Travelcard under threat

Saturday 22nd January 2022

One of the proposals London Mayor Sadiq Khan has put forward to help shore up TfL’s finances in ongoing funding negotiations with Government to replace the current arrangements ending on 4th February is the end of the Travelcard.

If this goes ahead it will confirm without doubt the wheels have well and truly come off “London style” public transport, for so long held in such high regard by ill informed MPs and naive provincial politicians.

Introduced to much acclaim in the mid 1980s, initially branded as Capitalcard, the much appreciated integrated ticket revolutionised travel across London by including British Rail’s network of trains as well as London Transport’s buses and Underground for the first time in a London wide ticket.

A decade or so later Oyster Pay As You Go was launched in 2003 and gradually expanded from buses and the Underground to include National Rail services so that an Oyster day cap became an alternative to a one day Travelcard. For some time TfL have set the Oyster daily cap at a lower price than a one day Travelcard to nudge Londoners into using Oyster, and in more recent times contactless bank cards, rather than Travelcards. The proposed withdrawal is therefore the culmination of a process that’s been gradually underway for some years and I suspect TfL will be only too pleased to eliminate another paper based ticket from its estate.

It’s not absolutely clear when Mayor Khan says he’s proposing Travelcards will end in favour of Pay As You Go by Oyster and contactless whether he’s referring to the London only Travelcards or whether he’s also including in his proposed cull the popular Travelcard add-on arrangement used by rail passengers throughout the Home Counties and beyond when buying a rail ticket to London.

If he is indeed pressing the nuclear button of withdrawing that facility, prepare for an outcry from commuters and leisure travellers across many provincial ‘shire’ towns who’ve been used to adding Underground and bus travel on at a great value price when they purchase their day return rail ticket.

After all, the clamour for having ‘one integrated ticket’ covering all journeys by whatever mode is encompassed in this long standing Travelcard, and passengers from outside London might not take too kindly to having to use a different payment method once in the Capital when they’d previously been used to waving their ticket at bus drivers or slotting it in Underground gates, not having to worry about any further travel expense and ‘caps’.

It’s not clear whether this proposal is only about paper tickets and rail passengers who load season tickets with Travelcard add-ons to their rail company smartcards will find they’re no longer accepted on TfL’s Underground, buses and trams without having to use a separate Oyster or bank card for such journeys. If so, it really will be a retrograde step in the drive towards ticket integration and ‘smarter travel’.

When you look at the price implications you soon see why it potentially will make for a nice revenue earner for TfL to force rail travellers coming into London from outside the boundary to pay for their use of the Capital’s network of buses, tram and Underground just like Londoners do “as they go” with Oyster or a bank card.

The table below shows prices for a return journey from my local station Hassocks to and from London Terminals (ie principally Victoria and London Bridge) compared to the cost of a Day Travelcard giving unlimited travel in zones 1 to 6 as well as the return rail travel.

As befits rail fares it’s complicated by peak and off-peak as well as options for travel supposedly only on Thameslink trains as opposed to Thameslink and Southern trains (called “any permitted”) – even though, as we all know, they’re the same company, but that’s a point for another time.

I’ve also shown the discounted prices for passengers with Railcards including comparative prices using a Railcard enabled Oyster card.

As you can see in this byzantine world of rail pricing the Travelcard upgrade is far from a simple to understand standard add on affair.

In each case the price of the Travelcard add on is less than the price of a standalone Day Travelcard if purchased in London or using Pay As You Go as shown in the prices in the lower half of the table.

Ticket typeDay Return to London TerminalsDay TravelcardDifference
Anytime; Any permitted£49.40£58.00£8.60
Anytime; Thameslink only£40.90£45.60£4.70
Off peak; Any permitted£27.70£32.50£4.80
Off peak; Thameslink only£16.00£24.80£8.80
Off peak; Any permitted Railcard£18.25£21.45£3.20
Off peak; Thameslink only R’card£10.55£16.35£5.80
TfL prices for Zones 1-6 travelPay As You Go Daily CapDay Travelcard
Off peak£13.50£13.90
Off peak Railcard£8.90£9.10
TfL prices for Zone 1 onlyPay As You Go CapDay Travelcard
Off peak£7.40£13.90
Off peak Railcard£4.90£9.10
Prices from Hassocks

