Two days to save Day Travelcards

Sunday 21st May 2023

Readers nay recall a gloom laden blog I posted back in January 2022 warning that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was drawing up proposals to end Day Travelcards as part of funding negotiations at that time for continued financial support from Government.

Sure enough, 16 months later on 18th April, TfL launched an “Engagement to withdraw Day Travelcards” inviting questions to be submitted as part of a “discussion” about the proposal. It’s not a “consultation” as such, just a “discussion”. What’s the difference? Well, whereas a “consultation” leads to a “published report … reviewed by our decision makers to make sure your views are considered” a “discussion” involves discussing “our plans and proposals with you to help us develop better solutions”. No report is published.

Importantly the current “discussion” ends in two days on Tuesday 23rd May so it’s crucial as many people as possible email and help TfL develop “better solutions” such as don’t scrap Day Travelcards as they are extremely useful and popular with thousands of rail travellers from all over the Home Counties who buy an “add-on” to their return rail ticket to London and enjoy the freedom of travel on all modes throughout zones 1 to 6.

It’s the ultimate “integrated ticket” beloved of politicians, academics and in this case, passengers too.

Travelcard was first introduced by the then London Transport on Underground and buses in May 1983 but was significantly boosted in January 1985 with the addition of British Rail’s network of trains using the brand name Capitalcard. That name was subsequently dropped in favour of Travelcard but the ticket had already revolutionised travel across London offering fully integrated travel for the first time.

The Mayor and TfL reckon it’ll be just as easy for passengers to use a contactless debit or credit card to tap in and out as they travel on the Underground, trains, buses and trams around the Capital relying on the daily price cap to limit the bill. Not surprisingly though, as this is a money raising exercise for TfL, many passengers will end up paying much more for their travel.

Take the ticket illustrated at the top of this blog. It’s one of the best bargains available giving a Senior Railcard discounted day return from my home station, Hassocks, to London using a Thameslink train at the weekend (Super Off Peak) as well as all travel modes throughout zones 1 to 6 for just £10.80.

If Day Travelcards are scrapped I’d need to pay £9.10 for a Super Off Peak Day Return to London Bridge (also valid to stations through to St Pancras International) and instead of £1.70 extra for unlimited travel all over London I’d have to pay for each journey up to the day’s cap which for zones 1-6 is £14.90 if using contactless (which doesn’t recognise Senior Railcards) or 34% off that (£9.83) if using a Railcard enabled Oyster card.

Just to mention that example of an extreme cheap ticket is exceptional. If I travel to London in the morning peak and want flexibility of travelling on any train, instead of paying £10.80 the price is £63.80 (or £50.10 if I limit myself to Thameslink – although I know it’s a debatable point that such a restriction is valid but that’s another discussion).

As I pointed out in January 2022 families visiting London will also be severely impacted – and there are a lot at weekends and in school holidays. They currently take advantage of family rail price deals and a £2 Travelcard rate whereas they’ll need a Zip Oyster card for each child aged 11 and over which for most will be impractical to obtain for occasional spur of the moment visits to London.

Another crazy thing will be commuters with a smart card issued by their Train Operating Company (eg GTR’s ‘key’ card) on which they purchase a season ticket combined with a Travelcard and enjoy complete flexibility of travel will now need to use that smartcard for the rail journey and in addition either an Oyster card or contactless for any travel within zones 1 to 6 including on other Train Operating Companies if not part of the season ticket. How is that progress towards the coveted “integration”? It’s going backwards.

What will be next? Will the Mayor in his drive to ‘disintegrate’ end the arrangement for rail tickets that cross London from one terminal to another eg Brighton to Oxford (allowing Victoria/London Bridge/Farringdon to Paddington denoted by a dagger symbol) and instead insist passengers have to pay separately to use the Underground or Elizabeth line for such connecting journeys? We’re on a slippery slope here – who knows what’s next maybe ceasing the enablement of Railcard discounts (16-25, 26-30, Annual Gold, Disabled Persons’, HM Forces and Senior) on Oyster cards and charging full whack?

There’s also a stand alone zones 1-6 Travelcard for people just travelling around London which will end. Whilst it is the case that the daily Oyster card/contactless cap is less than the price of a peak or off-peak version of the Travelcard many people prefer using a card based ticket and especially one which doesn’t restrict you to time limits before exiting a station, enabling changes of journey plans while on the go nor having to worry about tapping on to pink validators to say nothing of quickly changing from National Rail to Underground/Elizabeth line at stations like Stratford, Wimbledon, Richmond or Farringdon and forgetting to tap on the readers as you go.

