Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Modernisms #3

Astonishingly, a further instalment in the ongoing series of Things You Wouldn't Have Heard Ten Years Ago:
#3: I need to top up my Oyster
Travel used to be relatively straightforward. You wanted to go somewhere, you bought a cardboard ticket from a large man in a small office, you got on your chosen mode of transportation and you got off again at the other end. As that irritatingly ubiquitous meerkat might opine, "Simples!". However, rather like the proliferation of self-service checkouts in supermarkets, London Transport came up with* the rather super idea of allowing people to come and go as they please on the tube and buses, as long as they carried with them a credit-card sized, pre-paid 'token'. Brilliant. Or, in fact, not. Because as fast as they could introduce rules to govern the use of these cards, regular travellers were not only finding ways to bend the rules and commute for cheap and/or free (compulsory amongst the modern youth) but also that the system utterly failed to take account of relatively normal city-wide travel behaviour; unsuspecting Oyster punters were often charged the full single fare for entering a tube station at which they were told the line they wanted was closed but they would have to swipe their Oyster card to get out and try a different route. Brilliant money-making scam; less-effective urban transport policy. They claim to have fixed that now, although 2010 sees the Oyster system being extended to the entirety of the suburban London railway network. I know; God help us all.

* OK, they copied it from any number of other schemes around the world, not least the similarly-monikered Octopus card in Hong Kong, but give me a break here...


  1. Excellent stuff, particularly enjoying the sceptical but not entirely Luddite tone. Might send a few suggestions for future entries. It could become a phrase book for visiting Martians.

  2. Too kind (but all suggestions welcome!)