was amusing to see what a poor Arriva bus driver had to do with a pad of tiny tickets and a rubber stamp machine when 25 of us turned up to catch his bus in Dortrecht! A 30 sec dwell turned into 3 minutes.

  363. Graham H says:

    @100+30 – Indeed, I noted advice from one DSutch correspondent in the trade press that if – as one does -one landed at Schipol with a wad of banknotes and wished to buy a railway ticket, the best (only?) way to do so was to find a friendly Dutchman with a lot of coin. The scope for misunderstanding seemed large…

  364. Anonymous says:

    @100+30 – I landed at Schipol October 2014 and my HBOS card worked fine in the machines. However I did get notified by text from my bank that my card had just been used in Belgium! Caused me a bit of worry until I assumed it was some technicality of the Benelux countries!

  365. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    You can have a similar experience if you arrive at Heathrow, or indeed any main line station in London, and want to continue by bus.

  366. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – I suppose so – a staff pass is a great cocoon against the problem.

  367. IslandDweller says:

    Victoria and queues. Not an hour, but I have waited over 25 minutes at the ticket office queue. Especially galling to have to join that queue – given that I had already queued at a ticket machine only to find that the machines at Victoria are programmed not to sell a railcard fare….
    As pointed out above – other countries are problematic for visitors too. In NY you can pay with a credit card at the MTA machines – but these ask for a ZIP code…. (Foreign visitors should just ignore it and press enter – it then works, as I discovered by pure trial and error).

  368. Greg Tingey says:

    The comments by visitors on the “Standard” page were relevant:
    “London is supposed to be an International City, open for business, but we can’t even by a “subway” ticket!”
    OK, there may be exaggeration & similar problems elsewhere, but ….

  369. Ed says:

    “A long single queue always looks daunting but if for multiple machines it is surprising how quickly it can shift. Think of the long queues at Post Offices that actually move quite fast.”

    Bloody hell what post office is that?! Torturous at my local ones. The best are the ones where you take a ticket and wait for your number.

    I’ve also had a fair few issues abroad with using machines. However, I cut them some slack as single fares are almost always less than UK equivalents (often far less) and weekly tickets, which tourists are likely to use, are substantially less, in just about every EU, American or Asian city.

  370. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “a staff pass is a great cocoon against the problem”

    Which is, I suspect, part of the problem: staff, including the bigwigs, never have to use the machines or the ticket offices. In the same way they can be blissfully unaware of inadequacies in the signage, because they know their way around.

  371. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – “fortunately” our families bring us back to reality (or should do). personally, I am also a great believer in the “management by walking about” so disliked by consultants

  372. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ timbeau – I think you’re probably right up to a point. Years ago we had a “team building” day. This involved a range of tasks to get us LU office wallahs to experience the “real railway”. One such task involved going to Canary Wharf and using the ticket machines to buy a cash ticket back to Zone 1. My colleagues had no idea at all how much a ticket was or how to buy one. It took me a few seconds (yeah I know – show off!) and I knew exactly how much it would cost. They were also horrified at the price and that was long before cash fares went to today’s astronomic levels. I think they suddenly appreciated how much money their staff pass saved them!

    On the signing issue then yes anyone doing a regular trip ignores the signs. However few staff have a complete knowledge of every station on the system and every possible route, entry or exit point etc. I’m pretty good but not as good as I used to be. Given the scale of works anyone can get caught out – I got completely wrong footed at Kings Cross a few months ago when they were replacing the three short N Line escalators. Not wanting to walk for a mile round KX tube station I had to change my entire route. Plenty of other places where I have to rely on signs like everyone else – those weird places like Kingston and Croydon with their mystical ever changing town centre layouts. Try finding where to catch a bus near West Croydon at the moment or finding a bus that isn’t subject to diversion because of road works! Or using any railway station in South London – I don’t know those stations at all. I recently looked up the layout of Norwood Junction station (given comments on here) – what a bamboozling mess and especially in relation to where the buses stop.

