Festive travel tips from London’s transport watchdog
Even the savviest of travellers forget things, especially at this busy time of year, so here’s a mix of reminders and handy tips from the London TravelWatch casework team.
‘Check before you travel’ – major engineering work between Christmas and New Year
Always check your journey before you set off in case there are any last-minute train, tube, or bus service alterations. Wintry weather can sometimes cause delays, diversions, and even cancellations.
Leave with plenty of time as public transport is often busier over the holidays, meaning you might not always be able to travel on the first available service.
It’s also a good idea to have a back-up plan for your journey home. If there is disruption on your usual route, what is the quickest or most convenient alternative? The more you are prepared for different eventualities the easier it will be to cope if things do go wrong.
Check for any early closures on Christmas Eve. And remember that no rail services run on Boxing Day, except for a small number of airport transfers. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day often have different service patterns to usual too. Check the National Rail website for information about planned engineering work and festive travel advice and timetables: https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/travel-information/christmas/ A ‘Sunday service’ will run on many TfL bus routes and tube lines on Boxing Day. Find out more at https://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/news/travel-over-christmas-holiday-period-engineering-work-and-planned-service-changes/
Don’t get caught out - make sure you know the rules
If you use a Railcard to purchase a train ticket, double check it is still in date and carry it with you as your train ticket is not valid without it. And it goes without saying that if your ticket is on your phone, make sure that there is enough battery charge. It’s not only an inconvenience to not have a working phone, but without proof of payment you will be liable to a penalty fare. You must always have a valid ticket before boarding your train.
Remember that if you have bought a rail ticket through a third-party retailer, your journey may have associated conditions of travel. For example, on some train services passengers are charged extra if they exceed a certain luggage limit. It is not always clear when using third-party retailers about specific requirements so do make sure you check to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
Don’t assume Oyster or pay-as-you-go contactless payment is accepted at your end destination. We know that passengers have been caught out by this, unaware of the fare boundaries in place around the capital. So, if you are travelling from Liverpool Street or another London station to Stansted airport, for example, you must purchase a ticket before travelling as Oyster/contactless payment is not accepted on arrival. If in doubt, always check online or with staff at the station.
On the move - avoid double charges and device clash
If your smart device is connected to your bank account, you might use this to travel on TfL services. But if you touch in with one device (for example, your smartphone) and touch out with another (your smartwatch), you may be charged the maximum ticket fare. Twice.
This ‘double charge’ occurs because while the same bank account is usually registered to the smart devices, they carry completely different account numbers. So, the ticket readers might think that two separate journeys are ‘incomplete’ as the person using their mobile phone did not touch out while the person with the smartwatch seemingly did not touch in to start their journey.
If you do pay for travel using smart devices you should always check in and out using the same device and check your bank statements regularly just to keep on top of any of potential payment issues. You can register for an online account with TfL at https://contactless.tfl.gov.uk.
Claim back expenses – the right way
If you are travelling abroad this Christmas, make sure you know your rights. If your flight or Eurostar train has been delayed, you should remember to always request itemised receipts. This is just in case you do qualify to claim back expenses for things like food, water, travel or even emergency accommodation - known in the industry as ‘consequential loss’.
Who qualifies, and when, will depend on the specific situation and your individual contract with the travel company involved. Providing proof of payment via a bank statement or retail receipt that does not break down each individual item may not be approved by transport companies. So, do remember to always itemise your receipts.
Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of London TravelWatch said:
We know the winter getaway can be stressful, so our casework team wanted to provide passengers with some practical advice to make things a little more straightforward.
We hope these tips will help passengers prepare for the festive season and avoid some of the hassle that sometimes comes with travelling by public transport. Remember, if things do go wrong and the transport provider involved is unable to put it right, we’re here to help.
Notes to editors
To find out more, visit https://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/our-work/casework/