You can see that an off-peak any permitted Day Travelcard (£32.50) compared to an off peak Day Return (£27.70) is just £4.80 more whereas an off peak PAYG Cap is £13.50, meaning passengers could end up paying up to £8.70 (£13.50-£4.80) more for their day’s travel (a 27% increase) depending how many Underground, bus and tram journeys they make, and at what times – particularly if using the Underground between 16:00 and 19:00 when peak surcharges apply for journeys from zone 1 to outer zones whereas currently there’s no restriction on the use of Travelcards at these times.

The potential increases are the same for Railcard holders who currently pay just £3.20 more for their Travelcard (£21.45) compared to the (Any permitted) Day Return (£18.25) whereas they could pay up to £8.90 using Pay As You Go – an increase of £6.70 (£8.90-£3.20) or 31% on current arrangements.

Price savvy passengers are going to have to be even more astute than usual in grabbing the best fare. For example, take a look at the ‘Off peak; Thameslink only’ prices shown above where the Travelcard add on is a whopping £8.80 (the highest of all the prices quoted, even Anytime ones). If that passenger is just making a couple of Underground journeys in zone 1 during the off peak – at £2.40 a trip – they’ll spend another £4.80 by tapping their Oyster or contactless and save £4 compared to the old Travelcard price. But that saving would disappear if the day’s itinerary included a journey from say zone 1 to zone 4 between 16:00 and 19:00 which costs £4. This is obviously the case appertaining now and I wonder how many passengers realise they could be making savings.

The situation will also be complicated for families visiting London who currently take advantage of family rail price deals and a £2 Travelcard rate; whereas in the new scheme of things they’ll need a Zip Oystercard for each child aged 11 and over which for most will be impractical. I really don’t know how young people will be accommodated in any post Travelcard world arrangements.

From TfL’s point of view the elimination of Travelcard add-ons on rail tickets from outside London will give them revenue upfront as passengers tap away with their cards rather than having to wait for rail settlement plans to hand over the money at the end of each period, and depending on passenger travel patterns may give it more income. On the other hand, passengers may react to the change by making less journeys while in London, becoming more aware of what they’re paying, and TfL may lose out.

Either way it’s a shame this once lauded ‘integrated ticket’ looks to be on the way out. I sincerely hope it’s only a clever negotiating tactic by the Mayor or I’ve got the wrong end of the stick about what he proposed or it’s really just all a bad dream.

One thing that isn’t a bad dream and is definitely bad reality is …..

Mystery of Southern’s missing trains continues

Before signing off from this blogpost, just another word about my personal beef at the moment – the continuing lack of through services from the busiest main line in the south, the Brighton Main Line, to the second busiest London terminal, Victoria. Despite the Government’s change to its previous Work From Home edict from next week, this farcical situation is set to continue right through until the nine day blockade between Three Bridges and Brighton begins on 19th February. I’ve written to Southern’s Customer Services asking how diverting trains to London Bridge instead of Victoria saves staff resources and received the usual standard reply from Tina ….

“There are two main factors at play, the first is short notice absence due to track and trace mandated isolation and positive Covid tests. The second factor is the cumulative result of at least sixteen months of disruption. In particular, Coronavirus has had a knock-on impact on driver training, as social distancing limited numbers in the cab and the classroom. With regular staff turnover, there are now fewer people available than before the pandemic.”

So I wrote back:

“Thanks for your reply Tina but you haven’t explained to me how running (a) train/s to London Bridge instead of Victoria is saving staff resources since the train/s is/are still running and the journey time is just 2 minutes shorter (East Croydon to London Bridge takes 15 minutes instead of 17 minutes to Victoria) so please, for the benefit of all us Victoria bound passengers on the Brighton Main Line, can you explain how this arrangement is saving staff?”

I’ll keep you posted when the next reply comes.