    Not every staff pass holder is possessed of extraordinary transport knowledge. Most know their regular commute and that’s about it. Many will readily use a car at weekends for shopping, leisure and family trips and be clueless about their local bus and rail services. Many don’t even live in London so their pass is useless to them unless they’re coming up to London for some specific purpose. If they do use public transport then they’re just a punter like everyone else and possessed of about the same level of clue. Enthusiasts are pretty incapable of switching off their knowledge levels for the systems they know and use. It’s only when thrown into completely uncharted territory that they might act the same as “ordinary” people. I say “might” because most enthusiasts can read timetables, suss out what might be going on around them or be able to work out how to find out more info. I might not be able to read or understand much German but it didn’t take me long to suss out when the S Bahn in Berlin wasn’t working as expected due to engineering works. I could spot the tell tale signs based on UK experience.

  373. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H
    “management by walking about” so disliked by consultants
    And as practised by the great & still missed Gerry Feinnes, of course.

    The first time I went to Paris (1985?) I was really bothered about finding my way around – for about a minute – after which I realised that it was “Just another metro system” – provided I checked the map before I entered a station & remembered the “Direction” labelling, it all worked fine. At the same time, I was observing French provincials who were completely flummoxed/lost.

  374. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – and yet my first visit to Paris had me completely flummoxed by the Metro signage. It had never dawned on me that the signs wouldn’t be like London. When it wasn’t, getting around was a tad difficult plus I couldn’t find Auber RER having alighted at St Lazare from the night boat train. Yes I know they’re very close but first time in a place and being very unfamiliar. If nothing else it taught me an important lesson about being flexible in how you approach getting around new places. These days with the internet and smartphones it’s a different world.

    I was due to meet a friend at Gare de Lyon for a TGV trip to Lyon. We said “what does every stn have one of?” “Oh yes, a platform 1”. Unfortunately G de Lyon doesn’t have a platform one and is also on several levels and in two sections. I was downstairs, he was upstairs and I only found him when I heard my name on the PA and went wandering! There had recently been a terrorist outrage in France which meant the menacing CRS, laden with automatic weapons, were patrolling all the stations and looking at lost strangers with great suspicion. We still got to Lyon though after much poor French being spoken at the ticket office and getting reservations changed. So there you go, I can be just as hopeless as everyone else. Still a fun trip though and witnessed an argument over seats on the return TGV where a man memorably called a woman a cow. “Vous etes une vache, madame” – never forgotten that one. The TGV ride was like nothing else at the time – so fast. I then got the night train / boat back via Dieppe / Newhaven with vague memories of sharing too much ouzo with other travellers on the train back. That was back when I did stupid things like go to Lyon for the day by train. 🙂

  375. Greg Tingey says:

    Ah yes.
    Victoria – Newhaven – Dieppe G St Lazare
    Done that – although I have done all the “short sea crossings” from Dover/Folkestone, I’ve never go forwards from there by train, unlike another “lost crossing”:
    Manchester – Heysham – Belfast ( & then Gt Victoria St – Dublin Amiens Street & on to Inchicore by bus.
    Long ago days.

    [Interesting diversions but these trips overseas are now over. LBM]

  376. Greg Tingey says:

    A question – as this seems the most appropriate thread.

    As all of us know, TfL have said they will no longer be taking corporate cheques for annual season tickets …..
    “The Boss” season expires soon – a “paper” Gold-Card Annual, point-to-point.
    [ LST – WHC ]

    How does she, or anyone else, for that matter, now manage to get an annual season ticket?
    Her employer, like many others, offers an interest-free loan on “annuals”, deducted monthly from her salary, but the apparently difficult bit is……………………..
    How does she go about finding a station that will accept payment from her employers?
    I don’t doubt that either WHC or LST will issue her with the ticket, but, how on Earth is she to pay for it?

    Is there a handy web-site answering these questions, because:
    TfL’s web-site leads one HERE which is useless, as annual seasons are not even mentioned. And putting “annual Season” into TfL’s search-space doesn’t help much, either.
    Also the otherwise useful site called “Oyster & National Rail” , most unusually, doesn’t seem to cover this, either.

  377. timbeau says:

    LST is managed by Network Rail and serves AGA as well as TfL and LO, so I would imagine it would be a good bet for still acccepting company cheques.

    Indeed, it should be possible to buy a ticket from any where to anywhere else at any National Rail station, so if LST can’t do it, she could always try Kings Cross or Fenchurch Street

  378. Purley Dweller says:

    Southern stations accept company cheques so I suspect other GTR ones do too.