Fares expert Barry Doe has written about this in the current edition of Rail magazine. He used an example of someone travelling from Winchester and explained how “to be fair and to not charge twice for the 12 miles from Surbiton (the boundary of Zone 6) into Waterloo, the Travelcard from Winchester would be priced at the total of an off peak day return from Winchester to Surbiton plus that of a One Day Travelcard within London. Today those fares are £38.70 Winchester to Surbiton and £15.20 for the Travelcard (£53.90) although a Winchester Travelcard is in fact £56.90.

“If TfL abolishes the One Day Travelcard, then people from Winchester will have to buy an off peak day return to London (£46.10) and then start using Oyster or contactless.”

Barry explains if passengers just travel in zones 1 and 2 the cap will be £8.10 giving a total paid of £54.20 making a saving of £2.70; but if travelling into zone 6 the cap is £14.90 giving a total paid of £61, an increase of £4.10 or 7%. Similar proportional results apply for some Railcard discounted fares but others (eg Family & Friends, Network or Two Together which can’t be added to an Oyster card) stand to lose out even more. Barry calculates these passengers face a 20% increase in fares paid.

All in all this is a ridiculous plan which smacks of political shenanigans between the Mayor and Government rather than anything that is in the interests of passengers. It must be resisted and if you’re reading this before 23rd May I urge you to let the Mayor know your views.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

36 thoughts on “Two days to save Day Travelcards

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  1. Thanks for this blog on this important matter, which will make rail/bus travel less attractive, and may well end up losing more revenue than it saves!

    As it is such an excellent summary, and may well get copied/referred many times, may I point out three typos which might just distract a little:
    para 5 “Traveklcard”
    para 9 – first sentence – maybe better with no comma, and “of” rather than “if”
    para 9 – second sentence “morning peal”

    Not a criticism of the meaning or content, which I wholeheartedly support!


  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this blog Roger. I’d also imagine that passengers in the L&SE who’d normally travel the whole journey from their local station to London with a Travelcard would otherwise drive to a station closest to the London boundary and start paying with Oyster or contactless from there, overcrowding the already short-formed stopping services while longer-distance trains carry fresh air. Just watch as Epsom, Purley, Sevenoaks, Dartford, Epping and Watford Junction’s car parks get full!


  3. Of course Mayor Khan shows little interest in anything outside zone 2 let alone the suburbs and the Home Counties. As you state Roger the capital needs the income from outside London to ensure that businesses can survive. Making travel prohibitively expensive will cost the capital dearly. This is probably not felt by the decision makers who get free travel and spouse passes. Given that many are still mainly working from home are these justified ? Yes debit cards have become popular and on a recent visit to Glasgow I was impressed with the tap in and tap out and cap facility even on First buses. Outside London however many rely on paper tickets and you don’t want to flaff about with a multiplicity of tickets for your journey especially if you are travelling as a family. Sadly Khan and his advisers don’t get it. Let’s hope this discussion results in maintaining the status quo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On the contrary Mayor Khan would be happy to take responsibility for commuter services into the suburbs and Home Counties. Unfortunately the Conservative Government turned down his request. As a London Freedom Pass holder, I’m all in favour too, as TfL is obliged by law to accept Freedom Passes on all its services, including those outside London.


  4. It is not just passengers in the Home Counties that will lose out from the flexibility being withdrawn. It will be passengers from the West Midlands too. The London One Day travelcard was heavily promoted here for its simplicity when Chiltern, led by the late, great Adrian Shooter started running Birmingham – London services in the mid 1990’s.

    I’ve already pointed out to TfL the folly of this plan, as a deterrent to leisure travel to London when this was floated earlier. So a job for later today will be to rejig that letter. For those of us outside London in the city regions where Mayors have aspirations to have more power of public transport, the behaviour of the supine TfL should act as a warning.

    Ironically, the Capitalcard was introduced when the Thatcher Government had control of London Transport through LRT as a way of boosting passengers. Perhaps Sadiq Khan should have given the keys back to Grant Shapps and told him “Its your problem mate, not mine”, rather than accepting this pathetic deal which does nothing for public transport in the capital.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is quite simply a red herring. From data held by Transport for West Midlands very few One Day Travelcards are issued for use on Chiltern Railways to London Marylebone. The vast majority of off peak journeys are made with Advanced Train Specific tickets. Paper tickets are quickly becoming an anomaly. Here in the West Midlands vast use is made of Contactless , NXWM App or Swift and with similar alternatives avaliable from Transport for London. In addition TfL is obviously supporting journeys from outside its operating area and in many cases affluent middle class home counties areas where the passenger can most likely bear the true cost. In this era post Covid of financially strapped authorities there is a role for the One Day Travelcard and should quite rightly be scrapped when Contactless & Oyster are readily available. May I take this opportunity to wish Rodger every sucess with his conference at The Strathallen here in Edgbaston today. The transformation of the hotel under its new owners has been quire remarkable because until recently it held a notorious reputation as the haunt of Edgbastons Red Light Community rather than the local Red Bus Community of the erstwhile neighbouring BMMO!


