Oyster PAYG on National Rail – some details

Thanks to the London Reconnections blog (and to Boris Watch for pointing it out), here’s some details on what to expect when Oyster pay-as-you-go comes to south-east London’s mainline railways. It’s scheduled to begin from 2 January, to coincide with the 2010 fare changes, although this has still to be confirmed. Here is a document from the Greater London Authority asking the mayor to approve those fare changes, which includes some of the details of how it will work, and the proposed fares.

Basically, there’ll be four sets of fares. At the moment, there’s two sets of fares in operation – one for the Tube and DLR, and one for TFL Rail (London Overground). From January, there’ll be two more – Train Company fares, and Train/TfL fares.

The Train Company fares will affect most SE London travellers – so here’s what you can expect to pay:


Zones 7, 8, 9, W and G don’t apply to us here in south-east London for these journeys – it’s just the 1-6 we need to worry about here.

So if you’re travelling from Charlton, Blackheath, Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, or any other zone 3 station to central London, that’s £2.60 to you in the rush hour, and £2 at other times. That compares with £2.70 or £2.40 for the same three-zone journey by London Underground. It also means that travelling by train will be cheaper than taking the bus to North Greenwich and taking the Tube (which will cost £3.50 or £3 for a single bus ride and a two-zone Tube ride).

From Greenwich or Lewisham, in zone 2, taking the train will also be cheaper than getting the DLR (£2.10 vs £2.30 in the rush hour, £1.70 vs £1.80 off-peak).

From Woolwich Arsenal, stuck in zone 4, the rush-hour train fare will be the same as that on the DLR – £3.10. At all other times, it’ll be slightly cheaper – £2.30 against £2.40 for the DLR equivalent.

If you’re going to use the Tube/DLR on your travels – say, my old commute from Charlton to White City, then this table will apply to you – the train/TfL fares.


If you travel through Zone 1, you’ll be charged an extra £1.10 on your fare. But if you don’t, then your fare will stay the same. So Charlton to West India Quay DLR, via Greenwich, will cost the same as Charlton to Deptford by train. (It’s unclear whether these fares will apply for journeys which use the new East London Line, due to open in May and which will have a Zone 1 stop at Shoreditch High Street – I would assume they will, though, since despite being part of the National Rail network, it’ll be a TfL Rail line. Worth watching if you plan to travel up to Hoxton or Highbury.)

Oyster cards currently have a daily cap on them – set at 50p below the day travelcard rate. From January, this cap will be the same as the day travelcard. Here’s next year’s day travelcard prices – the steep jump between zone 2 and zone 3 stays in place, sadly.


So travellers from Lewisham, Deptford, Greenwich and North Greenwich travelling into central London will pay a maximum of £7.20/day (£5.60 off peak), while us zone 3 passengers will pay £8.60 at most (£6.30 off peak from both zones 3 and 4). Using the overloaded bus service to North Greenwich Tube to get a cheaper fare isn’t going to go out of fashion just yet, especially for rush hour passengers from Woolwich Arsenal and beyond who’ll want to avoid a hefty £10 daily charge from zone 4.

There’s more details in the GLA document, which includes child fares and Travelcard prices, and the TfL Rail fares that’ll apply on the new East London line from Brockley and New Cross Gate. Some health warnings apply here – these haven’t been officially confirmed yet, and there could be errors in the information, so these figures are subject to change. There’s also been talk of a daft-looking idea of Travelcard users having to load an “Oyster extension permit” onto their cards before using mainline services outside their zones, but that’s not been confirmed either. But hopefully this gives you an early idea of how the scheme will work.

One final point of interest is in those extra zones. 7, 8 and 9 go out into Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire; while Zone W is Watford Junction, where Oyster cards can also be used at a different rate.

But Zone G is the area around Grays, Essex – where c2c trains will be accepting Oyster cards to Chafford Hundred, the nearest station to Lakeside Shopping Centre. A smart idea to tempt Londoners onto trains and out of their cars.

But south of the river, though, there’s no sign of any such concession from Southeastern, which is grudgingly accepting Oyster as it is, on its trains to Greenhithe, the nearest stop to Bluewater. A terrible shame, and an indication of where Southeastern’s priorities really lie.

(LATER: Boris Watch has some comment and some graphs to show how, if you live in outer London and have no Tube, this may not be a good thing.)

(MUCH LATER: London Reconnections explains the nonsense of Oyster Extension Permits.)


  1. Great news about Lakeside – the final piece in the jigsaw for us getting rid of our car. It’ll save suffering the infrequent and expensive X10 bus service over the Dartford Bridge if we instead go via Woolwich (or indeed move there 😉 ).

    Re Bluewater, I think your best Oysterised way to get there will be to get off the train at Crayford in Zone 6 (our local station) and get on any Dartford-bound bus round the corner – they all terminate there. The very frequent 96’ll get you there pretty quickly as it goes non-stop when it reaches Dartford town centre. I’m getting it there myself later today, as it happens.