  379. Greg Tingey says:

    timbeau, purley dweller, ngh
    I re-checked with the NR enquires site just now, & on burrowing down I found THIS page which says that NR offices (like LST) will accept company cheques, but it depends on the Operating Company or Concession.
    As you can see, it says:
    “London Overground – No cheques accepted.”

    Now then, how are the many tens/hundreds of thousands of annual season-ticket holders going to pay for their seasons? Out of their own pockets & claim it back?
    Unlikely – that’s the point of the interest-free employer’s loan after all.
    This has all the makings of a slow-burn PR disaster.

    In the meantime, all suggestions gratefully recieved!

  380. Greg Tingey says:

    Oh & a written enquiry, dated 11/02/16 to TfL says:
    QUOTE] Please note that we are currently working on correspondence received prior to 7 January 2016.
    i.e. 5 weeks in arrears & “222-1234” is down as well.
    Customer service – what’s that?

  381. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – seems C2C will oblige so the “Boss” should be able to use a company cheque there. I’d imagine they’d be happy to flog a LST-WHC season. Otherwise check who actually staffs LST’s ticket office. If it is AGA then you’re fine. I suspect it probably is AGA but the NR website doesn’t confirm this.

    Alternatively can your wife’s employer provide some means of electronic transfer if the requisite details are provided by LOROL for a ticket sale at Walthamstow Central? I doubt your wife’s case is the first example the firm’s had to deal with. The problem should be looked at from both ends to see if a viable solution exists.

  382. 1956 says:

    Many companies (including the one I work for) simply pay the amount that a season tickets costs into the employees bank account, and the employee then pays for the season ticket with a credit/debit card.

  383. timbeau says:

    Indeed, but some companies don’t trust their employees to use their season ticket loan for the purpose for which it is intended so insist on making the cheque out to the transport operator.

  384. Greg Tingey says:

    timbeau & 1956
    There’s also the problem, IIRC that the payment of Season Ticket Loans is a concession by HMRC & they may require “paperwork” to be shown.
    If you are a financial concern ( e.g. a large accountancy/tax practice ) then you have to be squeaky-clean & therefore a direct payment is very unlikely.

    I’m beginning to feel sorry for people commuting in from Zone 6 who will have to try to go through the hoops of the new procedures – I mean finding approx £950 straight-off, free & clear, without going into debt the next month is bad enough, but an annual Z1-6 is …… £2364
    Ukkk ….

  385. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Are we not making a giant mountain out of a tiny molehill?

    Surely if a company wants to ensure accountability for a season ticket loan then the obvious thing to do is to pay the money direct to TfL themselves and, if necessary, physically give the Oystercard to the employee? That way the audit trail is even better than a company cheque.

    The “problem”, I suspect is in small companies where that is the way it has always been done and the person who has to sort this out does not want to change when there is an established tried and tested means of providing this payment. Nevertheless that, rightly or wrongly, is a feature of modern life and, from my experience, cheques are rarely used these days by businesses and not exactly greatly used by most members of the public.

    If there is cause for complaint it is probably that TfL have not really spelt out what other mechanisms are available in situations like this. Ideally, if this really is a major issue, there should be a mechanism for someone to top-up someone else’s Oyster card (including with an annual season payment) without the privacy of data being breached.

  386. Greg Tingey says:

    That MIGHT work for a zonal Oyster.
    Point-to-point seasons, as used by many tens of thousands into LST, maybe not so much

  387. 100andthirty says:

    I suspect this is an issue that has been overlooked in TfL’s change programme. TfL clearly recognises that lots of people get annual seasons/travel cards etc. But didn’t look at the source of the funds to obtain same. Apart from paying small sums to small traders, I wouldn’t dream of paying a large sum by cheque these days, and it is amazing that companies are still doing this for season ticket loans. TfL itself offers same to its employees and doesn’t do this (paid though payroll). They are squeaky clean with the tax officials. So if they can do it, why not everyone else?

    (Apologies for posting this is a less relevant thread earlier) [Now removed. Malcolm]

  388. Greg Tingey says:

    Because there is no effective replacement for a “Bill of Exchange” in many situations, & cheques are a specialised form of a BoE.
    Many small organisations, rather than companies use “company” double-signatory cheques [ Two I know of are a Morris Side & an Allotment Association, f’rinstance ] How are you going to set these up with a “credit card”, then?