  5. TFL and the Mayor of London must realise this law:

    Greater London Authority Act 1999
    Section 141

    General transport duty.
    (1) The Mayor shall develop and implement policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within Greater London.

    (2) The powers of the Authority under this Part shall be exercised for the purpose of securing the provision of the transport facilities and services mentioned in subsection (1) above.

    (3) The transport facilities and services mentioned in subsection (1) above include facilities and services for pedestrians and are—
    (a) those required to meet the needs of persons living or working in, or visiting, Greater London, and
    (b) those required for the transportation of freight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tell the government that.
      It is, after all, HM Government which is pulling the strings and (as usual) hiding behind someone else who is expected to take the blame.

      It’s no different to when ministers pretend that Train Companies are at fault when they’re only implementing the DfT’s edicts; in this case TfL are implementing HM Treasury’s edicts yet everyone is blaming the mayor.

      Cynic that I am I suspect those people wouldn’t be blaming a Tory mayor; it’s purely because Khan is Labour and the Waily Male is (as ever) telling them that everything is Labour’s fault.


  6. Another insightful piece, Roger!

    Yes, a completely backwards step. I’m not a regular visitor to London so when I went to the 02 from Herts with my daughter a few weeks ago, the Travelcard was an absolute boon. It’s so much easier inserting a paper ticket in the barrier than trying to work out when and where to tap in and out on an unfamiliar journey – and this assumes a youngster has a contactless card. Best of all, she travelled for £2 on top of my fare.

    I don’t entirely blame the Mayor for this. I think he was put in an impossible position and forced to agree to all sorts of things in order to gain post-Covid funding for TfL from the Government (see also ULEZ expansion).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Withdrawal of Railcard discounts seems like a more reasonable way to make savings, rather than removing travelcards. Other areas do not rely on having a Railcard to obtain reduced fare travel.

    Travelcards are popular with leisure travellers for occasional trips into London. Railcards are disproportionately popular with those who are old or young rather than working age travellers.

    Travelcards support using public transport for longer journeys and should be kept

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I live outside London but occasionally travel in, using a Senior Railcard. I also have an Oyster card.

      I suspect that few non-regular travellers know that a Railcard discount can be “added” to an Oyster card – I’m pretty savvy about such things but didn’t know for a long time.


    2. As Dan Tancock describes, most Travelcards support discretionary leisure trips from the greater South East into London, where their users put money into London’s economy.

      If the price were to rise by 33% because a railcard discount is no longer possible, I will simply make fewer trips to London, but probably more locally by car, thus disadvantaging TfL, National Rail and the environment simultaneously!


  8. Our public services have to be paid for and users need to more than play their part. So surely the discussion should be to keep the Travelcard but increase prices to a level that works for Tfl. Roger cites numerous reasons for its retention.

    Ironically one of the links at the bottom of the post is to the crazy anomaly of lower fares on Thameslink as opposed to Southern, even though they are one franchise and one livery. Here is another hidden subsidy that should be removed, and given volumes on Thameslink would raise considerable sums , as well as simplifying and removing anomalies. Making ticketing simple is one of the keys to increasing public transport use, so ditching Travelcard is a retrograde step, but price it correctly .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why do “users need to more than play their part”? Public transport is a good that benefits the whole of society, so society as a whole needs to subsidise (if not completely pay for) it. Although it must clearly be run sensibly and efficiently, it’s not in my view merely a commercial business which makes its profits from running buses and trains rather than selling thingmes and widgets.


    2. Jullian Peddle should know that in metropolitan areas paper tickets are fast becoming an anomaly and with Oyster in place there is not a convincing argument whatsoever to retain the paper One Day Travelcard in London although it’s operates very badly & has a terrible reputation in The Black County one of his own operating companies operates into the West Midlands Combined Authority and accepts Swift GO which operates in a similar manner to Oyster albeit on Bus & Tram only. For train use a Network Card or Daytripper ; both accepted by his company; is required due to the terms of the DfT franchise an outdated onomily like the One Day Travelcard. As Greenline 727 quite rightly states TfL only receive a proportion of the value of the One Day Travelcard making it economically unviable for London Tax Payers.


  9. To follow up on Julian’s point …. I believe that TfL receive only a small amount from the sale of every Travelcard …. it’s something like the difference between a day return to London Terminals and the overall ticket price.
    If the TfL amount was calculated to be (say) the difference between the day return fare to the London boundary and the overall price, this would be fairer to TfL, although the TOC’s revenue share would be lower, of course …. which would result in DfT losing revenue under the current arrangements!!!

