25 March 2017

St Pancras International timings

St Pancras International station is a separate building to Kings Cross - so I never know how long to leave between my tube arriving into KX and my train departing St Pancras.  Today I had some spare time, so I decided to use my stopwatch !

Starting point - Piccadilly line eastbound - Carriage two, door three - by the exit
Speed - normal pace, not rushing it - although it was early morning, so not many backmarkers to navigate around
Escalators - sauntered up them
Luggage - smallish backpack
Routing - exited to outside up the steps as soon as passed through the tube barriers.  Probably slightly quicker than using the tunnel underneath Pancras Road (but that routing has the advantage of escalators to take you upstairs into St Pancras station)

Exiting Piccadilly line to Platform B northbound - 5 mins 15 seconds
It would be slightly less to Platform A southbound

Exiting Piccadilly line to Platforms 1, 2 & 3 upstairs - 6 mins 35 seconds
It would be an extra 30 seconds or so if your train was the far end of the platform (as often happens)

Exiting Piccadilly line to Eurostar security - 5 mins 45 seconds

Next time I won't bother giving myself a full 15 minutes to spare !

13 February 2017

Oyster Revolution

I missed the first few minutes, but it was still a fascinating run through Oyster / Contactless ... not least a reminder that the original impetus to develop Oyster was the queues that used to build up at the ticket barriers, as the use of paper tickets (Magstripe) was incredibly slow compared to Oyster and even Contactless !

One option was to build lots more ticket barriers - but thankfully TfL developed Oyster.

Below are some random nuggets from the talk together with some of my views ...

A maximum of 15 passengers per minute can get through ticket barriers using the old Magstripe tickets

A busy commuter station like Liverpool Street (as opposed to a station with lots of tourists) can get over 25 passengers per minute through each barrier using Oyster

Contactless is a bit slower (it has to run more check processes before deciding to open the gate) but it is getting quicker with new Contactless chips, and also TfL are trying to reduce the number of check processes to speed it up.

5.5m people regularly use Oyster Pay as You Go (PAYG)
This represents 86% of users - although some/many also have a Travelcard
58% of fares come from PAYG

The TfL board have decided PAYG should be the primary product in future
The original incentive for season tickets (which was the cost of issue and congestion at the ticket office) is gone
It sounds like in future the PAYG and Travelcard fares will be equalised

Matthew talked about the original requirement for tickets being to stop the bus conductors from pocketing the fares - it wasn't to control passengers.

Oyster customer level data is kept for 2 months - to help resolve customer issues
This compares with Paris where customer data has to be binned at the end of every day

The original Oyster configuration where if you failed to "touch out" you were charged the minimum fare resulted in 15% fare evasion

No mention of what fare evasion level is on Boris buses !

Serious Oyster analysis started in the lead up to London 2012

There was up to a 7% decrease in passenger volumes following widespread warnings about congestion - some stations felt empty !

There are many requests from different parts of TfL for Oyster analysis - most of which get denied as they won't actually lead to better decision making.

TfL have licenced the intellectual property behind Oyster/Contactless to the company Cubic for 15m gbp - TfL themselves will not be directly installing Oyster around the world.

Matthew said that in future TfL will make Oyster "more like Contactless"

There will be a weekly cap on Oyster in the future - and refunds will be pushed out to all Oyster readers (including buses) ready for collection the next time the Oyster card is tapped.

Sounds to me that I will be able to stop using my Contactless once weekly Oyster capping arrives !


09 February 2017

Updated: London things to do

It may not be quite travel ... but there's lots of things in the city that I want to do ...

museums that i've never been to:

The Charterhouse - London's newest museum, apparently

Bank of England Museum - weekdays - free

Sir John Soane's - first Tuesday of the month - evening by candlelight

Apsley House - reopens 1st April - free with ArtFund card

Down House - the home of Charles Darwin

Freemasonry - book a tour to see the main hall

Wellcome Collection - closed Mondays - free

Croydon Airport - open on first sunday every month

a part of Richmond Park - the Isabella plantation

2 Willow Road, Hampstead - free with ArtFund card

Carlyle House, Cheyne Walk - free with ArtFund card

Household Cavalry Museum - free with ArtFund card

Guards Museum - free with ArtFund card

Keats House - free with ArtFund card

Royal College of Physicians Museum - weekdays only - free

Handel and Hendrix Museum - free with ArtFund card

Museum of the Order of St John - free

Garden Museum - free with ArtFund card

Brunel Museum - free with ArtFund card

Kelmscott House, Hammersmith - open Thu & Sat afternoons - free

Fulham Palace - open Mon-Thu and Sun - free

Strawberry Hill House

Royal Academy Music Museum - part closed Thu and Fri (and fully closed Sun) - free

Marble Hill House, Richmond - from 31st March 2017 - free with ArtFund card

Red House, Bexleyheath - from 1st March 2017 - free with ArtFund card

London Glassblowing

and a couple of museums that i haven't been for a while:

Imperial War Museum Lambeth

National Army Museum - reopens 30th March 2017

Wallace Collection - free

Osterley House - free with ArtFund card

Updated - now done !

a cafe that i've been meaning to visit

Sky Garden - opening 5th January

Crossrail Roof Garden at Canary Wharf

Cabinet war rooms

Royal College of Surgeons museum

Eltham Palace

Leighton House - free with ArtFund card to monthly late opening

31 January 2017

Contactless is 40% more expensive than Oyster

I've written before about how Contactless can be more expensive that Oyster - but I've never done the (fairly simple) calculations to work out by how much.

