diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 23, 2017

Here's a question for you about off-peak travel.
When touching in on a weekday morning, at what time do TfL start charging off-peak fares?
If you said 09:30, you'd be wrong.

TfL are slightly kinder than that, allowing a three minute grace period, which means off-peak fares are actually charged from 09:27.

The extra three minutes is to make up for the fact that life doesn't always run smoothly. Your watch might be fast, meaning you thought it was after half past nine when it wasn't, or the off-peak train you need to catch might be scheduled to leave so soon after nine thirty that you couldn't possibly dash down to the platform in time.

So, to avoid passengers claiming they've been over-charged, TfL's software kicks off the off-peak period three minutes early. That's very kind of them.

Only last week you could have found me hanging around outside Lewisham station waiting for 09:31, just to be on the safe side, in order to save myself £1.30. It turns out I needn't have been so cautious!

So, another question for you.
When touching in on a weekday afternoon, at what time do TfL start charging peak fares?
If you said 16:00, you'd be wrong.

And if you thought, aha, there's a three minute grace period, so it must be 16:03, you'd also be wrong.

TfL are slightly kinder than that, allowing a five minute grace period, which means peak fares are actually charged from 16:05.

The extra five minutes is to make up for the fact that life doesn't always run smoothly. Your watch might be slow, meaning you thought it was before four o'clock when it wasn't, or the bus you'd caught on the way to the station might have got stuck in traffic. So, to avoid passengers claiming they've been over-charged, TfL's software kicks off the peak period five minutes late. That's extremely kind of them.

Here's what they said in a recent Freedom of Information request.
AM peak starts at 06.35.
Off-peak starts at 09.27.
PM peak starts at 16.05.
Off-peak starts at 18.57.

Please note that the grace times quoted above apply for both Oyster and Contactless. The quoted times are as set at the particular validation devices and these may sometimes vary from true time; the grace times are therefore not guaranteed to apply from the perception of the user.
So TfL can't 100% guarantee these wider intervals, because devices aren't always synchronised properly, but by adding these grace periods they can ensure that passengers are never overcharged.

I note that the TfL website still says this.
Peak fares apply Monday to Friday (not on public holidays) between 06:30 and 09:30, and between 16:00 and 19:00.
But in fact peak fares are only charged if you touch in between 06:35 and 09:27, or between 16:05 and 18:57. Two late starts and two early finishes mean peak periods are actually 16 minutes a day shorter than TfL told us they were. Who knew?

And if this information prevents you from hanging around outside a station until half past nine in the morning when you could have touched in at 09:27, the time saved could add up to 12 hours a year.

I wonder how much revenue TfL loses as a result of this pragmatic and magnanimous decision. Perhaps someone could put in a Freedom of information request and find out.


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