    Also TfL are “Not Interested” ( or certainly appear so ) in point-to-point tickets, especially for seasons. They will want to push people on to the more expensive & therefore more remunerative zonal fare structure.

  389. Malcolm says:

    Can we wrap this up please. We’ve noted that there is difficulty for firms and their employees who wish to use company cheques to pay for annual seasons. The reasons why they might or might not wish to do this, and the apparent decline in the use of cheques for all purposes are not really transport-related. TfL’s ceasing to accept these (and the fact that, for now at least, some other TOCs still do) are noted. I don’t see much point in any further discussion of this (unless someone has something really novel to say about it).

  390. Greg Tingey says:

    I tend to agree that … unless someone has something really novel to say about it is correct, but:
    The original question, regarding the plight of many thousands of people, now unable to readily obtain season tickets, has (still) not been answered.
    An answer to that question would be something new.
    Almost anything else would fall under your proposed cut-off, I think.

  391. MikeP says:

    My current and previous employer both previously paid season ticket loans only by cheque to the transport operator. Both have now changed their procedure to payment to the employee, with a requirement for the season ticket to be presented within 2 weeks of start date.
    So it seems, with 1956’s comment as well, that companies are well able to change their procedures whilst remaining compliant with HMRC rules and their own audit/accountability requirements.

  392. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Presumably they actually demand proof that you have bought the thing. If it is on an Oystercard then I can’t see that showing them your Oystercard proves anything.

  393. 100andthirty says:

    Hand over the receipt – or copy thereof of the Oyster transaction? The machines do have that option – although you have to select it If you buy on-line, then I am sure there is an option for a receipt or a screen grab you can make (have never bought Oyster on-line)

  394. Philip says:

    100andthirty – I had to buy a new annual season last week (my employer trusts us enough to just give us the cash advance in our pay packets) and discovered that ticket machines do not sell annual Travelcards. The only option is to use one of the “visitor centres” or pay on the website.

  395. 100andthirty says:

    Philip Apologies, I have discovered this too.

  396. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I note with interest, given it is a management contract based franchise, that TSGN (ahem, the DfT) are now adopting LU’s approach to ticket selling. In other words close loads of ticket offices, downgrade others and shove the staff out into the cold to stand around looking gormless or having a chat with colleagues.

    Very large numbers of stations involved and probably a precursor to the same happening right across the suburban franchises. I am really surprised about some of the larger Home Counties stations on the lists – Stevenage! They’re not “tiddler” stations by any description. The bit I don’t understand is why the ticket office can’t be the “station hosting point”. A great many NR ticket offices are located on or adjacent to platforms anyway given the stations are fairly simple in their design. Knocking through a window to oversee the platforms and provide a comms point seems an ideal way to double up the function of the ticket office. The TSGN proposal seems a lot of effort to achieve very little.

  397. Kit Green says:

    Many stations already have a window to the platform from the days of excess fare points.

  398. Ian J says:

    @WW: The more positive way in which they are emulating TfL is that most stations will be staffed from first to last train, which is a big change for the likes of the MML inner suburban stations.

  399. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian J – fair comment but, as ever with these things, it depends on how the number of staff deployed and whether they work in the way they are expected to work. Also will there be “management walking about” across the full service day to make sure the service quality is right. I am not sure I’d want to be standing around for hours on a freezing cold, wet platform at somewhere like Hendon or Alexandra Palace.

    The other aspect that concerns me for NR stations is whether national ticketing obligations are being whittled away because those “high up” have been blinded by the apparent possibilities of smart ticketing. We have already seen SEFT basically collapse as an initiative and then an alternative vision being spun as some great new panacea for rail passengers. However as Roger Ford has nicely pointed out in Modern Railways there are multiple failure points with the new technological vision when compared to a boring old printed piece of cardboard. The presumption everyone will have a super duper Smartphone, be fully techno comfortable and never have a phone run out of power is just so daft that you have to wonder what is going on. How will a “host point” deal with advance ticket purchases and reservations or sell someone a rover ticket or issue a railcard? Passenger vending machines can’t do all those things and transaction times could be protracted for advance tickets.