The important point is that with Contactless, Transport for London computers take your Monday to Sunday travel, and work out whether you have paid more than the cost of a weekly travelcard - and refund you the difference another week later.  That's fine if you arrive into London on a Monday ... but what if you don't arrive on a Monday ?

Let's take somebody arriving into London on a Wednesday and departs the following Tuesday (7 days in London) - and assume a few tube trips around Zone 1-2 each day - enough to reach the daily 6.60 gbp cap

With Contactless it looks like this:

Wednesday £6.60
Thursday £6.60
Friday £6.60
Saturday £6.60
Sunday £6.60
Total £33.00
Monday to Sunday cap of £33.00 - so no refund

Monday £6.60
Tuesday £6.60
Total £13.20
Grand Total £46.20

But if you'd bought a 7 day travelcard on your Oystercard on the Wednesday morning - it would have been a straightforward £33.00 - a saving of £13.20

So if you start your 7 days using Contactless on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday it is a whopping 40% more expensive than Oyster.

So much for all those adverts that "Contactless is the same price as Oyster".

If you start your 7 days using Contactless on a Tuesday or a Sunday it is still an unpleasant 20% more expensive than Oyster.

If you're staying in London for five days or less, then Contactless is the same price as Oyster Pay as you Go.
If you're staying in London for more than 7 days (and not arriving on a Monday) then Contactless will almost always be more expensive than Oyster.

The moral of the story is don't believe the TfL propaganda - Contact is NOT the same price as Oyster.

21 January 2017

Transport for London fare increases

One of my complaints about how companies increase their prices is that they don't normally tell you what percentage they are going up by - so you can't get a feel for whether it's reasonable or how it compares to inflation over the last year.

TfL seem to suffer the same failing - with just a general comment about travelcards going up by less than 2%.  So I thought that it might be useful to start saving the annual list of prices - they delete the old prices from their website when they announce the new ones !

After some time googling for the 2016 list - I finally managed to find the pdf:

And of course the the 2017 pdf that is currently available on the TfL website - which I've saved for posterity:

I also came across a london.gov webpage (which will presumably be removed at the end of the year as well) which handily breaks down the increases - and of course blames the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) !

01 December 2016

EI avios redemptions available online

You can now search for availability and book Aer Lingus flights using Avios on the Avios.com website ... although you probably won't want to actually book them there !

I've written previously about the high "carrier surcharges" that BA impose on european EI flights - and booking through Avios.com - they are even slightly higher !

Here's a few examples:

LHR - DUB  76 gbp
DUB - LHR  41 gbp
return 117 gbp

For context - if you chose a BA flight and had flown or earned miles in the last year (so were eligible for their lower fees reward flight) a single ex LHR would be 17.5 gbp and a single ex DUB would be 10.3 gbp (book through BA no Avios.com who charge everything at 17.5 gbp)

LGW - NOC  57 gbp
NOC - LGW  36 gbp (plus airport 10 eur "development" fee)
ex NOC return 94 gbp
ex LGW return 92 gbp

when I phoned up BA in June 2015 the NOC - LGW fee was 27 gbp
when I phoned up BA in August 2015 the LGW - NOC fee was 54 gbp

The longhaul prices are a bit more reasonable - but you still shouldn't book them through Avios.com

In the 13,000 avios category (for an off-peak economy single)

DUB - Hartford  100gbp
DUB - Boston  100 gbp
DUB - Chicago  109 gbp
DUB - JFK  100 gbp

In the 16,250 avios category (for an off-peak economy single)

DUB - Orlando  109 gbp
DUB - LAX  117 gbp

For a return flight the taxes and fees come to around 180 gbp - but a commenter over on HeadForPoints rang up BA and for the same flights the taxes and fees are 90 gbp

So ring up BA before booking EI flights on Avios.com

16 November 2016

Another attempt to get to LYR

I've written a few times over the last year about planning a trip to Svalbard - but I still haven't managed to execute it !

This winter it looks like Norwegian are flying just twice a week - on a Monday (departing at 09:50) and a Friday (departing at 08:45) - with return flights at 12:30 or 13:35

SAS has more options - with flights from TrOmSo on Mondays (depart 12:20), Tuesdays (depart 12:20,  Thursday (depart 00:20 and 12:20), Friday (depart 12:20) and Sunday (depart 12:20).

All these flights (apart from Thursday's midnight flight) originate in OSLo - stopping for 35 mins in TOS.

Norwegian have three direct flights a week from LGW - TOS on Mondays (depart 14:20), Wednesdays (depart 05:50) and Fridays (depart 14:20) - but these can cost anything from 31.50 gbp to 202 gbp plus each way.

It looks like SAS don't fly London - TOS direct.

05 November 2016

FlyBe check-in options - or lack of

The email from FlyBe confirming my NOC - BHX flight encouraged me to check-in online, saying that it opened 36 hours before departure ...

So of course I attempted to check-in ... but it wouldn't work.  Assuming that I was making a mistake, I kept trying and trying ... and failing, and failing.

Eventually I discovered a page on their website that listed check-in options by airport - including this nugget:

AirportcodeAirport Check-inSelf Service Check-inWeb Check-inAutomatic Check-in (email)Automatic Check-in (mobile)

So why the hell did they send me an email telling me to check-in online !