How to confuse WAGN ticket inspectors with your Oystercard
One of the great things about Oystercard is that it is an electronic cashless London-wide method of paying for multiple forms of public transport.
One of the terrible things about Oystercard is that it is an electronic cashless London-wide method of paying for multiple forms of public transport.
I couldn't begin to imagine how complicated their roll-out project planning has been, but there are inevitably strange and difficult leaks at the edge of the system. One is my local overground station at Wood Street, part of the WAGN Liverpool Street-Chingford line. Sometimes I get stopped there for a ticket inspection. The ticket inspectors have hand-held gizmos to read the Oystercards. Or to attempt to read the Oystercard anyway.
It doesn't seem that they are equipped to read Oystercards which are carrying multiple tickets. I was travelling on the last day of a weekly ticket, and the card was also physically carrying the data for my next ticket, starting on the Tuesday. The readers that the WAGN staff are equipped seemed to only pick up the message "Multiple Tickets" and the name of the station I downloaded the virtual tickets from. Which started a dispute, as the ticket inspector claimed I did not have a valid ticket for my journey and wanted to issue me with a penalty fare fine.
He was arguing that the reason my ticket wasn't showing as valid was because I was either using the new pre-pay facility (which is only valid on the Tube and DLR) or that it wasn't valid full-stop. I was quite insistent that the card had season tickets on it, and had let me through barriers at Holborn and Liverpool Street, both Tube and WAGN. I was also pretty insistent that I knew how the system worked better than he did and explained that I wouldn't be using pre-pay on this route as I know it is not one of the overground sections pre-pay is valid on.
After some discussion, and the intervention of a couple of other members of the ticket inspecting team, they let me out without a fine, whilst still looking at me like I had pulled some kind of 'fast one' on them.
The card was tested on two different machines, and neither of them could read the data properly. That looks to me like their may be a flaw in their readers. The LCD screen on the protable readers just didn't seem able to display information about multiple tickets on one card. Print your Oystercard order confirmation emails out and carry them with you seems to be the lesson.
Having moaned, the ticket inspector who gave me a hard time was only doing his job, and as a team they were pretty unlucky to get a mouthy technophile Oystercard-loving smallprint reader when their scanner wasn't working. Especially a mouthy technophile Oystercard-loving smallprint reader who could only see the whole ticket inspection process as an obstacle on the way to the pint he needed desperately after the day he'd just had at work :-)