    Really, Zone 6 should just be extended to Dartford, since that’s the end-point of most Southeastern metro services through Bexley and is only one stop outside Zone 6 at the moment. But it seems that’s just below installing a ski-lift in hell on the transport priorities list for the government/Mayor. But really, they could give us a ‘D’ zone or something.

    Anyway, thanks for all this info – very useful and clear.

    I’m waiting to see what happens about “Oyster Extension Permits” for people with Oyster-loaded period travelcards, which I read some rather worrying details of on a Usenet newsgroup a few weeks ago. I won’t go into details here as I’m not quite clear on how it’ll work and don’t want to explain incorrectly and start spreading inaccuracies. Worth searching/reading around on if you’re interested (of course you are!) though.

  2. Yeah, the “extension permits” thing is a worry – will have to see the full details before commenting, though.

    Bluewater via Crayford/96 is a thumping pain in the arse, though – Crayford station feels about a mile from where the 96 stops. And the traffic through Crayford’s awful. There’s also Slade Green and the 428, of course, if you’ve a spare year to kill.

    If the Thames Gateway scheme is going to work sustainably, then stations out to at least Greenhithe and ideally Gravesend should be included in Oyster, along with Kent Fastrack. That’ll cover both Bluewater and Ebbsfleet stations.

    Sustainability and transport run solely for profit just don’t mix, unfortunately.

  3. Mmmm, Fastrack on Oyster would be excellent.

    That ‘about a mile’ is about a third of the 11-minute walk from our house to the bus stop (past the station) that I do every morning and evening 🙂 (See why moving is attractive?)

    I did consider mentioning the 428 from Erith/Slade Green (which then goes through Crayford) but as you say it extends an already long journey. But if you’re coming from that Southeastern line it’s probably quicker than any other Oysterised way to get to Bluewater.

    The traffic in Crayford’s a lot better these days, and you only join the buses as they’re leaving Crayford anyway, so it’s not a bad way to get there – about 20 minutes even at busy times.

    But now I fear I’m reducing this broad and interesting post to a narrow and uninteresting point, which won’t do – sorry. Whatever next? Reducing a huge, complex, near-decade-long war against a never-defeated enemy to three days’ blanket coverage of whether an 80%-blind man’s writing is a bit messy?

  4. Wow, I’m shocked, forgive me if I am mistaken but this actually will mean a price fall for a day return to London (currently 5.30) down to 5.20. No wonder the rail companies were so opposed for so long. This took years of effort from ken (mostly) and boris.

    As for the 96 bus. I remember pickig it up near thamesmead last summer, took me 2 an a hal hours to arrive in the heat of summer, having the heating on in the bus didn’t help either.

  5. 2½ hours?! Blimey. That’s more than double the timetabled full Woolwich-Bluewater journey length during rush hour! I wonder what made it so slow on that one occasion. The good news is that nearly all 96s now have air conditioning so you shouldn’t suffer the heat problem again either. Stop me if I turn into a bus PR person or something here.

  6. I know it was ridiculous thank god they have air conditioning now. I have no idea what caused there wa solid gridlock every part of the way. It was that day that I swore I would learn to drive. Ironically, my car once I got it then broke down on the way back from bluewater. Leaving myself and my girlfriend stranded on the a road for guess how long… 2 and a half hours.

  7. The fundamental point is that Rail and Tube fares are run separately and drive by two sets of Politicians (National and Mayoral). The train companies are commercial companies operating in within the confines of their contracts, and essentially will do what the politicians will pay them to do.
    Not one of us would happily accept a reduction in our salary if our employer wanted to cut prices, so why should we expect the train companies to do it. The reason we haven’t got a common set of fares is no one will take the political hit – the mayor to increase prices, the DfT to reduce them. A combination of a hole in TfL’s finances forcing tube prices up and Adonis’ flat cap fares regime has brought them as close as possible. Maybe we’ll see a uniform scale soon but don’t expect reductions to do it.
    Anyone who was expecting tube fares on the railways as a result of the arrival of Oyster pay as you go was delusional…

  8. Of course, it could be argued that a uniform fare scale would be unfair as well – why should someone who gets four trains an hour pay the same as someone who gets 40 trains an hour?

    But once you combine the two, you should really only be paying the higher rate – so if you travel from Charlton to Baker Street by train and tube, you shouldn’t be penalised for having to change trains.

    The system is broken.

  9. […] it like?) 5. The Third Degree – Mercy (8 February) (I really should do more music here.) 6. Oyster PAYG on National Rail – some details (11 November) (A first attempt to work the damn thing out.) 7. Greenwich ghost bike remembers […]

  10. Oyster PAYG is horribly complex and in terms of walking up the station every day and BUYING a printed ticket turns out to be cheaper than using a more effective and less resource hungry method of tickets.

    I was interested in the whole Oyster PAYG scheme from East Croydon to London Victoria everyday and according to the people on National Rail Enquiries there is absolutely no difference. So what is the point investing all this money into deploying card readers when hardly anybody will bother using them? Oyster was a way to save money not flush it down the toilet because of the greedy train companies wanting to grab more money for shareholders and giving less back to us that have to travel on the horribly overcrowed transport network we currently have!!

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