Ye Gods! Oyster comes to Charlton

56:365 Oyster's coming to CharltonRecognise that thing on the right? It’s a long, long overdue arrival at Charlton station – an Oyster card reader. In fact, there’s a pair of them, carefully hidden under black covers. Finally, some concrete evidence that sometime before the world ends, Oyster pay-as-you-go is coming to Southeastern trains. Let’s party like it’s 2004!

The whole Oyster fiasco is one of those things which sums up the disaster that is public transport in this country perfectly – city government introduces nifty smartcard for its trains, but when it tries to get other, private trains to take its system, the private trains spit their dummies out and it takes years for them to be forced into line.

Even more aggravatingly, the only rail firms which take it now are all north of the Thames – I managed to go to Rainham, on London’s eastern fringes, using my ticket the other day. But even then, that didn’t stop rail firm c2c putting up stern signs warning of dire consequences if I ever set foot with the thing into Essex. Their slogan? “Making travel simpler.” So simple, I got a mate to pick me up at Rainham instead of risking fines by carrying on to Purfleet, which is where I was really going. Their loss.

Even now, it’s not certain when Oyster pay-as-you-go will kick in – September 2009 has been a widely-quoted start date, but according to a newsgroup posting, South West Trains don’t plan to start taking it until early 2010. How this affects our friends at Southeastern is not clear – we know they’re more concerned with the high speed trains in Kent we’ll never see – but they are determined that you won’t get a cheaper fare using an Oyster card. Can’t be encouraging regular travel now, can we?

Anyhow, I’ve a feeling Charlton’s two readers will get vandalised before anyone gets to use them – they’re positioned off the platforms, out of the light and maybe out of security cameras’ gaze. One’s next to a side gate which station managers have tried to close twice in recent years, the other’s where a cash machine got destroyed a few years back. The Oyster saga will probably rumble on for a while yet.

(A thrilling Thursday night update: There’s now four readers, one actually on the London-bound platform. The two near the other platform still lurk in the dark, but aren’t as close to where the burnt-out cash machine was as I thought they were.)


  1. Infact it will probably be more expensive to use PAYG if you happen to be under 27 as I doubt they will let you enable a young persons railcard on it..

    Also interestingly I just realised that from nationalrail ticket machines I can use a young persons railcard for an off-peak travel card. Something I hadn’t realised and useful to know (for those who qualify).

  2. I renewed my daughters train pass the other day and asked when they thought that Oyster would be rolled, only to be met with a tirade of ‘don’t wish for something you know nothing about…it’ll be used as a way to jack-up fares…you’ll rue the day etc etc…’ I came away wondering whether the staff were more concerned that half of them will be out of a job if we don’t all have to queue all morning for tickets etc…

  3. I was wondering the same thing (price capping). Makes me *mad* I can’t do that at the moment. I guess that is also the reason you can’t load a 1-day travelcard onto an oyster.

  4. Oyster is the spawn of Satan. I currently buy a monthly travel card which I can use as many times as I want in that month. If I am forced to “pay as I go” the costs will rocket. My main objection to Oyster though, is the fact that it is illegal under the Data Protection Act. They don’t tell you that they track every use you make of the card and store the results for over two years (this is where it is illegal). I detest the fact my journeys will be tracked; I keep my public data profile as low as possible. My own choice is that I do as much as possible to stay off the Government record books. I have no credit cards, no passport, no driving licence, no loans; I am not on the electoral register (long story – I managed to exploit a cock up) and do not appear in any phone book. I loathe the surveillance society and all of its’ trappings.

  5. Hugh…slightly off topic, but I just walked past Cannon Street (tenuous link to Rail travel there!)and there is an Animal Rights protest against Huntingdon Life Siences going on…I guess they must have an office there or something…anyway, I’d guess 50-100 noisy protesters surrounded by 50-100 police with high-tech video gear, and around the corner another maybe 20 police vans full of snoozing coppers, plus 10 or so motorbikes and a number of horses…Police state or what!….obviously no burglaries/muggings etc etc going on for them to worry about, but 100 hippies with a megaphone…

  6. At the risk of extending your off topic thread Noel, the Huntingdon Life Sciences protesters have a history of employing some pretty horrific tactics to achieve there goals, one could almost describe them as terrorists. I agree, all that police presence is perhaps overkill but don’t run away with the idea these people are harmless hippies spreading peace and love.

  7. The point about Oyster pay as you go not having to be registered rather misses the point; I do not want to have to pay substantially more than I currently do – I can at present take as many journeys as I like within the ticket validity period. This will end with the pernicious Oyster. I will have to resort to paying cash for individual journeys. I forgot to mention in my previous comment, that as well as having none of the items mentioned, I also do not have a mobile telephone – no tracking me that way either. Mobile phones will be the cigarettes of the 21st century.

  8. Whilst I appreciate the the PAYG fares are lower for tube and bus than cash fares I’m inclined to agree with everyone above that PAYG won’t be cheaper for train journeys. Why? Well they aren’t under the TfL umbrella. I also think that they need to iron out all the ‘bugs’ in the system before they try to make it the London ‘standard’.

  9. Darryl – have you not heard of IP spoofing? My profile shows me using the Camino browser on a Mac. This post is actually coming from a PC running PC BSD Unix on an Asus Netbook from somewhere completely different.

  10. @ Hugh; PAYG is an alternative to the monthly travelcard for those who only travel occasionally. Surely you will still be able to use a monthly travelcard as you do now?

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