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Rail bosses bank £32m Oyster windfall from errors by passengers

PUBLISHED: 11:35 29 May 2008 | UPDATED: 13:19 05 October 2010

Oyster cards net City Hall extra £32m from forgetful passengers

Oyster cards net City Hall extra £32m from forgetful passengers

TRANSPORT chiefs have banked £32 million in a windfall bonanza from uncompleted’ Oyster card journeys on the Underground and DLR last year. Transport for London earned more than £33m from people forgetting to tap out’ in 2007, but only issued refunds worth about £1m. The rest has remained in City Hall’s coffers after transport bosses decided not contact cardholders.

EXCLUSIVE by Ted Jeory

TRANSPORT chiefs have banked £32 million in a windfall bonanza from 'uncompleted' Oyster card journeys on the Underground and DLR last year.

The East London Advertiser has discovered Transport for London earned more than £33m from people forgetting to 'tap out' in 2007, but only issued refunds worth about £1m. The rest has remained in City Hall's coffers after transport bosses decided not contact cardholders.

The figures, released to the paper under the Freedom of Information Act, prompted passenger watchdogs to call for improved technology to prevent overcharging innocent commuters.

Transport for London claims it is unable to provide a breakdown of the penalty fares by station or mode of transport.

But a large proportion of journeys attracting penalties are likely at unmanned DLR stations, where there are no barriers and passengers frequently forget to tap out during busy rush hours.

Maximum penalty fares were introduced in late 2006.

Since then, pay-as-you-go cards are automatically deducted £4 when passengers tap in at the start of journeys.

When commuters tap out at the end of the trip, Oyster calculates the correct fare and refunds the difference to the card.

Anyone failing to tap out is left with the full £4 charge.

Between late November, 2005, and mid-December 2007, 8.3 million journeys triggered maximum penalties worth £33m, almost 150,000 a week.

But during that time, TfL admits it knows of just £803,000 paid out in refunds and estimates a further £200,000 was returned before its records began.

It means huge numbers of passengers are failing to check their fare details and are oblivious to potential over-charges.

But TfL points out that had those passengers correctly validated their cards, they would have paid around £14m in fares, or £2.18 a journey, meaning their 'true' profit was about £18m.

TfL said it had "no plans" to either introduce barriers at DLR stations or find ways to remind passengers to tap out or collect money owed.

It almost always refunds passengers who complain they simply forgot to tap out at DLR stations.

"Forgetting to tap out at a DLR station is no excuse," said their spokesman.

"Everybody should now know how the Oyster pay-as-you-go system works. Failing to touch 'in' and 'out' means we cannot know the correct fare to apply."

The procedure had been successful preventing fraud, he added.

Customers were urged to call the Oyster 'helpline' if they had a complaint.

But the London passenger watchdog Travelwatch called for improved technology to get round the problem.

"Passengers have the responsibility to tap out," said a Travelwatch spokesman.

"But maybe there should be some extra technology, for example a bleeping sound to warn them they're last journey attracted a penalty."

ted.jeory@archant.co.uk


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