Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oyster Card. Good in parts.

It seems we have hit upon a bug in the Oyster Card system. We used the Waterloo and City tube from Bank to Waterloo to catch a Eurostar train to Brussels. Unfortunately, due to a track side fire, the Eurostar service was cancelled so we had to just go back home. Using the Oyster Card for these two trips left us out of pocket and exposed us to ridicule by the TfL staff ...

All the times and amounts are direct from the "Journey History" page of my Oyster Card account page on the Oyster Card website. I started the following journeys with £13.10 on my card ...

TimeGate InformationAmountBalance
17:06Bank Entry£4.00£9.10
17:13Waterloo (Bkloo, Nthn, W&C Lines) Exit£2.50£11.60
17:40Waterloo (Bkloo, Nthn, W&C Lines) Entry£2.50£9.10
17:45Bank Exit£4.00£5.10

Note that there is a maximum fee of £4.00 GBP for a tube ride. The oyster system deducts the £4.00 when you start a journey and refunds the "change" when you exit (which makes sense to me). So the first trip has two entries: First I enter at Bank and get charged £4.00 GBP, then I exit at Waterloo and get £2.50GBP "change". All well and good. In total I paid £1.50 for the trip and we can see that the balance after that trip is £11.60 (£13.10 - £1.50). Perfect.

But look what happens on the return trip. I get charged £2.50 upon entry at Waterloo and another £4.00 on exit from Bank. I have been charged £6.50 for the return trip from Waterloo to Bank!

The same happened to Justina, but it was even worse for her. She had only £1.80 on her card for the return trip (which should have been enough) but she could not exit at Bank because the balance was deemed to be too low by the gate which was probably trying to take the additional £4.00 after the Waterloo gate had already taken £2.50. The really bad bit was the attitude and aggression of the staff at Bank station. Very nasty and they obviously believed that the Oyster Card was always right and hence that Justina was a fare dodger.

Looks like a serious bug in both the Oyster Card system and staff training. How good will the Oyster Card people be at fixing this? We'll see.


Update 1: Not a good start. The FAQ for Oyster says that in cases of overcharging the victim should call them on a number that earns them 3.5p per minute! So, Oyster rip you off on using their card and then they charge you as they (slooooowly, no doubt) try to resolve the problem by phone. I've sent in an email message instead which they promise they will get around to sometime over the next 7 working days. Thanks guys! Not.

Update 2: No response from Oyster at all. I'll send another message.


Emir said...

Hi there, this is an old post but please let me ask what happened.

Almost the same thing has happened to me a couple of times, I got charged 4 on entry and 4 on exit for a total of 8 on at least 3 of my journeys from Zone 6 to Zone 1.

I am on the 4th. day of waiting, the status of my question changed from "Unresolved" to "Escalated" on the website.


Emir said...


I am sorry, being redirected from google I have only seen your single post.

Now I've read the remainder of the story. I wish you more luck.

Thank you for the info.

sally said...

Hi there Bruce,

I am completely with you. I have a few stories to tell about the obvious glitches that can happen with the oyster card. I made a mistake very innocent one but trying to explain I was verbally abused and surrounded as a single female by about 5 men in their tfl uniforms. The person in question told me not to raise my voice and to calm down. Its hard to do either when you are being asked to pay 20 pounds for a very honest mistake. As I am sure you and your wife are not fare dodgers and your oyster card history shows that in a small way. What bothered me about the incident was how threatening these men were and how a member of the public had to step in and rescue me. I was told that I should question my humanity because I was obviously not a very good person. (I tried to explain that I had just been to as peaceful protest and was not trying to be in anyway confrontational). A similar incident occurred with my boyfriend a few days ago where he touched in ( he had 9 pounds on his card) but apparently it never read so he "must have gone in on someone elses oyster scan") again the same kind of thing happened. My boyfriend is a very calm mellow guy and even when he tried to explain that the oyster card reader must be at fault he was told not to raise his voice and that they were just doing there job. They ended up calling the police because he refused to pay 20 pounds for an oystercard machine that was obviously at fault. It is amazing that their machines never make a mistake only customers. They have so many posters saying our staff have a right to work without fear of abuse or harrassment but what happens to the rights of the customers when we are verbally abused by the staff threatened and intimidated. I am sure we are not the only ones to have this kind of experience.