Are your travel habits making journeys more expensive?


Londoners are overpaying £200m a year on fares by mistakenly not buying the cheapest tickets

Here's a TV piece I've just done on Oyster data and how it can now be analysed to show how good commuters are at finding the cheapest fares.

The research has been carried out at University College London (UCL) by a post-doctorate researcher Neal Lathia (@neal_lathia). His website is here.

What the researchers have done is analyse Oyster data from Transport for London (TfL) over a set period and extrapolate the findings over a year. It covers data from the Tube, buses and DLR.

They claim it shows that actually most commuters' journeys are extremely predictable and that many Londoners don't buy the cheapest ticket.

For example, many use Oyster Pay As You Go when perhaps a seven-day travel card would be cheaper or an annual card would work out better. Also some people use a seven-day card and only use it twice.

Millions of Londoners making these little mistakes adds up to an overspend of £200m a year.

Figure 'overstated'

Using the data, the researchers have come up with this "decision tree". This explains what ticket you should be buying if you travel within zones 1 and 2. Have a go and see if it works.

What the researchers want is for TfL to use a commuter's travel data over a year to recommend what ticket would be cheapest - a bit like does when you buy a book.

TfL has welcomed the research but it said the figure is overstated.

It says what the research does not take into account is convenience and the millions of different little things that make lives unpredictable.

Also, not many people want to stump up for an annual ticket.

TfL says the Oyster card system is actually very efficient.

Certainly, Londoners are very savvy about which tickets they buy but, habit and convenience play a large part when sometimes cheaper tickets are available.

Tom Edwards, Transport correspondent, London Article written by Tom Edwards Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

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  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 12.

    Season Ticket discount originally was the cost saving from not needing as many ticket office clerks as for daily tickets, annuals also factor in holidays - daily/weekly/monthly tickets that wouldn't be bought for appx 6 weeks a year.

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    Comment number 11.

    It'd be unrealistic/very expensive to process daily the vast amount of data involved, plus the extra staff needed to handle huge increase in disputes. If TfL lost £200m revenue guess what happens next - all fares would be increased so those currently using the cheapest tickets would pay more - politically very unpopular while there's no noticable objection to the present situation.

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    Comment number 10.

    The problem with this research is there is an assumption that you know at the start of the week what you'll be doing at the end of the week. Last year I managed to spend £120 on my PAYG within a month, which would have made a travelcard easier - but I hadn't known at the start of the month how much I'd use it. Similarly, I may have bought a travelcard and then got ill or something.

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    Comment number 9.

    @Aiden - the reason is that they can invest that money and gain interest on it (or reduce the interest they are paying on loans etc). Same reason that supermarkets will negotiate 90 day payment plans with suppliers: they make their profit on the interest gained in this period rather than the difference between wholesale and retail prices.


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