From Southern’s website
From Southern’s website

In the meantime, I was changing trains from SWR to Southern at Clapham Junction again yesterday afternoon at 16:30 and during the 16 minute gap between East Croydon bound trains more and more passengers arrived on the platform resulting in the next train getting besieged with it already very full from Victoria. This situation is completely unsatisfactory especially as it’s patently not saving staff, as at that very same time trains bound for Eastbourne and Littlehamton were over in London Bridge when they should have been coming from Victoria. There’s no doubt Southern are hiding the real reason, whatever it is, for this very farcical arrangement – I reckon we need Sue Gray with her renowned investigative powers to tell us what’s going on. With a bit of luck she’ll be free to do this after next week.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

Next blog, Sunday 23rd January: Luton Airport’s DART almost ready for take off.

33 thoughts on “Travelcard under threat

Add yours

  1. So Mayor Khan *is* going ahead with his boundary charge, albeit just for rail users. One really does hope the PAYG driving scheme does happen on the same timescale as travel card withdrawal as other wise price savvy travellers may well just drive into zone 6 and continue from there, or more likely just all the way to their destination..

    By the way, it’s a bit unfair to lambast “TfL style fares” when the glorious privatised buses you so idolise do not offer any form of equivalent to the travelcard for cross boundary travel.


  2. My understanding for the initial extension up to 10th January was a shortage of schedulers (a small select band, I believe). The irony was that an incident required trains to London Bridge to be diverted – to Victoria.

    The ongoing schedule changes, as on the Southern website dated 12th January, remain a bit of a mystery and would suggest something more deep rooted. It will be interesting to find out what.the real story is.


  3. This is exactly the sort of problem that occurs when you let Politicians create tin-pot “Mayors” and give them overall control over transport, something they know little about, never use themselves and probably have to have an army of “Advisors” to explain how it all works. Thank you George Osborn for creating future similar chaos along the complete band of the M62 and it’s surrounding towns and cities.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A further consideration for the Mayor is that the added cost and complexity may discourage some from visiting his city at all, resulting in wider economic disbenefits.


  5. Emotive words like ‘army of Advisers’ suggests the commenter doesn’t actually know how many there are. Would not the Mayor rely to a large extent on the professionals at TfL for advice?


  6. I’m with Roger on the “army of advisers” description. All over the world, public transport planning is in the hands of an amorphous bunch of officials at central, provincial and municipal levels, plus the employees of the large number of transport consulting firms, all dipping their toes in the pool and generally muddying it. In my home town, Johannesburg, I have no clue how many there are, but I know this – their combined effectiveness is less than zero. .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LRT once offered an “LT Card” which omitted BR services. Perhaps TfL will introduce a “non-LT card” that can’t be used on NR trains?


  7. I think the removal of an early integrated ticket is a bad thing, but using it to attack public sector integration aspirations is a little unfair. There is a good point in that stable public sector local transport will be subject to the changing whims of politicians but as Andrew suggests the private sector has done little, although PlusBus is useful.


  8. Interesting!

    When I lived in Luton, a Luton – London All Zones ticket was an excellent bargain with the added benefit of ‘Kids for a Quid’ tickets for accompanied children. I remember my two boys saying, after a day in London, that their £1 ticket was an absolute bargain although I attempted to bring them into the real world of financial management (!) by saying that the cost for them was actually 50% of my ticket price each plus the £1 because I was essential to their ability to travel ….. But I’m waffling as always.

    Notwithstanding the question of one ticket for a multi-modal journey(s), perhaps another significant point is about you (and me, etc..), as non-London Council Tax payers, benefitting financially from something implicitly paid for by Londoners. Although regrettable if lost, maybe it is inevitable that TfL will go down this route. It seems to me that the real stumbling point is that Oyster Cards are not sold by railway stations outside London (although I may be out-of-date with this thought). I remember Alex Nelson giving a talk in the 2000s in Birmingham when I think that he raised this although I believe that he may have said that he bought Oyster Cards for resale to his customers in Chester-le-Street.

    But in the end, even as an old luddite, maybe I need to recognise that actual Travelcard (paper) tickets may disappear when there is a reasonable (Oyster) alternative but with the problem for Luddites like me being the increasingly limited ability to buy and top-up Oster Cards without using the internet.

