Friday, 25 February 2011

TfL take £1000s in Oyster overcharges from Bush residents

233,000 at Shepherd's Bush Overground, 368,000 at Shepherd's Bush Central line, 108,000 at White City and 46,000 at East Acton are the numbers of people who have had money taken from them during 2010 in fines by TfL for allegedly not "touching out" at the end of their journey with pay as you go Oyster cards. The grim numbers were revealed by an answer from London Mayor Boris Johnson just this week.

If you don't touch out the Oyster system basically fines you by taking the maximum possible fare off your card. So for example if you travelled from Zone 1 to White City which is in Zone 2 but the machine didn't record a "touch out", it will charge you for a potential journey to the furthest point you could have possibly gone on the central line adding up to four zones more.

So if we take each of these recorded incidents as costing around a fiver that means TfL have taken around £3,775,000 away from commuters into and out of W12 in the last year alone. You're talking silly money when you add that up across London as a whole with over 14 million journeys having been subject to an overcharge courtesy of TfL - and how many of these people were ripped off as a result of the system itself screwing up? Many more than the one in four that get compensated as a result.

I know that's hapenned to me when I most definately did swipe in and out and was still overcharged, and then there was the time coming home from the Notting Hill Carnival when the station officer at Shepherd's Bush H&C Line refused to believe that people were being told just to walk through without touching in at all the stations around the Carnival because of the crowds - I was overcharged again. I suspect I'm far from being the only one.

We know all of this thanks to Caroline Pidgeon who is the Liberal Democrat leader on the Greater London Assembly. She asked the question and was given the numbers, but was also told by Tfl that:
"Maximum fares are not overcharges. The terms of pay as you go (PAYG) make it quite clear that users must touch in and out to obtain the best fare. Maximum fares are charged to deter fraud and ensure that users validate their cards properly".
"In principle, customers who do not touch in at the start of their journey are at risk of a maximum fare because they are travelling without a valid ticket. TfL calculates that between 60 and 80 per cent of the revenue raised through maximum fares would have been spent by customers if their Oyster card were validated correctly".
But, as Caroline Pidgeon points out in response, very few of these people are ever compensated:

"It is staggering that last year 14 million people were overcharged for making journeys around London using Oyster - yet in just one of four of these cases were they ever compensated.

"As a matter of urgency we must get to the bottom of how this overcharging is occurring so as to ensure passengers are routinely charged the correct fare. Of course in some cases passengers might be forgetting to swipe their cards, but that should not cover up the fact that there are some fundamental faults in the Oyster system. There is now increasing evidence that thousands of people being ripped off at no fault of their own.

"It is time the Mayor started answering questions as to why so many Londoners are being ripped off when using Oyster."
It is indeed - but this close to the election next year don't expect any answers soon. You can just draw your own conclusions instead about Boris' record on this and so many other things. I would simply urge people not just to touch in and out but also to make full use of websites like which is an automated compensation claiming system that reminds you when your train was delayed according to when you have told the system you normally travel. How many times have you been delayed, meant to claim compensation, and then forgotten about it?

And if you are overcharged - claim. If anyone has any stories they'd like to share please do so in the comments section below, I'll be following this one up in the coming weeks and months.

1ST MARCH UPDATE - The Fulham Chronicle have caught up with this story here

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