Wednesday, May 09, 2007


By now, virtually everyone who travels regularly on public transport in London carries an ‘
Oyster Card’. You can still pay for your fares with cash, but at a premium of 50% or more.

Some of us, though I suspect only a small minority, have an issue with being herded into using a system that records and archives a detailed log of our individual movements.

Personally, I’d be a lot less bothered about the implications of using an Oyster Card if I believed that the organisations collating and using the data were trustworthy and accountable or subject to the same level of supervision that individuals increasingly are.

But you’d have to be out of your gourd or plain stupid to even start to believe that.

There is also the small matter of the fact that the Oyster Card system now charges steals a flat £4 from you if it gets confused about any aspect of your journey. It is then your responsibility to try and get your money back

Last Friday I was using one of my Oyster Cards and, due to an electronic barrier jamming/ fucking up, I got hit for £4. There then followed a series of exchanges with the staff in a couple of ticket offices and, eventually, a phone call to Oyster Central

High points of the experience included…

Getting a statement of my account from my local ticket office

More or less since the invention of numbers, statements have shared certain features in common
  • They have a starting and a closing balance
  • They include all transactions between the starting and closing balance
  • They give some clue as to whether each transaction is a ‘plus’ or a ‘negative’
The idea being you can see if everything adds up.

The new Oyster Card system bravely does away with all that old fashioned nonsense and just presents you with an edited selection of transactions and no means of tieing them into what money you started with or finished with

The poor gimp in the ticket office had no means of checking how much credit I had started the day with and therefore no way of checking that my balance at the end of the day was correct. He advised me to call the Oyster Help Line

The Oyster Help Line

A fairly involved call, the outcome of which turned on how much money I had on my card at the start of the day.

I had taken a photograph of a ticket machine statement which had clearly said that I had £13.30 in the kitty...

The lady on the phone told me that the ticket machine was wrong and that I only started the day with £9.30 and also that a £4 charge listed in the statement had not actually been charged…

‘Um, could you run that by me one more time’

‘Due to timing issues, the balance you see displayed on the ticket machine is not always entirely accurate’

‘And that’s not unusual?


‘So, just one more time. When this multi-million pound system tells me that I'm starting the day with a particular balance on my card it really might be a completely different figure?’


‘Well, there’s not much else to talk about is there?’

‘On that question, no. Do you have anything else you’d like to know?’

‘No … thank you’

So hats off to whoever commissioned and signed-off on the Oyster Card system and the year’s supply of blowjobs and lifetime golf club memberships they presumably received in exchange for their outstanding work. Not only have they delivered a system that includes supply of personal information to unaccountable bastards at its very core it also can’t count either



Shutter said...

Unless of course it counts very well and decides to throw a spanner in the works of awkward cunts, just to brighten up their day - perhaps to say something regrettable or throw a punch and cause offence and be charged with a public order ....etc., but no... no.. no way


Stef said...

alternatively it could be used simply to deny awkward cunts access to travel some way down the line

that would never happen of course...