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I'm traveling to London and flying into Gatwick airport. We want to get to central London in the most efficient way. Do I understand correctly that if I buy and "oyster card" and use it to take the train to Victoria station ($19 USD) that I can then use it for local London travel unlimited for the balance of the day? Is that what the "cap" means?

Thanks for your help in advance.

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    Do you have a contactless card that will work on the scanners? This is easier – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 10 '16 at 14:35
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    Financially-efficient, or time-efficient? As the answers make clear, they are pretty much diametrically opposed. – MadHatter supports Monica Jun 10 '16 at 15:11
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OK, this is genuinely hard. I gave up and rang TFL, and was on the phone to them for half an hour, during which time I was assured that "non-Gatwick-Express services GTW-VIC don't count towards the cap". I drew their attention to this page, which says

Journeys on Gatwick Express do not count towards caps, but those on Thameslink and Southern services do count towards caps.

at which point they agreed that it was a difficult problem. Finally, after firing up the Big Difficult Question Computer, they assure me that (at the time of writing), the Oystercard single adult fare from GTW to VIC (not via Gatwick Express) is £16.20/£10.20 on/off-peak, that it will count towards a cap, and that the cap is £30.50/£19.00 on/off-peak (this is a National Rail cap figure, specific to journeys between GTW and zones 1-9). That means you'd pay for your next £14.30/£8.80 of TFL journeys in zones 1-9 (sic), after which time everything else eligible inside zones 1-9 would be capped.

I had previously written, and other local authorities agree, that you can both make the journey cheaper, and lower the cap, by getting off at East Croydon and tapping out and back into the station. This will lengthen your journey by at least 20 minutes, but saves money. Note that I have not confirmed this theory with TFL (it seemed likely to provoke a breakdown in the very nice customer service lady who had thus far been very helpful). Check the edit history on this page if you want to know more about that.

  • tfl.gov.uk/campaign/… says, "Journeys on Gatwick Express do not count towards caps, but those on Thameslink and Southern services do count towards caps." Those caps are definitely higher than the Z12 cap, on one does not get "unlimited for the rest of the day". – Henning Makholm Jun 10 '16 at 19:13
  • @HenningMakholm I'm terribly sorry, but I can't parse that last sentence, which makes it hard to respond. I certainly agree with your first sentence, though. – MadHatter supports Monica Jun 10 '16 at 21:24
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    x @Mad: I mean that the caps that apply to journeys to/from Gatwick (which are not shown in the table you link to) are higher than the caps that apply to journeys within central London, so the OP is not right in assuming that using Oyster from Gatwick will allow him to travel for free in inner London for the rest of they day. – Henning Makholm Jun 10 '16 at 21:28
  • I think you're right, but I also note that I never said he was. – MadHatter supports Monica Jun 10 '16 at 21:51
  • And I never said you did. My point was that you appear to be wrong when you suggest (in the first paragraph of the answer) that there's no cap that the Gatwick journey applies to, but nevertheless right in concluding that the OP's plan won't work like he thinks. – Henning Makholm Jun 10 '16 at 21:58
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You can use an Oyster or Contactless payment card for Gatwick->Victoria travel however if you use the Gatwick Express this not included in price capping or the Travelcard zone.

However it doesn't mention if going via any of the other operators whether it does, although this site says this:-

By using Oyster on Thameslink and Southern Trains services to/from Gatwick you also trigger a very high daily Oyster cap - see table below. If you are travelling within Central London on the same day as your Gatwick train it may well be cheaper to buy a separate train ticket just to keep your Oyster cap for that day restricted to the cap for zones 1-2.

Which off peak is the £19 you mentioned in the question, however if you travel at peak time this will be £33.

  • Hmm... I wonder whether Londontoolkit.com is right when it implies that making one journey to/from Gatwick automatically disables the inner-zoness caps for that day. That would be a strange and arguably misleading way to run a capping system. TfL's page is not completely unambiguous. It does say that "the system combines all the zones, times and fares recorded on your Oyster card so it can calculate the cheapest cap to apply", but it is posssible that this just chooses between a peak and off-peak cap. – Henning Makholm Jun 10 '16 at 19:08

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