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Confusion over Oyster for Welwyn Hatfield

Was talk of local rollout just a “hypothetical option”?

GTR says Oyster is not coming to Welwyn Hatfield, the local MP says it is

Contactless card reader being installed at Brookmans Park Station
Contactless card reader being installed at Brookmans Park Station
Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

The Spring/Summer edition of a newsletter, delivered door-to-door in Welwyn Hatfield this month, announces “Oyster coming down the track”.

The publication, PeopleTalk, which is about the work of local tory MP Grant Shapps, continues on page five with a quote from the MP in which he says “It’s fantastic to finally see Welwyn Hatfield included in the Oyster zones”.

But that’s not the case according Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

GTR has confirmed that Oyster is coming down the track as the pamphlet claims, but say it’s stopping at Potters Bar and will not reach Welwyn Hatfield, despite the warm welcome by our local MP.

Scan of the front cover of PeopleTalk announcing “Oyster coming down the track”
The front cover of PeopleTalk announcing “Oyster coming down the track”
The article on page 5 wrongly welcoming Oyster to Welwyn Hatfield
Screen grab of the article on page 5 of PeopleTalk welcoming Oyster to Welwyn Hatfield
The publication was delivered door-to-door in June 2019

Tracking the source of the confusion

North Mymms News approached Transport for London (TfL) and GTR in an effort to trace the source of the confusion and asked:
“Was Oyster was ever promised or suggested, at any point, to be rolled out as far as Welwyn Garden City including the stations of Brookmans Park, Welham Green, and Hatfield?”
GTR replied:
“Early discussions between the Department for Transport, Transport for London and GTR about the extension of pay as you go would have included a range of hypothetical options. The agreed programme now under way reflects the practical limitations determined during many months of detailed planning and design.”

Oyster mentioned in early publicity

There is evidence that Oyster was part of those early discussions and might have been one of the “hypothetical options”.

On page 21 of a GTR franchise presentation prepared in July 2014 (embedded below) the company set out its aims for Oyster and suggests that it will be rolled out “as far as” Welwyn Garden City, which, presumably, would have covered all stations in Welwyn Hatfield:
“Aiming to extend Oyster Pay As You Go (PAYG), in partnership with TfL and other TOCs, as far as Epsom, Gatwick Airport, Luton Airport, Welwyn Garden City and Hertford North, covering all our Metro services and the two major London airports.”

But GTR say that is no longer the case. In previous exchanges with the train operator - reported on this site under the headline “Oyster card rollout to stop at Potters Bar” - a GTR spokesperson said that the decision to stop the rollout at Potters Bar is down to technical, commercial, and practical reasons.
“Pay as you go with contactless and Oyster is expected to be extended to Potters Bar next month. Further extensions, planned to reach Brookmans Park this summer, and Welwyn Garden City in the autumn, will allow contactless payment as well as the use of GTR’s ‘Key’ smartcard.
“For technical, commercial and practical reasons Oyster will not be included in the pay as you go extensions beyond Potters Bar. Contactless will offer a more convenient payment method as there is no need to apply for a card or top up in advance.”
GTR told North Mymms News that Welwyn Hatfield, including Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City stations will be in a “zone” but it will not be an Oyster zone. The machine installed at Brookmans Park station this summer is, according to GTR, for contactless pay-as-you-go and not Oyster.

Pay-as-you-go rail consultation

In February this year, the Department for Transport (DfT) published ‘Moving Britain Ahead’ a consultation document on pay-as-you-go.

In the executive summary (point 18, page seven and point 69 on page 18) the document (embedded below) states that pay-as-you-go will be rolled out to Welwyn Garden City later in 2019.

There is no mention of Welwyn Hatfield being in an Oyster zone or Oyster cards being introduced in the borough.

MP announces Oyster coming to Welwyn Hatfield

Earlier this month the Welwyn Hatfield MP posted on Twitter and also on his Facebook page that Oyster was coming to the constituency.

Six months earlier Shapps was announcing on Twitter and again on Facebook that Oyster cards would work in Welwyn Hatfield.

The tweet above linked to an article on the MP’s website “Oyster pulling into Welwyn Hatfield” which claimed that:

  • “Rail travellers in Welwyn Hatfield will finally be able to use Oyster.”
  • “The announcement was made by the Department for Transport after several years of campaigning to expand easy payments into parts of Hertfordshire.”
  • “It’s fantastic to finally see Welwyn Hatfield included in the Oyster zones.”
  • “Stations which will accept Oyster and other contactless cards include Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Hatfield, and Welwyn Garden City.”

Screen grab of article on Shapps.com dated December 14, 2018
Screen grab of article on Shapps.com dated December 14, 2018

That was in December 2018, but the DfT document published two months later in February 2019 (and embedded above) doesn’t mention the announcement referred to in the article.

So has something changed in recent months? Does the Welwyn Hatfield MP have information that is not known to GTR?

North Mymms News has twice messaged the Welwyn Hatfield MP via Twitter in an attempt to clarify the situation but the questions have gone unanswered.

This site has also emailed the Welwyn Hatfield MP’s Westminster office and been told that the request for information has been forwarded to the person “who deals with train issues”.  If Shapps replies with more information clarifying the situation an update will be posted on this site.

Questions still to be answered

A number of questions still need to be answered regarding the “technical, commercial and practical reasons” that GTR says are behind the decision to stop the rollout at Potters Bar.

If Oyster can be extended by GTR to all stations to Hertford North, then why not to Welwyn Garden City?

Perhaps there are plans to introduce Oyster at a later date once any issues have been resolved. If North Mymms News receives any further clarification from GTR or our local MP it will be published on this site.

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