It’s amazing how cheap bus travel in central London has become – for me, at least – and it’s mostly thanks to the new Oystercard system. But I’m not sure that my experience is what Transport for London were intending…
When I left London a year ago, bus journeys outside Zone 1 cost 70p, and it was £1 if any part of the journey included the central zone. Since the Oystercard doesn’t know when you get off the bus, the fare basis was changed to just have one zone, and the cash prices were raised to a flat £1 wherever, whenever. To encourage everyone to use Oystercards, it’s only 70p with one – quite a large 30% discount, and so it’s what I use.
Unfortunately, lots of the oystercard readers on buses don’t work properly. Hang on, it’s not actually a misfortune, since whenever they aren’t working, I get a free bus ride. Which is about twice a week – so I reckon my average journey price must be pushing around 65p. That’s quite a contrast to Michael Jennings experience with the ticket machines in the heart of Zone 1. But given the large oystercard discounts I’m surprised that anyone still considers using cash, instead of adding a pre-pay, unregistered Oystercard to a wallet full of ‘loyalty’ cards.
Yesterday I encountered a new twist, when it comes to loading a bus at Shepherds Bush Green. A number of large bus routes start at the Green, and it’s a busy bus interchange, so quite often an entire double-decker-bus-load of people are trying to get on at once. In the past, everyone would file in in two columns, with those in the one away from the driver holding passes up for the driver to check. But now that most have Oystercards, it has turned into a single queue of people swiping past the only reader – slowing the whole process. So this particular driver was just waving everyone past, saying “just keep going, don’t worry about it”, and so I took his advice, and had a free trip.
Interestingly, Oystercards are supposed to speed up loading a bus, by removing the need for bus drivers to deal with cash (and TfL are aiming for cashless busses by next year). Someone didn’t do their research properly though – most people, especially during busy commuting times, rarely paid cash fares, and introducing Oystercards has slowed the verification of pass-holders. Perhaps the busses could have additional readers installed on the right-hand side of the entrance, and we can go back to the two-column loading routine.