diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 28, 2022

Always touch in at the start of a journey and touch out at the end, say TfL, to ensure you pay the correct fare.

So it's unfortunate that three new Crossrail stations have been configured so that you can't always do that, causing inconvenience, overcharging and extended journey times.

The worst offender is Custom House, the station beside the ExCel exhibition centre and a key interchange with the DLR. Entering from the outside world is fine because everyone has to walk through a gateline and everything works. But arriving from the DLR is a total mess, and all because nobody remembered to install any yellow validators.

The DLR/Crossrail interface should be really smooth because they've built a special escalator at one end of the DLR platform to whisk you up to a special gateline into the new station. But if you go through that gateline you may be charged a maximum fare for an incomplete journey because you were supposed to touch out first. And you can't touch out because there isn't a validator anywhere en route, only alongside previous exits from the station, so they've had to put up a notice.

It's not even a very practical notice because it says "Validators are located at the DLR entrance/exit" but it doesn't tell you where that is. Since its rebuild Custom House has at least four places you could describe as the entrance/exit, and if this is your first visit you won't have a clue where they are because you came up the new escalator instead.

So bad is the problem that they've had to position staff behind the gateline to tell you not to walk through it. "Have you come up from the DLR?" I was asked, and on responding positively was politely asked to go away. I told them I had a Z1-3 Travelcard but this didn't appease them and they continued to warn me I faced a maximum fare if I went any further. I resisted saying "that's bollox" and humoured them by going on a great big detour round to the validator and back in at the front of the station. As I passed them on the other side of the gateline two minutes later I offered a weak smile, but really I was thinking "which utter idiot messed this up?"

The noticeboard would have been much more useful had it been downstairs on the platform, or if staff had thought to mention the problem before anyone reached the escalator. Passengers could then have been sent up the other way past the original validators and all would have been well. Instead we have two distinct staffing empires - the Elizabeth lot upstairs and the DLR lot downstairs - and no coordinated communication between the two. If only someone had foreseen this issue during the several years before Crossrail eventually opened.

And it's not just Custom House. They've also forgotten to introduce new validators at Farringdon.

The problem this time is interchanging between Crossrail and Thameslink. If you arrive up the purple escalator and want to touch out before you continue your journey on Thameslink you can't because no yellow pads have been provided. Destinations within London are fine, as are journeys as far as Luton or Gatwick Airports, but if you're going further on a paper ticket you're stuffed. Your train to Bedford or Cambridge might be sitting right there in the platform but you can't catch it, you have to head upstairs and tap out at the gateline with your Oyster/contactless card and then turn round, come back through and head back down.

Farringdon's long been an interchange between Thameslink trains and the tube, but this hasn't been an issue because the boundary between the two sets of platforms is smothered with validators. If you need them you can use them and if you don't you can sweep right past. But without new validators at the purple entrance those heading in from Brighton, Sevenoaks and Rochester now have to go up to the ticket hall and beep twice before continuing their journey, rather than simply walking a few steps towards the escalators. Many have already been charged maximum fares and been forced to waste time ringing up for a refund.

BBC London's Tom Edwards has received a response from TfL regarding the situation at Farringdon saying "we have identified a potential issue" and "we are urgently working on finding a permanent solution", but in the meantime hassle reigns.

And it's not just Custom House and Farringdon. They've also forgotten to introduce new validators at Abbey Wood.

This time the issue is passengers travelling beyond Dartford (which is the limit of pay as you go validity). As of this week they have the option of interchanging to a much faster service at Abbey Wood, indeed two additional footbridges have been built to streamline the connection. But you can't use them if you need to touch in because they're validatorless, instead you have to head up to the gateline in the ticket hall and touch in there, and all because nobody considered the wider implications.

Which is odd because the team that supervise ticketing and revenue issues are normally on the ball to an impressively anal degree. You can confirm this if you read their regular Ticketing and Revenue Update, a comprehensive internal newsletter which is usually released to the wider world via an FoI request. Published in March, TRU 137 announced that a pink card reader would be needed at Ealing Broadway to cope in the autumn when Crossrail is finally extended through Paddington rather than terminating there. At present everyone boarding a westbound train at Paddington has to pass through a ticket barrier but in future it'll be possible to enter the system via the new passageway from the Bakerloo line leaving no electronic trace.

It takes an impressive level of fare-nerdery to deduce that a pink reader at Ealing Broadway will solve this issue, but that's why TfL employ experts for this kind of thing. I've even been out and checked and Ealing Broadway does indeed now have pink readers at the entrance to the District line platforms, seemingly repurposed from previous yellow pads and as yet switched off. There's forward thinking for you.

But Custom House, Farringdon and Abbey Wood they missed, and passengers are currently paying the price. Best hope they hurry up and solve it soon.

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