TfL Make Changes To Bus Transfer Tickets


One of the London Bus Network’s least known features (second, perhaps, only to the fact that there is actually no such a thing as a “compulsory stop”) has long been the existence of the “transfer ticket.”

Transfer tickets were created to deal with the issue of the short termination of bus services. Should a bus terminate early, then the driver of the terminating service could print out a complete list of all Oyster PAYG and cash fares currently on the bus, which could then be handed to the driver of a following service. This would enable all the passengers inconvenienced by the termination to continue their journey without additional charge.

In theory, transfer tickets should have been proactively distributed, but in reality this was not always the case. Indeed it is fair to say that it had become something of an LR author party-piece to reveal their existence to regular bus who didn’t know about them. The system also had another flaw – the fact that a single print out was issued to cover all passengers.

Technically, the driver of the terminating service was required to wait until another bus arrived and hand over the list in person. In reality this was rarely the case – or indeed practical if the whole point of the termination was to try and restore service quicker in the opposite direction. This often meant that responsibility for handling the transfer ticket fell to a single passenger, which was far from ideal. There was also no guarantee that all the terminated passengers would wish to simply board the next bus on the same route. Termination points are rarely single-service stops, and it was entirely possible that some passengers could continue their journey via a different bus route, should that bus arrive sooner – something that they technically couldn’t do under the terms of the transfer ticket.

It’s good news, therefore, that the system appears to have undergone a rather substantial overhaul. TfL have replaced the single “transfer ticket” with individual “transport vouchers” for each passenger who requests one. They have also confirmed that the distribution of these will now be more proactive, with additional messaging to highlight that they are available:

“During November and December we issued guidance to bus drivers, via bus garages, highlighting the changes to ‘transfer tickets’.” A TfL spokesman confirmed to LR. “London Buses will further support this with new messaging onboard buses using the iBus audio/visual system. This will direct passengers to speak to the driver for a transfer ticket if they wish to continue their journey and have paid by cash or Oyster PAYG.”

The Devil is in the Details

In itself, this is an improvement. What’s particularly interesting, however, is that the new system is also clearly designed to address the issue of previous transfer tickets being service specific. It does this by making the new transport vouchers temporally, rather than route, limited – each transport voucher is printed with the time it was issued and is valid for one bus journey within sixty minutes of issue.

It’s a simple and effective solution, but rather curiously it does now mean that there is, technically at least, a valid “one hour bus ticket” of sorts in circulation on the network – something that Caroline Pidgeon and others in the London Assembly have been vocal in their support for before.

TfL are, unsurprisingly, keen to emphasise the differences.

“Bus transfer tickets are a voucher allowing passengers to continue their journey if a bus has been curtailed. It entitles them to board one other bus within 60 minutes from time of issue. It is not a ‘one hour bus pass’, it is a slip of paper indicating a journey has been disrupted before a destination has been reached.” Commented Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Customer Experience.

“The feasibility of a ‘one hour bus pass’ has been investigated but would require a significant and costly upgrade of the Oyster system so there are currently no plans to introduce it. Bus passengers already benefit from a daily price cap which provides free travel after the cap has been reached.”

Verma is of course entirely correct. There are key differences between the two concepts, and the voucher setup is clearly the best approach to take in order to deal with the short comings of the previous transfer ticket system. It’s an interesting little dip into the world of temporal ticketing though, nonetheless.

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