    Now I must make an effort of reading all your emails preceding this one the title of which happened to catch my eye.



    Liked by 1 person

  9. I suppose that with card tapping TFL will declare that there’s no need for the Travel card anymore? Years ago there was an LT card too which could only be used on London Transport services so excluded BR within Greater London.Guards use to check tickets more frequently then.


  10. Shawn Baiily when he was standing as Mayor suggested selling the naming riights to stations. I dont think thats a good idea but selling the rights to Spionsar a station might be sensible and could raise a reasonable amount of revenuue


  11. On the Travelcard all these possible arrangements go against integrated travel on public transport. I think that in many European capitals one ticket (single or day) is generally valid on all transport modes. On the Victoria / London Bridge situation I share concern. I use Carshalton and previously the trains coming from Dorking/Horsham ran fast from Carshalton to Clapham J and Vic, now they call Hackbridge, Mitcham J and E and then fast to LBG, but as far as I can see they take longer to go to and from LBG so surely they should be going to Victoria. A complete mess. I would feel that certainly off peak more people are likely to want Vic than LBG.


  12. The phrase used at the time of the initial fare announcement was “Withdrawing from the Travelcard Agreement” which certainly implies all Travelcard products will be gone. Far from being a nice little earner I suspect this will just further discourage discretionary travel as it would represent a massive % increase for anyone starting outside the zones. Groups using TOC family products or with Railcards will be especially hard hit.


  13. As an aside the withdrawal of the old in boundary family Travelcard has already left some groups paying massively more. From memory so I might be a little out, in the early 2000’s all zones 2 adults & 2 children was £8.80 in total. Adjusted for inflation that’s around £15. The equivalent daily cap if the children are 11 or over would be £30.10. Not a great incentive to leave the car at home!


    1. As a retired “BR” booking clerk I recall the Family and Weekend Travelcard. Also when I said to some of my managers that a London zones 1-6 Travelcard could be used to places like Dorking outside the area they couldn’t understand this – all TFL buses were included which meant say a Leatherhead to 1-6 One Day Travelcard could be retained on return to Leatherhead in order to use a bus to stops towards Dorking.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Back to the “illogical” southern timetable – I have 2 questions:-

    1 How are they able to run the same number of trains from the south coast into Victoria on Saturdays, when they cannot do this on Monday to Fridays due to “staff shortages” ?

    2 If they are so short of staff, how are they able to run extra trains in the form of a shuttle service from East Croydon to Victoria ? Why not just divert the trains from the south coast to Victoria instead ?

    Completely bonkers !


  15. As a Londoner your table suggests that those outside London, who don’t get to vote for the mayor, are receiving in effect subsidised transport in London by paying a lot less for a travelcard add on that we who vote for the mayor and pay his supplement in our Council Tax have to pay for daily transport. Since the massive hike in off peak price caps following their abolition 6/7 years ago the price caps are rarely any use for a day’s leisure travel. Rather than abolish travelcard add ons it strikes me Roger that you should actually be instead having to pay a lot more for them; £4.80 for an all zones travelcard is far too little!


    1. Bear in mind because of the peculiarities in how revenue is split that although passengers might be paying £4.80 extra that’s unlikely to represent the exact sum being passed on to Tfl. Revenue is split between all the operators in the scheme in different proportions depending where it is purchased.

      In addition to make that comparison you should be looking at the rail fare to the first station in zone 6 rather than to the London terminal. The table shows the difference that withdrawing travelcards would make. If you’re using it to make sense of current prices then buying a ticket to the London terminal and a Travelcard would effectively mean you’re paying for the rail journey from zone 6 to zone 1 twice.


  16. Are there any savings possible for passengers to buy a ticket to the edge of the Oyster zone rather than all the way to Victoria and buy a separate Zone 1- 6 ticket?


    1. Historically travelcards were priced so this wouldn’t happen. So a Travelcard from say Crawley would be the price of zones 1-6. plus the appropriate day return or season to the edge of zone 6. There’s such a plethora of fares now that I’m sure there must be some exceptions but you’d have to work it out on a case by case basis. Bear in mind that to use oyster or contactless for pay as you go that you’d physically need to touch in at a zone 6 station.


