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It’s official - Oyster is NOT coming to Welwyn Hatfield

Transport minister confirms Oyster stops at Potters Bar

Welham Green station June 2019, still waiting for contactless reader  Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Welham Green station June 2019, still waiting for contactless reader
Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Update 6 July 2019. Since this article was published, the local MP Grant Shapps has criticised this site online and on his Twitter account after it was revealed that the MP had incorrectly claimed that Oyster was coming to Welwyn Hatfield. Shapps wrote that the site's editor had ignored a statement from the Department for Transport (DfT), and that the DfT had “officially pointed out” that the article and headline were “particularly misleading”.  None of this is true. All the points in the DfT statement, originally supplied by the MP’s office, had already been covered in official documents and existing quotes from the DfT and Great Northern Railway (GNR). The exchange reported by Shapps never took place.  David Brewer 

There has been conflicting information in recent months about whether or not the Oyster card system will be rolled out in Welwyn Hatfield.

The area’s MP, Grant Shapps seemed confident it would, and announced in print, online, and on social media that Oyster is on its way.

However the train operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Transport for London (TfL) maintained that it’s not.

Now the transport minister Andrew Jones MP has clarified matters - Oyster will NOT be introduced north of Potters Bar.

Brookmans Park station June 2019 with contactless reader, not Oyster, being installed  Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Brookmans Park station June 2019 with contactless reader, not Oyster, being installed
Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Contactless pay-as-you-go being rolled out

Welwyn Hatfield rail users will be able to use contactless pay-as-you-go when the new card readers are operational at Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Hatfield, and Welwyn Garden City, but that doesn't include Oyster.

According to the transport minster:
“After much discussion with TfL, GTR has finally found a way to extend the benefits of pay-as-you-go travel to these stations. Passengers will be able to use their card to tap in and tap out without having to queue up to choose and buy their tickets or top up their smart card — and they will be charged the best fare for their travel, which will better reflect the journeys they actually make, when they make them.”
North Mymms News has been trying to find out the source of the confusion after a leaflet was delivered door-to-door locally quoting Shapps saying that “Oyster coming down the track” and adding that “It’s fantastic to finally see Welwyn Hatfield included in the Oyster zones”.

This claim contradicted what this site had been told earlier by GTR who said the Oyster card rollout would stop at Potters Bar.

Earlier this week North Mymms News contacted the Westminster office of Shapps to seek clarification.

Today the MP’s office sent this site a copy of a letter from the transport minister Andrew Jones to Grant Shapps dated 19 June 2019 in which the minister confirms that Potters Bar station “will be the last to include Oyster card”.

The letter is embedded below - this site has been given permission to publish the correspondence online.

Local Oyster rollout “impossible” for technical reasons

In the letter the minister wrote:
“The Oyster system was constructed around a ‘concentric ring’ fares structure with up to a maximum of 16 different fare levels — at the limits of the technology available at the time. Outside of London, marrying these fixed Oyster fare levels up to the National Rail fare structure has proved impossible. TfL has confirmed that modifying the system is impossible because of the technology that it employs.”
Which doesn't explain why it appears feasible to TfL and GTR to extend Oyster to Hertford North and Gatwick but not to Welwyn Garden City. Although a DfT strategy document, published earlier this year, gives some clues.

As reported on this site last week, there was no mention of Oyster coming to Welwyn Hatfield in the Department for Transport pay-as-you-go consultation document published in February 2019. The document, embedded below, attempted to explain why.

Rollout “illogical and confusing to travellers”

In the document (points 52 and 53) TfL said:
“The Government has agreed to proposals to add national rail stations located outside the London zones to the Oyster and Contactless systems on a case-by-case basis where there has been a compelling argument to do so.” 
but went on ...
“contactless systems have expanded in a manner which may appear illogical and confusing to travellers”.
So perhaps Welwyn Hatfield stations failed the case-by-case “compelling argument” test, but stations to Hertford North passed?

As admitted in the document the expansion of the system may seem “illogical and confusing”.

We asked GTR whether the contactless fares would be the same as Oyster fares, the GRT spokesperson replied:
“Pay as you go fares will normally be no higher and often lower than for paper tickets. Journeys to or from the stations north of Potters Bar will initially be excluded from price capping, but an improved form of price capping will include these journeys next year.”
So it seems more information is needed regarding pay structures for the new contactless system. What is set out on the GTR site doesn’t answer all questions.

Some of the differences between paying for a fare with an Oyster card when in an Oyster zone and paying with a contactless card are explained here and on the TfL site.

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