Oyster overcharging costs passengers millions - again

Passengers using Oyster Pay As You Go were ripped off by many millions of pounds last year at tube and train stations across the capital.

Passengers wrongly faced maximum fares for their journeys at every London Underground and National Rail station, with the weekly amount of incorrectly charged maximum fares exceeding more than £1 million.

Across London Underground, National Rail network stations, the DLR and London Overground stations, the total amount of maximum fares charged reached a staggering £63,950,000 in 2011.

The figures, exposing an underlying massive level of overcharging, were obtained by Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat Deputy Mayoral candidate and Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group.

The figures were only finally obtained following a Freedom of Information request, which Transport for London has been refusing to answer for over four weeks, breaching requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The Mayor of London has also been incredibly evasive in answering a series of written questions submitted by Caroline Pidgeon.

The top ten National Rail stations where passengers were ripped off in 2011 were:

Waterloo: £1,996,000
London Bridge: £1,619,000
Victoria: £1,184,000
Stratford: £1,139,000
Liverpool Street: £1,036,000
Clapham Junction: £734,000
Charing Cross: £729,000
Wimbledon: £554,000
East Croydon: £533,000
Vauxhall: £423,000

The top ten London Underground stations where passengers were ripped off in 2011 were:

Bank: £1,398,000
Kings Cross: £1,126,000
Oxford Circus: £1,049,000
Liverpool Street: £1,045,000
Victoria: £938,000
Waterloo: £620,000
London Bridge: £598,000
Piccadilly Circus: £550,000
Euston: £547,000
Leicester Square: £517,000

However, even smaller stations saw serious levels of overcharging. For example passengers traveling through Richmond station (National Rail) incorrectly faced maximum fares of £350,000, and passengers traveling through Barking (National Rail) £376,000. At Balham station (National Rail) passengers incorrectly faced maximum fares of £198,000 and Finsbury Park (National Rail) £150,000. At Shepherd's Bush London Underground, passengers incorrectly faced maximum fares of £251,000, and at Lewisham DLR station incorrect maximum fares totalled £224,000.

Transport for London claim that between 60 and 80 per cent of the maximum fares set out above would have been raised anyway from customers even if the Oyster cards had been validated correctly.

However, with the maximum fares in 2011 reaching £64 million this suggests that Londoners last year were ripped off by anything between £12.8 million to £25.5 million in excessively high fares.

Commenting on the figures, Caroline Pidgeon said:
"This level of overcharging is totally unacceptable. There is something very seriously wrong when each and every week of the year Londoners are ripped off by so much. Why has Boris Johnson, who
has been chair of Transport for London, not taken this seriously in the last four years?

"Of course in some cases passengers might forget to touch in and touch out, but such huge levels of overcharging clearly demonstrate that there are some structural problems with how Oyster is operating. We know for a fact that at some stations, especially when the stations are very busy, maximum fares are automatically set for everyone passing through.

"It is time TfL stopped putting all the blame for Oyster overcharging on to passengers and started to recognise that they have a responsibility to ensure honest passengers are not ripped off.

"And where Oyster overcharging does take place it must be far easier for people to claim a refund.

"Finally TfL should stop treating the level of Oyster overcharging as a state secret! The figures should be regularly published at every station, so that passengers are alerted to this serious problem."

You can read more at the Going Underground blog.