    There is no doubt that PAYG and Travelcards on a smartcard / payment card for use on a large complex network like London undoubtedly works, is attractive to a lot of passengers and can bring operational benefits. However forever stretching the concept to breaking point will bring it into disrepute at some point. I’d say we are beginning to see that with Oyster reaching Gatwick because of the underlying ticketing complexity that Oyster can’t deal with properly (hence paper tickets being cheaper at some times). I simply can’t see how you replicate the full range of NR ticketing products and availabilities on a smart medium without massive, massive investment in the back room systems and the validation equipment. Even a simple thing like break of journey is immensely hard to replicate with a smartcard and TfL doesn’t even try (ignoring the odd possibility at some OSIs for people to dash into a shop if they want to). The problem I have is that we seem to be starting with a technology “vision” and no doubt a desire for big cost savings whereas you should really be starting with what passengers want / like about the product range and work on from there. Technology is an enabler not the objective.

  400. IslandDweller says:

    Closing NR ticket offices. Not to mention that many ticket machines are programmed not to offer railcard fares – GoViaThameslink I’m looking at you. How is that to be accommodated if ticket offices are closed?

  401. Philip says:

    The inability to buy annual Travelcards from ticket machines makes me suspect that TfL is deliberately trying to make them difficult to buy so that they can be described as unpopular and dropped. Maybe they’ll make claims about the potential problems caused if someone tries to feed over a grand’s worth of cash into a machine, but how many people would actually want to do that?

  402. quinlet says:

    Annual tickets are popular with operators because they get all the cash up front, so I don’t think that TfL are looking for an excuse to get rid of them. But while there are many arguments about why a smartphone alone is not a suitable replacement for paper tickets, an internet and major station combination should be sufficient for purchasing longer term season tickets provided that there is a suitable mechanism for passing over whatever form of ‘ticket’ is then needed. Much of the problem is that the checking regime on both TfL and NR services is generally very limited. Heathrow Express probably could get rid of conventional tickets because they allow for a download to either a smartphone or a printer, giving multiple options. But, there again, they don’t have to deal with the wretched gates.

  403. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Annual tickets are popular with operators because they get all the cash up front, so I don’t think that TfL are looking for an excuse to get rid of them.

    There are at least elements in TfL that would strongly disagree with you.

    The argument is that the discount they have to offer for season tickets makes no sense and is out of all proportion to the benefit they get. It was once true that they liked season tickets because of both cash up front and, more particularly, it took pressure off-booking offices. Basically, you got a discount for not pestering them each day for a return ticket.

    The feeling is that TfL can borrow money so cheaply they would be better off increasing the multiplier (number of weekly rate payments made to qualify for an annual – 40, I believe) so as to ensure that each day’s travel is charged for. With part time working, working at home and other factors, TfL would rather the cost relates to the usage made.

    The argument for TOCs is totally invalid because if you buy an annual season ticket then the TOC only initially can only access the first month’s payment. The rest is stored safely in an account, to be released in monthly increments, so that if the TOC went bust season ticket holders would be protected.

  404. Greg Tingey says:

    The argument is that the discount they have to offer for season tickets makes no sense and is out of all proportion to the benefit they get.
    A popular myth that has no foundation in reality, actually.

    An annual season = 10.5 months travel @ weekly rates, approx, right?
    And everyone gets 4 weeks holiday + statutories.
    Quite a lot of people get more holiday than that.
    Now add the days up, on which said season-ticket holder may be likely to travel.
    Oh, um, err.

    It is much more convenient for the traveller/ticket-holder, because they only have to get a ticket once a year.
    In London, there is the added benefit of “free” travel into town at weekends, but that’s a marginal cost.

  405. Londoner says:

    Think a bit of a rounding error creeps in if you work on months though.

    Taking PoP’s 40 week breakeven point and 30 days A/L plus 8 bank holidays (=7.6 weeks) leaves the passenger better off to the effect of 4.5 weeks of travel.

    For people who regularly don’t travel in to work on a covered service the operator may ‘win’ – but these people may not buy an annual in the first place!

  406. Pedantic of Purley says:


    An annual season = 10.5 months travel @ weekly rates, approx, right?


    52 weeks in a year. 39 weeks is 9 months. So little over 9 months. Add 6 weeks holidays and statutories. So 46 weeks and therefore 6 weeks of “free” travel as an enticement to pay in advance.

