Digital is the mainstream now in fare payment, but it does little for those like the elderly, recent immigrants, those without bank or Oyster cards, and some international visitors. Increasing digitisation saves public transport agencies considerable money and effort, and provides them with reams of travel, payment, demographic, and station data points to optimise and plan services. Unfortunately, this digitisation oftentimes makes travel more expensive and difficult for those outside the mainstream.

Further to our article on mainline Rail Ticketing in a post-Covid world, TfL has similarly wanted to slim and simplify its fare offerings. But it is being pushed to do so, indirectly, by the government it appears.

This article covers Travelcards in general, Day Travelcards in particular, and the importance on the people who use and rely them. They are not an insignificant number, as we shall find out.

TfL’s attempt to eliminate Day Travelcards

On 18 April 2023, TfL initiated a public consultation on removing the popular Day Travelcards. They had already eliminated the obscure and little used platform tickets without consultation on 2 September 2023, but did not conduct a public consultation for it.

The Mayor claimed that TfL’s recent Government funding settlement had forced it to consider ways to increase revenue. The increased revenue from eliminating Day Travelcards was estimated to be approximately £40m, or some 0.44% of TfL’s annual budget.

Once the consultation inputs had been analysed, the Mayor announced his decision to partly withdraw from the London Travelcard agreement. The full Mayoral Decision, rationale, facts, and advice can be read here.

Travelcards: a potted history

Early simple fares experiments and then the Fares Fair experiences of 1979-83 started London on the path to fare simplification.

In the 1980s, London Transport, as was, introduced zonal fares throughout its operation in place of point-to-point tickets. This would have led to considerable fare rises for some people – eg, short journeys crossing Zones, but this was mitigated by the political decision to reduce fares. People who previously held season tickets moved to zonal Travelcards for the original six Zones. In the 1985, the scheme was extended to British Railways lines operating within the London Transport Zones, and the season tickets were called Capitalcards (slightly more expensive than Travelcards). A few years later the Travelcard and Capitalcard were merged and rationalised, greatly simplifying use for passengers. From this beginning, various automated fare collection schemes were developed, culminating in the Oyster card and now contactless – bank cards (either in plastic or held on smart phones & watches). It is still the envy of everywhere else in the UK.

Paper v electronic fares

On TfL services, Oyster and contactless aim to replace paper tickets, but for a whole host of reasons, paper tickets remain, both for single journeys and for Travelcards which are sold for Day and various longer durations. They are also available for all combinations of Zones (now 1-9) and, crucially, as addon to tickets brought for rail travel from outside London. As an example, a Day Travelcard can be added to a ticket from, say, Milton Keynes Central to London giving unlimited Zone 1-6 travel. This is effectively a ticket from Milton Keynes to the boundary of Zone 6. To be clear, this also includes the Zones 1 – 6 Travelcard.

What withdrawing the Day Travelcard would have meant

If implemented, TfL would no longer sell, issue, or accept any Day Travelcards covering Zones 1-9, including:

Group Day Travelcards

Weekend Travelcards

London Family Travelcards

Discounted Day Travelcards purchased using National Railcards.

Add on Travelcards to tickets from stations outside London – although this is formally a decision for the Train Operators.

Probably most important, TfL would continue to sell, issue and accept weekly and longer-term Travelcards.

Who would have been affected?

Despite the Mayor stating that there would be no impact with the withdrawal of Day Travelcards, as stated in the Mayor’s Question Time response above, there would in fact be a number of impacts to many passenger groups:

Customers travelling in a single day can use pay as you go (PAYG) on TlL services, if they have a contactless or Oyster card. TfL claim that the cap process available with PAYG will mean that overall cost is no higher. But Oyster and contactless are not the same. Contactless is useful for adult fares, whereas Oyster can have all sorts of discounts – Railcard and various discounts for disadvantaged Londoners applied to them – see below. However, Oyster cards cost £7 to buy, which can be a lot on a fixed income.

Customers could buy paper single/return tickets to travel on TfL services. Note that such tickets are much more expensive than Oyster/contactless fares on the Tube, and can be more expensive on National Rail. One Day Bus & Tram (combined) Passes are available for £6.00.

Customers travelling from outside London would have to pay for their journey to a London train station and then use PAYG or buy paper tickets to travel on TfL services. This will increase cost unless they break their journeys, with consequent delay, at a boundary station.

For child tickets, customers travelling from outside London could apply in advance for a Zip card or get the Young Visitor discount set on an Oyster card. Both of these options give discounted PAYG fares. More on this later.

Although customers who use a National Railcard to buy a discounted Day Travelcard would no longer be able to do so, they would still be able to add their Railcard to a registered Oyster card to get the same discounted day travel.

Essentially, the affected are those who don’t have bank cards, children from outside London who will need to purchase a suitable Oyster card, and those whose bank cards won’t co-operate with the contactless system, like some foreign visitors. London Travelwatch pointed out much of this in its input to the consultation – summarised below. All these points and consultation feedback were subsequently covered in the Mayor’s Decision document’s equality statement, but no mitigations were proposed by TfL other than those fare channels which have a cost.

Moreover the Mayoral Decision ignores all this, as it states:

“TfL is effectively under-funded by the Travelcard Agreement at a total cost of approximately £40m a year. As a result, this proposal is estimated to generate approximately £40m per year for TfL, which will form part of the additional revenue mandated by Government for TfL to achieve.”

That said, it seems curious that TfL has managed to find just £9m to ensure that period (ie non-day and weekend) Travelcards are retained. It is stated that some 15m Day Travelcards are sold each year at a ‘loss’ of £40m. Period Travelcards attract discounts and it seems unlikely that there are significantly fewer of these than Day Travelcards, so do all the ‘losses’ add up?

TfL Update on the Travelcard Elimination Process

On 24 October 2023, TfL struck a deal with the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train operating companies, to retain the one-day Travelcards. Unfortunately, to cover the cost of this deal, the price of Day Travelcard will increase by three per cent in March 2024, on top of the annual fare increase.

Retention of the Day Travelcard brings a sigh of relief for the disabled (including railcards with companions), and people who lost or had stolen their cards or smartphones. Various other groups will also continue to benefit, including overseas visitors, Railcard holders, the digitally excluded, as well as to enthusiasts that wish to spend a day riding the trains within the Travelcard Zones without getting penalised by the Oyster/contactless PAYG maximum fare.

That 15m Day Travelcards are sold each year demonstrates the importance of this fare media, most of all to the disadvantaged. There does not appear to be a digital replacement on the horizon that covers the multitude of users, at the same cost to travellers.

This piece forms the second in a growing series on ticketing changes and digitisation that started with the aforementioned mainline Rail Ticketing in a post-Covid world. We will next look at DfT’s Project Oval ticketing scheme for England’s South-East.

Many thanks to CLondoner92 for his help in this article.

The post Day Travelcards – Their History, Importance, & Salvation (Ticketing Part 2) appeared first on London Reconnections.

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