  17. Thid seems to go against the Bus Back Better ly . Alythough it is predominantly about buses it does mentionion cycling .Metro. Light rail and rail and seemless multimode intrgration


  18. By coincidence I made a spontaneous trip to London on Wednesday (19th) from the Eastbourne area using one of these tickets. £17.65, Super Off-peak one day Travelcard with senior railcard. I understand it’s the same price from Lewes too. After not visiting London for two years I decided to make a quick trip, just to have a look around, not for any specific reason, apart from it being a less cold day and to take advantage of the almost empty off-peak trains to London Bridge, before ‘Work from Home’ advice was withdrawn and London might get busy again. I was headed to the West End and don’t like transiting Victoria. I changed at London Bridge smoothly and quickly to a Charing Cross train. London Bridge is a much nicer station than Victoria now, so I’m not too upset about that. I wouldn’t mind if I never went to Victoria again! Unlike Roger’s ticket, mine isn’t marked ‘Thameslink only’ as Southern run the only service from Eastbourne.

    As it happened I used the Travelcard bit just once on TfL services, from Charing Cross to Tottenham Corpse Road on the Northern Line. I was walking around and ended up close to Charing Cross, so caught the South Eastern train back to London Bridge. I guess most visitors from outside London will just use the ticket once or twice within Zone One while they visit shops, exhibitions, restaurants or businesses, etc. Not many will want an orgy of travelling around on the underground all day!

    Incidentally, from Eastbourne a Super Off-Peak Day return to Victoria without the Travelcard bit is £13.45. But this can’t be used to London Bridge, even though the trains terminate there now, or to any London (SR) terminals such as Charing Cross, Blackfriars, City Thameslink and Cannon Street.

    Also bear in mind you have to make sure you get back on a train before 4.15 pm or wait until after 7.15.

    Another peeve is that it’s a paper ticket so I can’t use my Southern Key Card and Key-Go (works a bit like an Oystercard on the Southern and Thameslink network outside London).

    Although the Eastbourne train goes into London Bridge, it plays cat and mouse with Roger’s Thameslink Brighton to Bedford service, first overtaking it in the Three Bridges area then just after leaving East Croydon we wait for the London Bridge line while the Bedford train zooms past, making me regret not getting off at East Croydon and crossing the platform to get to London Bridge a few minutes earlier or, even better, going to Blackfriars. (The Eastbourne trains also call at Norwood Junction).

    If Travelcard or Super-Off peak tickets are withdrawn, TfL and Southern might not make much more money as I might decide not to make any casual day trips or I might buy the £ 13.45 ticket to Victoria then walk or use my bus pass or use a contactless card on the tube or bus. Or I might take a bus or drive to Tunbridge Wells which has four trains an hour to Charing Cross and cheaper Super Off-Peak tickets (£10.45) that have no restrictions in the evening rush hour.

    I nearly forgot to mention, a number of months ago I was told by a Southern driver that he and many other south coast based drivers, weren’t current on the Croydon to London Bridge line even though they might once have been, but were to Victoria and would need some training or familiarity to drive to London Bridge. So a, presumably London based, driver needs to take over at East Croydon.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. One has to wonder how this fit in with Great British Railways. One of the aims is a simplified and more flexible ticketing system and this seems to go against that

    It is not really clear with where TfL Rail fits in with this strategy. Where does LU fit in. Where does TfL Overground fit in ?


    1. As I have said on a facebook group, both London Overground and TFL Rail are just as much a part of National Rail as are Southern, Scotrail and Greater Anglia. I really think everything should be left as it is (and restore the National Rail double arrow sign outside Overground and TFL Rail managed stations – but that is another story.)


  20. I travelled from Hadley Wood to Sidcup on Saturday, using a Travelcard with Senlie Railcard . . . £9.10 (zones 1-6). I could travel widely (and did) . . . not bothering which route I took. Using BR tickets, this would’ve cost either £10.75 or £12.15 depending on routing. The equivalent fares (sans Railcard) would be: £13.90 / £15.40 / £19.50. The daily cap (no Railcard) is £13.50.

