Q: Ooh look, the new map has the river Thames on it! A: The London Connections map has always had the River Thames on it. This is not the new tube map. This is not news.
Q: Isn't there a mistake in the key on TfL's new "Oyster rail services in London" map? A: I think so. The key says that "station names in black are served by at least four trains per hour from 0930 to 1600, Mondays to Fridays". The problem is that all the station names in zones 1-6 are in black, even the ones that have fewer than four trains per hour off-peak. I do hope that TfL haven't printed hundreds of copies of this map in advance. [10pm update: The key on the official map has now been changed. Glad to be of service]
Q: Does this map offer any hints as to what'll be on the new tube map? A: Yes. It's the first official map to show the extended Circle line. Edgware Road is two stations again, not a mega-interchange. There's a new bus service shown to link Stratford station to new High Speed services at Stratford International. And there are no wheelchair blobs! (I know, wishful thinking)
Q: Enough about the map. Tell us which rail lines in London won't be accepting Oyster. A: Heathrow Express (Paddington → Heathrow), Heathrow Connect (Hayes & Harlington → Heathrow); Southeastern High Speed Services (St Pancras → Stratford International)
Q: And which National Rail stations outside London will be accepting Oyster? A:Zone 6: Elstree & Borehamwood; Hampton Court, Thames Ditton; Stoneleigh, Ewell West; Ewell East; Banstead, Epsom Downs; Chipstead, Kingswood, Tadworth, Tattenham Corner; Whyteleafe, Whyteleafe South, Caterham; Upper Warlingham. Zones 7/8/9: Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham; Bushey Zone W: Watford Junction Zone G: Purfleet, Ockendon, Chafford Hundred, Grays
Q: What about journeys further out of London than that? A: Oyster will not be accepted for National Rail journeys that start or finish outside the Oysterised zones.
Q: Can you reassure me that fares won't rise as a result of this change? A: I'll try. Take a peak return from Surbiton to Waterloo, for example. At the moment this costs £9.80 return. In the future, on PAYG, it'll cost £4.90 into town and £4.90 out again. Exactly the same. And off-peak the return fare is currently £6.50, and will change to two £3.20 singles. That's 10p less. Sounds good so far.
Q: When are peak fares charged on National Rail? A: This currently varies by train company, all of whom have a morning peak but only some of whom have an evening peak. From January they're all going to have two weekday peaks, one in the morning (0630-0930) and one in the evening (1600-1900). Many late-starting commuters will face unexpected fare increases as a result.
Q: OK, so now do that Surbiton → Waterloo return journey again, but leaving at 11am and returning at 5pm. A: At the moment this is a purely off-peak journey, costing £6.50 return. In the future, on PAYG, it'll cost £3.20 into town (off-peak) but £4.90 back again (new peak). Bugger, that's £8.10 in total, which is £1.60 more than now. Looks like many passengers who travel in the new afternoon peak will be big losers.
Q: Will Oyster always offer the cheapest fares? A: Almost always, yes. But not if you have a Family Railcard, Network Card or Gold Card. These offer off-peak discounts that Oyster won't recognise, so you may end up being overcharged.
Q: You've got a Gold Card, haven't you? Tell us how pissed off you feel. A: Yes, I have an annual Z1-3 Travelcard, which means I also get sent a Gold Card. This permits me one-third off off-peak fares in London and the southeast, which is lovely. For example, an off-peak return ticket to Cheam currently costs me £2.05, which is 1/3 off the usual price of £3.10. But Oyster PAYG will charge me £3 for the same journey (two £1.50 singles). So either I'll have to queue up and buy a paper ticket before I travel, as before, or I won't get my one-third discount. And yet the Oyster system knows I have an annual travelcard, so it ought to know I have a Gold Card, so it really ought to be able to calculate the correct discount. Apparently not. For me, Oysterisation brings no rewards.
Q: How do TfL cover their backs on this one? A: They say "We would always advise customers to check which ticket or travel product is best for them – depending on the route, time of day and mode of transport taken – before they start their journey." You'll be able to check fares here, from 2nd January. But not yet.
Q: Which National Rail journeys will still be charged at (cheaper) TfL rates? A: Marylebone → Amersham; Marylebone/Paddington → West Ruislip; King's Cross/Moorgate → Finsbury Park; Liverpool Street → Stratford; Stratford → Tottenham Hale/Seven Sisters; Liverpool Street → Walthamstow Central/Tottenham Hale/Seven Sisters; Fenchurch Street → Upminster/Rainham; Watford Junction → Euston/Clapham Junction; West Hampstead → Moorgate/Elephant & Castle/London Bridge; Paddington → West Drayton/Greenford; Victoria → Balham [see map here]
Q: Oyster PAYG is also now available on the river, isn't it? A: Yes, on Thames Clippers, with immediate effect. A single PAYG journey, say from Greenwich to Embankment, will cost £4.80. Ouch. That's almost as expensive as a peak time rail fare from Zone 6 to Central London.
Q: Did anybody important mention OEPs yesterday? A: No, they thought it was best only to announce one big thing at a time. Apparently only 0.04% of passengers will be affected anyway. Or 0.04% of journeys. Whatever, OEPs are being saved as a special surprise for later.