    In London, there is the added benefit of “free” travel into town at weekends, but that’s a marginal cost.

    The days of this being marginal cost, if they ever existed, are long gone. Saturday on some lines is a very busy day that brings its own problems. Best example is the Piccadilly line which (just) runs more frequently during most of the day on Saturday than it does in the Monday-Friday peak.

    The Victoria line runs at approximately 27tph on Sunday. That is not exactly a trivial marginal cost and if demand was less they could reduce frequency without it making a significant difference to journey times.

    In general you have to pay staff more on Saturday and Sunday too.

  407. Walthamstow Writer says:

    The ratios are 7 days * 3.84 gives the monthly price, 7 days * 40 gives the Annual price.

    I rather expect the multiplier issue to come up again as a way of screwing yet more money out of people’s pockets. You don’t cut £700m worth of grant and then find the recipient of that grant doesn’t do anything to recoup their losses. Obviously TfL can’t act unilaterally as tickets are jointly available and retailed. Whether the SoS would be brave / reckless enough to agree to worsen the deal for annual ticket purchasers remains to be seen. Whether other clever tunes can be played with aspects of fares and charging also remains to be seen. On the basis that PoP’s remarks about TfL thinking relate to what he has been told by people “in the right place” then we should be very worried about future plans for fares (notwithstanding Mayoral policies of whatever hue).

    After a fair number of complaints about poor performance of online and telephone ordering services for people renewing season tickets I understand TfL are working to remove the ban on annual sales via ticket machines. I wouldn’t be shocked if they are put on to machines but a member of staff has to witness / verify a credit or debit card transaction. It’s almost certainly the banks who are causing the problems because the logic of encoding an annual onto an Oystercard at a ticket machine is no different to doing it at a ticket window. It’s the high value of an unwitnessed / verified transaction that will be the killer. The one bit of process that can’t be done, and this may also be something TfL don’t want to handle at a station, is the Gold Card issue (i.e. printing it). Clearly a staff member can sign on to set the GC discount code on a smartcard. As I have said for yonks it was ludicrous for TfL not to make clear to passengers what the revised process was for season tickets. They clearly decided to “hope for the best” and tough out any criticism when it came. I’m just grateful I no longer have to buy an annual ticket as I’d be facing the nightmare of renewal around about now. Previously it was a pleasant 2 minute transaction at a ticket window with everything done with a smile.

  408. Ian J says:

    @WW: On the basis that PoP’s remarks about TfL thinking relate to what he has been told by people “in the right place” then we should be very worried about future plans for fares

    I don’t think that it is any secret that TfL would like to increase the fares multiplier for season tickets – I’m pretty sure it was in the TfL fares advice document to the Mayor, which was released by the Assembly but now no longer seems to be on their website. Clearly the Mayor chose not to take their advice.

    I do think that there are social equity issues around the multiplier – at the moment people with full time jobs who can afford a year’s payment up front are subsidised by people who work part time or irregularly or don’t have the wherewithal to pay for an annual (yes, I know some employers offer season ticket loans, but these tend to be in the better paying industries anyway).

    The question of what the multiplier should be is different to the question of what the overall fare take should be: it would be entirely possible to do it in a revenue neutral way.

    Previously it was a pleasant 2 minute transaction at a ticket window with everything done with a smile.

    A 2 minute transaction after you reach the head of the queue, of course.

  409. timbeau says:

    @Ian J
    “Previously it was a pleasant 2 minute transaction at a ticket window with everything done with a smile.

    A 2 minute transaction after you reach the head of the queue, of course.”

    But as you can renew any time up to a week ahead, you can choose a quiet time – you have at least four chances a day (start and finish of both outward and return journeys, and possibly other times as well, e.g lunchtime if you work near a station)

  410. Ian J says:

    @timbeau: true (unless you are a bus passenger), but if you renew online/by phone you can do it while you are actually on the train/on the platform/wherever.

    In principle could the ticket machines handle the kind of additional password verification often used for online purchases (Verified by Visa/MasterCard SecureCode)?

  411. timbeau says:

    @Ian J
    Even bus passengers can visit station booking halls. Indeed, I would be surprised if there are more than a handful of bus routes in London which do not call at a station.

