When using Transport for London's (TfL) Single Fare Finder to find costs for journeys where multiple possible routes exist, Alternative Fares are sometimes available. These are listed with a note such as "changing at Vauxhall" to indicate the route for which that fare is applicable. However, these notes do not appear to be completely accurate.

Taking a journey from Surbiton and Watford Junction, and excluding the Zone 1 fares, gives us two choices: the default fare (applied for the default route via Clapham Junction and then direct via Willesden Junction), and a cheaper fare which according to the annotation is valid when "Avoiding Zones 1 and 2 via New Malden, Richmond and Willesden Junction".

However, it's also possible (and usually quicker) to get from Surbiton to Richmond via Clapham Junction, which is in Zone 2. Based on the annotation given, the cheaper fare is not valid for that route - but I don't see how TfL could know that you've journeyed that way. Since the only pink validators at Clapham Junction are on the Overground platforms, which you wouldn't visit if travelling to Richmond, you'd next touch in at the pink validator at Richmond - as far as I can tell this would then charge the cheaper fare (as long as you touch in again on the pink validator at Willesden Junction).

Also, the standard fare between Surbiton and Richmond doesn't have any zonal restrictions, so it seems odd that a journey incorporating that leg would add restrictions which only affect that leg.

Is the annotation wrong, and travelling to Richmond via Clapham is allowed, or is the fare really not valid even though there's no way for TfL to know your route between Surbiton and Richmond?

  • My guess is, for this particular rail journey. Once you are at Clapham Junction, a normal passenger will not go to Willesden Junction via Richmond (which normally takes longer, it is another story if there is a disruption). Hence they shouldn't bother to check if you touched the pink reader in Richmond that if you have been to Clapham Junction.
    – B.Liu
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:01
  • For your question option on "fare really not valid even though there is no way...". I once travelled from Leicester Square to Covent Garden via High Barnet (for fun), and the ticket barrier charged me a single Zone 1 fare. I shouldn't do that, but as long as I get out by the maximum allowed journey time, they will have no way to tell (apart from using this comment, or tracking me on the now long-lost CCTV, which seems an overkill to recoup the couple pound fare difference).
    – B.Liu
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:22
  • @B.Liu Sorry if I wasn't clear, I was assuming that you would be tapping in on the pink reader at Richmond - I've clarified this above. I do agree that normal passengers would take the most direct option, but if you have the time available or saving money is a priority then heading back to Richmond helps does cut costs. Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


When it comes to point to point fares like this, the zones are only really binding when it comes to paper tickets or Travelcards - if you have a validated pay as you go Oyster card or contactless card then there would be no way for a ticket inspector between Clapham Junction and Richmond to know if you intended to leave the train or to change when you got there, and having a validated card means you have a valid ticket to travel (which wouldn't be the case if you were at Clapham Junction with a Zones 3-6 Travelcard, for example).

Condition 7.2 of the Conditions of Carriage (http://content.tfl.gov.uk/tfl-conditions-of-carriage.pdf) makes a distinction between "a ticket that is valid and available for the journey you are making" and "a validated Oyster card, Oyster photocard or other smartcard, when you are paying as you go, showing a record of the start of your journey [or] a validated contactless payment card", which would tend to agree with the idea that Oyster or Contactless fares are valid between station pairs, with or without intermediate pink validator touches, regardless of zones - but then Condition 7.3 gives an exception to this if it is believed you are trying to defraud TfL.

If there was engineering work on the Kingston loop and the only available route to Richmond was via Clapham Junction, it's not clear whether the "avoiding zones 1 and 2" fare would be available for journeys via Clapham Junction and Richmond (there's no upcoming work on that line that I could find in order to check).

The most correct answer is that it's not really valid - but there is no practical way for anybody to know if you got to Richmond via Kingston or via Clapham Junction. However, if you're suspected of trying to get a cheaper fare than you should pay, then you may have your Oyster or Contactless card removed or banned from the service.

  • +1 on the fare/route restriction being generally unenforceable on the ticket inspector's part.
    – B.Liu
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 21:58
  • Yeah, my suspicion is that this situation arises because this is entirely a National Rail journey, with the restriction being an artefact of the arcane ticketing rules we have - so it should (theoretically) only apply to paper National Rail tickets and not Oyster fares Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 22:17
  • Interestingly the only routes on NR tickets are "KEN OLYMPIA" and "+ ANY PERMITTED" (brfares.com/#!fares?orig=SUR&dest=WFJ) so travelling via Richmond would require the more expensive fare...
    – Edd
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 15:55

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