    I do wonder, though, if the problem is that nowadays nobody understands fares properly ….. in times past, every operator, be they bus or train, had a Fares Manager, who understood the relationships between various tickets and calculated farecharts accordingly.

    I used to be just such a creature …. there were no “double-booking anomalies” or “split tickets” on my routes!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On the railway, Fares Implementation under BR was a specialist role and like so many other specialist roles it has been thrown away and replaced by “managers” who have neither the time, training nor inclination to handle specialisms.

      Don’t worry; the DfT and HM Treasury want all fares, all reductions and all offers replaced by single fares based on peak (Anytime) fares in order to increase the revenue take. They don’t care about growing the market or providing a service to customers; all they’re interested in is pounds in the purse.
      As always, they’re being penny-wise and pound-foolish.


  10. I agree that this is a retrograde step as I have used one day travel cards as an add on to a rail ticket from Wiltshire in the past, albeit it was only a zone 1 & 2.

    However the Mayor is caught in a government bear trap and had to agree to mean spirited conditions to get a government bail out post covid. The ultimate cause is that London is a capital city that is unique in the world in having to fund public transport operations solely from fare revenue. That revenue stream dried up due to the lock downs. Then the government had Khan where they wanted him.


  11. I shall write as suggested but I do recognise that we’re in this situation because of an precedented attack on the GLA and the mayor personally because London has decided unequivocally that it doesn’t like the Tories anymore and so we’re to be punished for it. This despite the fact we’re one of only two regions in the U.K. that pays out more tax than it gets back in public spending. I really thought that after finally getting the investment London’s public transport desperately needed from 1997 onwards and delivering great service during the Olympics for example there would be no more making our capital a political football for buses, tubes and trains. I was sadly mistaken.


      1. If that was truly the case, and London needs to fund its own transport then Travelcards for passengers outside the London boundaries should go immediately. London would then be responsible for funding its own travel as requested…by dropping this subsidy for everyone else.

        I’m afraid that sort of view just doesn’t work. We either want the geographical boundaries or we go for an integrated transport system.

        I know which I’d prefer.


  12. If you go back to the Bus Back Better this seems to against the simplifying of travel with simplified ticketing and ticket interchangeable between
    travel mode

    Another general problem is LTA’s have no interest in travel beyond their boundary making such travel very difficult. Just look at London very few services now go beyond the London Boundary.


  13. Go they test drivers’ eyesight and English capabilities?

    A First Bus driver in Glasgow tried to go under a bridge with both height and width restrictions. The bus was deroofed and several passengers injured.

    You can see it on the BBC Web site. You would have very bad eyesight to miss all the signage


      1. It is in Cork street Glasgow/ Some pictures show 3.6M and one shows 4.6M so presumably the height varies by the lane used

        The bus was in service but looking on Google maps it shows no buses using Cork Street


        1. There are two bridges with a junction between them, the first bridge is higher than the second.
          The bus was on diversion and should have passed under the first bridge then turned off at the junction but carried on and hit the second bridge.


  14. From a railfan (trainspotter) position, I suppose this might leave me worse off?

    In New York City, I can swipe my MetroCard (or tap the new OMNY) and stay within the subway system as long as I want to for only $2.75, taking as many photos and videos as I want.

    Now, if I understand this correctly:

    If I want to visit London and trainspot within the system all day long, but then TfL gets rid of the TravelCard, would I have to keep getting out of the system to avoid penalties and fines?


  15. I also wonder about the use of the Underground on cross London tickets. Much ticketing integration has been achieved over the years – it would be wrong and pintless to go away from such integration. ,


  16. BSIP Plus

    It appears at least at present that a £160M of the funding to LTA’s recently announced will mainly go to LTA’s that did not get funding in the first round. It also appear that unlike the first round of funding at this funding can be used to support existing service that would otherwise be withdrawn

    As we have seen previously though this things can be fairly fluid and change almost at the drop of a hat. WE will have to wait and see and if the LTA’s move as slow as they are with first round it might be a very long wait


    1. Bob, you should be aware that the DfT has taken months to confirm BSIP allocations to many LTAs, so allegations of slowness should be directed to central government, which believes deadlines are flexible for it but compulsory for everyone else.


  17. Oyster and contactless is all fine and dandy when you are travelling through the system, tapping in and out as you travel ….. but what happens if , like me , you like to spend an hour or so watching the tubes go by ??. you get penalised with a maximum charge because you didn’t complete your journey in the allotted time. Mayor Khan needs to stop seeing £££ signs and perhaps consider the travelling public for once !!.


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