  412. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    You are touching on the point which led me to start this sub-thread.
    Quite a few employers have gone the “sensible” route as mentioned by others, over this change, but there are still quite a few who still “offer season ticket loans” – but you have to get the ticket up-front first & then claim the money back, unfortunately.
    Couple this with what WW says about TfL “hoping for the best” etc & things don’t look too good, for some people, unfortunately.

  413. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian J – what queue? I was able to get there at a quieter time and can’t recall having much / any wait each time I bought an annual. The advantage was that I knew the ticket was on the card so I had seamless availability, I had a Gold Card in my hand and the discount was set on the card. If I had ordered on line I would have had to make a special tube or rail journey within a defined time period using an agreed location to collect the ticket. I couldn’t collect it on a bus reader. I would then have had to wait a week for the Gold Card to turn up in the post (based on what TfL told me) and then go back to a station to present the Gold Card to get the PAYG discount set. That almost certainly would involve tracking down a member of staff, waiting for a TVM to become free and then however long that process takes – assuming the staff member had had the training of course. Not all of them have. I wasn’t commuting at the time and accept if you were then collecting the ticket via a gate would be seamless just before you ask the question!

    Now you tell me what the heck the advantage is of ordering an annual on line when you have at least two subsequent transactions to make, one of which will possibly take longer than doing the whole thing at a ticket office window. Let’s be honest here – all TfL have done is create a process which transfers a great deal of the burden to the passenger in terms of time and queuing and waiting. All of this so they can sack staff, stop paying their pension contributions and seal up ticket offices. And this for the passengers who fork out huge sums upfront to the benefit of TfL’s cashflow. I know who’s winning out of this change and it isn’t the paying public.

  414. Nameless says:

    In ancient times (the 1980’s), if I was required to buy a rail ticket either for a business journey or for a “loan” season ticket, my then employer would give me a BR rail warrant. This was exchanged for a ticket at any booking office.

    You could also obtain tickets at a travel agent.

    Do any similar schemes now exist with TfL or TOCs?

    Alternatively, can an employer use the TfL/Oyster website to buy a ticket on behalf of an employee?

  415. Bakerludicrous says:

    I saw what looked like a rail warrant the other day – it seemed to give the conductor a bother on the train!

    This was on Greater Anglia however.

  416. MikeP says:

    WW some way back up – “Technology is an enabler not the objective.” Or, when we moved from “E-Government” to “T-Government” (“Transformative Government” – really) in the mid-2000’s, the goal was for it to be the major driver for organisational change.

    Utterly Dagenham.

  417. Graham H says:

    @MikeP/WW – for a real treat in technobabble, may I recommend the “Smart Cities” supplement that arrived with this morning’s Grauniad. Turn to page 3 and read the advertisement from ENTIQ. It’s a delight – to give you just two typical quotes: “ENTIQ feels that this is too siloed an approach for impactful and timely innovation…” and “Our programme will… showcase new ways of engaging with your community, city councilor [sic], and inner athlete”. Dear God, we are all doomed. Just off now to showcase my inner alcoholism and drink all the 2006 Burgundy before the lights go out.

  418. Greg Tingey says:

    Grham H
    There’s a n other word for what you call “technobabble”.
    And in the case you mention it really is an absolute gold-plated example of what is usually referred to as, er .. Male Bovine Excrement, I think

  419. Graham H says:

    @Greg T 🙂

  420. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H 1118 – my brain is addled enough without reading more nonsense. I’ve always been deeply sceptical about “emperor’s new clothes” initiatives. If something is good it should be able to “speak” for itself even under the harshest assessment.

    Love your final sentence – Just off now to showcase my inner alcoholism 🙂 🙂

  421. JayKay says:

    So… why has the Mayor chosen to re-open this issue, given that (a) the programme has been completed, seemingly without any major problems; (b) the threat of industrial action over this issue seems to have passed; and (c) it wasn’t an election pledge….?

  422. Old Buccaneer says:

    @JayKay: possibly to distract from his non-intervention in [Snip].

    [This is conjecture and off topic. Sorry. LBM]

  423. Greg Tingey says:

    Not sure if this is the correct place to post this …
    Station clousures in spite of / because of ( ? ) relocation of Ticket-office staff ( maybe? )

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