Ministers have pledged to look at the extension of pay-as-you-go travel across the South East rail network after one operator agreed to accept Oyster and contactless payments at more stations outside London.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said passengers using stations at Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City, Luton Airport Parkway and ten other stations, including Epsom in the constituency of transport secretary Chris Grayling, will be the first to benefit.
Every little helps: Epsom rail station is managed by Southern
Officials said ticket barriers will be upgraded for pay-as-you-go at these stations on routes into London in early 2019, marking the delivery of a promise by train operator Govia Thameslink (GTR), which runs Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern services.
As Transport Network has previously reported, London pay-as-you-go rail passengers who inadvertently disembark at stations outside the Oyster network such as Epsom often suffer the double hit of a maximum charge for an incomplete journey as well as a penalty rail fare.
Bringing these stations within the Oyster network will not only avoid this but allow Transport for London's daily and weekly fare capping to apply.
Rail minister Andrew Jones said: ‘This is about making access to the capital even easier for commuters and other rail travellers, including visitors to the UK arriving at Luton Airport.
‘But this is only the first step. Extending pay-as-you-go now will also help us better understand passenger travel patterns and will form the basis of the consultation we are launching early next year into making pay-as-you-go available across much more of the south east network.’
He added: ‘We are committed to its wider expansion and the feedback we get will help both the Government and train operators create a network that puts passengers’ needs and demands at its very heart.’
The DfT said its goal is to extend pay-as-you-go travel across urban areas. ‘This will mean increasing opportunities through online and mobile technology for people to travel on the network.’
Officials said the stations that will initially see Oyster and pay-as-you-go are designed to be the first wave of expansion of the system. Early in 2019, proposals will be published on extending to more stations across the South East network with a public consultation seeking views both on these proposals and on ‘how changes to fares can complement them by reflecting modern travel patterns’.
The DfT’s previous efforts to bring smart ticketing to the South East under the £80m South East Flexible Ticketing scheme ended in failure and the industry is also is set to miss a DfT target to give ‘all passengers’ the option of travelling without a paper ticket by the end of the year, despite a further £80m public funding.