How to confuse WAGN ticket inspectors with your Oystercard

 by Martin Belam, 25 February 2004

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 :-)


I wondered about this, as I've seen that if you use it for a season ticket, you can also add friends travelling with you onto it using pre-pay. And what happens if you use it somewhere there are no barriers, so it doesn't even know that you're on a train and then you try to get out or get inspected on the train?

Luckily all this will be ironed out before they come to Essex. :D

I doubt this has anything to do with Oystercard,

About six years ago, a friend of mine, who had just moved to Cambridge, travelled on WAGN to Stevenage for a job interview.

She was in a rush, and had hoped to buy a ticket on the train, as was normal, at least in York, where she previously lived.

However, WAGN expected passengers to pay for tickets beforehand. There was a sign at Cambridge railway station that stated this. You would notice this sign if you normally hold your head 45 degrees above horizontal. She doesn't.

So, the ticket inspector snarled at her for pulling the old "I thought you could buy a ticket on the train" trick. He assumed she had deliberately dodged the fare.

If WAGN actually have a clue about how to run a transport network, why can't they learn from their own past? Do they seek feedback from their employees about customers' misunderstandings or just seek to behave as obnoxiously as possible? Do they listen to their unfortunate customers that they fine?

Your experience supports my previous impression that WAGN is run by obnoxious, money-grabbing losers who can't be arsed to train their staff properly.

Unexpected events happen. Learn to deal with them, whether you write computer programs or run railway networks.

Mina - you've got it slightly wrong. You can give your pre-pay Oyster to a friend, ONLY if it hasn't got a season ticket on it.

Incidently one of the big problems I've found is having the pre-pay/season combination visiting BR stations - like Wimbledon to Waterloo for example. BR/tube station at Wimbledon with barriers but no validator in Waterloo's BR area.

The solution seems to be to either ask to go through the gates without swipping (hmm), ditch the prepay or pop down to the tube station and swipe your Osyter against one of the ticket machines and then cancel (that way, TfL know you're in the station) - but that assumes the station has a tube bit.

First seems unlikely unless (like me) you have your record details with you (I have a "Gold record card" which lists zonal availablity and is the same size as a normal ticket) and I'm not 100% convinced that the 3rd one will work (I think it does because it's essentially the same as a validator unit)

Last time this happened to me, I was lucky. I did Paddington to Ealing Broadway and thankfully the gates at Ealing were open so I didn't swipe anything.

I live in chingford,and I will not repeat not get an oyster card. Apart from the fact that it is not fully tested.It totally stinks of the big brother syndrome, have to register by ways of filling in a form.They know where you are traveling to and where you are traveling from.

Tom Hukins. The penalty fare scheme is run by more train companies than just WAGN, and the penalty fare has an appeal procedure attached to it which you (or your friend) can appeal to AN INDEPENDENT APPEAL service which is run for all the train companies that run the Penalty Fare Scheme. Yes on the trains we hear a lot of stories and to distinguish the truth is very hard on a moving train, hence the appeal service. There are stories of respecteable people from solicitors offices going to the next station down the line to buy and renew their annual gold card tosave themselves considerable amount of money over the year then travel from their local station. then when they get caught easily hand over the ten pound penalty fare for the one stop until they are caught by the same inspector 2 days on the trot who then suspects fraud questions them under caution the PACE act eventually a handsome out of court settlement is sought to save them loosing their respectable job all for saving themselves five hundred pound a year! is this where i mention an underfunded railway system where fare evasion and fraud are rife out there and its not always the youths in "hoodies" who sometimes have season tickets too, so we can't all judge a book by its cover.
and yes we fear that "Uncle Ken" has launched a lecence to dodge fares! but one commuter has reverted back to the season ticket because he forgot to swipe out/off once and had a full days travelling taken off his card instead of one two pound journey! so beware the oyster!

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