    After concluding my business at Sidcup, I decided to return via Stratford . . . and then decided to run up to Loughton; the timetables in the bus terminal at Loughton Station were all correct, and the bus stop tiles were (as far as I could see) also correct . . . so someone in TfL obviously reads this blog!!

    My point is that I could do this for no extra charge . . .. if I’d wanted to visit Sidcup and Loughton on the same day without a Travelcard, it would’ve cost much more, and I’d’ve needed to plan my day more carefully.

    Might not the better option for Mayor Khan be to raise the daily Oyster/Contactless limit up to the Travelcard Zone 1-6 limit? Even just an extra £1 per day on the limit would help. 3m people travel each day . . . assume 30% have seasons; so that might be around £2m per day, or £750m per year . . . that’d solve his deficit!!! (And yes, very simple sums, but the principle is still correct . . . ).
    This would ensure that TfL will get more direct money, and Travelcard could remain. Of course, this wouldn’t fit in with his philosophy of cheap travel for London residents, and he might lose the next election!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is another point which I think has some relevance to this discussion. With a One Day Travelcard you can break your journey as you wish, leave a station, visit a shop or pub and take the next train to travel further along the line. With Oyster/contactless prepay each time you leave the system, you start a new journey and a new fare – that means that if you don’t reach a cap you are going to be paying more. That concerns me generally with contactless/oyster travel for single journeys on the National Rail network where generally speaking break of journey is permitted on many tickets but not on the prepay.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John is quite right about the inability to break a journey without financial penalty when using contactless. In addition, some types of railcard (eg a Network Card and “Two Together” card cannot have a railcard discounts loaded onto an Oyster PAYG card. Railcard discounts can’t be loaded onto contactless bank cards either.

        Here’s another example of the ludicrous anomalies of our rail fares.

        I live in Ashford (Middx) and have to travel in the peak hour to East Croydon, albeit not often enough to warrant a season ticket any more. Although I can see the Greater London boundary from Ashford station, for reasons lost in the mists of time (well the establishment of the GLC in 1965) the station is outside the London travel zones.

        I therefore have three options – to buy an anytime day return at a cost of £18.10, to buy split ticket day returns from Ashford to Feltham (£5.40) and from Feltham to East Croydon (£10.30) making a total of £15.70 or buy a paper ticket to Feltham and then use contactless or Oyster to East Croydon (£4.60 each way) a total of £14.60. The last option does, however, mean that I have to get off the train in Feltham and tap in before reboarding bringing a risk of having to wait for the next train.

        There is a fourth option which is to take the 117 bus to Feltham and then get the train – using contactless for this I would be charged the PAYG daily cap of £13.50.


        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ticketing absurdities aside Mark’s journey is yet another example of where the cost of public transport is completely out of line with driving. The cost of a day return just one stop to Feltham at £5.40 isn’t far off the cost of petrol for the whole trip to Croydon and back. More than one person and of course the savings stack up even more.


  21. I invariably use a Travelcard when I go to London. For us country bumpkins it is so simple and I don’t have to worry about validity.
    The only advantage of Oyster that I know of is that from a TfL point of view they can track journeys and see where there are major journey flows that might not be obvious otherwise.

    If Travelcards were withdrawn then I would go off peak only and use my bus pass instead which would mean TfL getting no income from me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They might be able to track travel cards too as long as they go through a barrier machine which they generally do on LU and many mainline railway stations but not buses, DLR and Tramlink.Although maybe on LT buses the driver might press a button if he sees a Travel Card?


  22. Another curiosity of the Southern diversions to London Bridge, as Peter Prentice points out, is that all the Eastbourne and Littlehampton trains are stopping additionally at Norwood Junction, shown in Realtime Trains as “for staffing reasons”. This could be due to the need to change drivers or for a conductor driver to board/alight depending on how up to date their route knowledge is.


  23. TfL’s Latest proposed bus cuts/Planned to start ion February 12thb

    14 It coud become Londons slowest bus. It’s new schedule alloes 1.5 hours for the 8 mile journey

    The 7 9 11 14 22 27 49 and 148 the 19 will have its route changed


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