Wednesday 4 June 2014

Deaf Girly and the Freedom Pass

Last night I stayed at Fab Friend's house after dinner and a catch up. She lives in Zone 3 and her local station is on a train line into London.

So this morning I joined the swathes of commuters coming into London at her station and tapped my Freedom Pass on the Oyster Reader.

'Seek assistance' it told me as 20,000 commuters slammed into the back of me as a result of the ticket gate not opening.

'Erm?' I thought, backed up and tried again.

The same thing happened.

I tried once more and then my Freedom Pass slipped out of my hand and fell down the tiny gap between the two barriers.

In order to get it I had to kneel down and contort my shoulder to reach through the narrow opening. Then I had to pat around in the general detritus (*beams at being able to use this word) until my fingers felt the smooth plastic of the card, and a lot of other things I don't want to think about, on the way.

Flustered, I got up and turned around to see a sea of faces all looking cross at being held up by a blonde girl grovelling around on her hands and knees, and walked off to speak to someone in the ticket office. Cheeks burning with embarrassment.

'Not valid at this time of the morning' the ticket man told me. Or at least that's what I think he said from behind the glass of the ticket booth.

'Erm?' I thought and stomped off to the ticket machine where I tried to purchase a ticket using my Disabled Rail Card. But it wouldn't let me do that either.

Neither were valid in the morning. Before 9.30am, which is one hour after I start work.

But what I want to know is WHY NOT?

Why can't I use my Freedom Pass to travel on any form of transport within Zones 1 and 6 in London at any time?

I'm not saying that I should necessarily have that right. But I just want to know why I can't.

A quick Google found this blog post here about it and these views were shared by many of the responses to my tweets this morning.

But I still want more answers. So I have emailed various train and transport people in the hope of finding out. And I will keep you posted on what I find out.

In the meantime, I would like to apologise to all the people who most probably missed their train this morning when I held them all up at the ticket barrier. Particularly the cross-looking man who looked like he wanted to manhandle me out of the station and make me stay there to think about the consequences of my actions. Actually not him. He was just mean and rude. But to the rest of them...

I am sorry. It will never happen again. From now on, I'm sticking to tubes (when I have to) and buses… and I'm driving to Zone 3.


Anonymous said...

What a ghastly experience!!! Hope you get answers x

Richard Gadsden said...

Not that it's much help, but I can tell you why the freedom pass only applies before 9:30 on some lines.

Things run directly by Transport for London, they can change the rules themselves, so when they introduced the Freedom Pass, they could just accept it. So that works for the Underground, for DLR, for buses and for Overground, all of which are owned and run by TfL.

But for the rail system, outside of London Overground, that's run by private companies under contract with the Department for Transport. So TfL's only option is to try to negotiate an agreement with those companies. Which means that TfL will have to pay them every time you use your freedom pass - basically, they have to buy a ticket for you.

Now, your disabled person's railcard gives you a discount on all rail travel off-peak (ie after 9:30 am), so the amount TfL pay is pretty small (an off-peak ticket, at a third off). And those trains are usually not full, so the rail companies might well agree a discount for TfL to buy tickets - any money coming in is better than none, after all.

But to allow you to use it during peak hours, TfL would have to pay for full-price tickets. And the rail companies aren't inclined to discount much, because those trains are so full that there's a good chance that you travelling means someone else waiting on the platform. TfL just doesn't have enough money to pay for that.

Maybe, when the franchises come up for renewal, TfL can persuade DfT to include Freedom Pass acceptance as part of the contract. That's how they got the Oyster Card accepted by the rail companies in the first place - they didn't want to take them (they wanted to force passengers to buy a separate rail ticket, where the rail company gets all the money), but it was put in as a condition of them being allowed to run trains.

This is why TfL is taking over more and more London rail services and bringing them into the Overground - so they have direct control and they can just change policies, rather than having to throw a lot of money into the pockets of private rail companies.

Me said...

Hello! Thanks for this comprehensive explanation :)) Really interesting to read about why it's not valid before 9.30. Bless TFL for trying to sort it. Let's see what the future holds

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