What a difference the One Day Travelcard made back then. It offered the opportunity to pay once and then swan around London within the zones of your choice without all that pesky queuing to buy separate tickets. It also avoided having to have a fixed route, you could just pick and choose or make it up as you went along, even stay out later and make an extra journey without taking an additional hit. That's long been the appeal of the One Day Travelcard - freedom, convenience and value - but advancement in electronic ticketing has mostly taken those advantages away. Now TfL are proposing to withdraw One Day Travelcards once and for all, reasoning that daily capping is generally better value, and bad luck to anyone who'll actually end up paying more.
The proposal has its roots in pandemic funding difficulties and the terms and conditions agreed by the Mayor when negotiating a financial lifeline from the government. This has already seen Freedom Passes restricted to after 9am, fares to Heathrow increased and the deposit on Oyster cards replaced by a fee. At one point full withdrawal from the Travelcard Agreement was a possibility, breaking longstanding links with National Rail, but thankfully weekly and annual Travelcards are pledged to continue even if their One Day sibling disappears. TfL estimate that this change will save them £40m a year, which is roughly 8% of the £0.5bn additional net revenue their ties to government require them to raise.
£15.20 (offpeak) £21.50 (peak)
It shouldn't be a problem, say TfL. Daily capping lets you go anywhere in zones 1 and 2 for just £8.10 a day whereas the cheapest One Day Travelcard costs £15.20. By nudging visitors off paper tickets we'll actually be saving them a lot of money. But this of course assumes that passengers have contactless or Oyster cards they're willing to use instead, and we know that many don't. Thousands of tourists still insist on paying £6.70 for a single tube ticket, repeatedly, rather than embroil themselves in the cryptic complexity of London's tap-in/tap-out fare structure. Having stood in other foreign cities and thought "No, I just want a single piece of paper that works for the rest of the day", I know how they feel.
TfL's consultation helpfully lists other groups who are likely to lose out under plans to abolish One Day Travelcards.
• Railcard users currently get 1/3 off a One Day Travelcard making it much better value. They'll lose this perk and instead have to get their Railcard discount added manually to an Oyster card (which they might additionally have to buy).
• Disabled Persons Railcard users can currently buy a discounted One Day Travelcard for an accompanying carer, but that'll no longer be possible.
Visitors travelling from outside London
• Nine National Rail companies currently allow passengers to buy a train ticket into London with a Travelcard add-on. This combined ticket would end, separating your travel into a rail ticket followed by PAYG. Not only is this more faff all round it could also cost a lot more - TfL give the example of a traveller from Brighton ending up paying £2 extra.
• Group Day Travelcards and Family Travelcards would also disappear and need to replaced by individual travel and individual PAYG. This would be a particular hassle for 11-16 year-olds who'd need to order a special Zip Oyster card weeks in advance, or get a normal Oyster card and ask for a Young Visitor discount to be set on it, and you can just hear some families going "yeah, stuff that, maybe we won't bother coming".
• Thames Clippers offer 1/3 off their lofty fares if you have a Travelcard, but One Day users will now lose out.
Most of those adversely affected would be visitors to the capital, indeed 70% of One Day Travelcards are currently sold at National Rail stations outside the London area. This is good for the Mayor who gets to raise revenue without directly affecting most of his electorate, but much less good for anyone thinking of travelling into our city and spending money here.
TfL have in fact been squeezing the Travelcard range for years, so this latest extinguishment is perhaps the inevitable conclusion. Before 2011 they used to offer a full range of Z1-2, Z1-3, Z1-4, Z1-5, Z1-6 and Z2-6 Travelcards allowing you to buy the one best suited to your travels, but then they announced this...
"The One Day Travelcard range will be simplified and slow selling tickets withdrawn. The new range will comprise all-day and off-peak tickets valid in Zones 1-2, 1-4 and 1-6."
...and suddenly half the range was gone. The biggest loss was the Z2-6 Travelcard, ideal for anyone pootling round the suburbs, whose users suddenly had to buy a Z1-6 Travelcard instead thereby whacking up their costs by 60%. And because daily capping was linked to Travelcard costs the Z2-6 cap was simultaneously abolished, and loads of us have paid TfL a lot more dosh daily ever since. Then in 2015 the Z1-2 One Day Travelcard was killed off too leaving the Z1-4 as the cheapest card standing, screwing over visitors who only ever wanted to ride around the centre.
What I really appreciate about my Annual Travelcard, which thankfully isn't threatened, is the sense of certainty it brings. I am "allowed" to be anywhere on the tube network within zones 1-3, I don't have to worry about accidentally failing to touch in, how much TfL are going to take out of my bank balance overnight or how long I've got before I'm whacked with a time penalty. "Trust us", say TfL, "we'll charge you right", but every time you end up ringing the helpline with an incomplete journey to fix it doesn't feel like that.
The most telling paragraph in the consultation is this one.
"We would, however, like to obtain more information and evidence as to who uses these products, how they might be affected by their withdrawal, and what might be done to mitigate any impacts. We believe that stakeholders may be able to help us with this, and so are reaching out to them with a request for information and evidence on these matters."
In other words TfL aren't quite sure who they'll be inconveniencing, which is why they haven't yet produced an Equalities Impact Statement, but they're still interested in going ahead anyway. If it'll affect you do let them know.
The consultation ends on 23 May, after which a Mayoral Decision is needed to trigger a formal request to the Secretary of State. That takes six months so the earliest that One Day Travelcards could be withdrawn is December, but it'll probably be sometime next year if/when it happens. If you're a Londoner it probably won't affect you, you'll already be capping, but for those beyond the boundary it may bite hard the next time they choose to visit. This is reducing convenience to raise revenue, pure and simple.