According to uber-transport geek blog London Reconnections, Oyster pay-as-you-go won’t be introduced to south-east London’s mainline trains until 2 January. Indeed, Southeastern has confirmed this on its website. But at the moment, if you use Blackheath station, and you’re travelling towards central London, you might be able to get an illicit sneak preview.
On the London-bound platform at Blackheath station, two Oyster card readers have had their black covers removed. One still has a NOT IN USE sticker on it, together with a warning about usage of carnet tickets, abolished in Tube zone 1 a couple of years back. Good to see old machines recycled, I guess. The other has its NOT IN USE sticker half-ripped off, and of 8.15pm last night, was working. I know, because I gave it a try. I’ve still got a zones 1-3 Travelcard on my Oyster (for the next couple of weeks, anyway) so my ticket was valid anyway. It responded with the usual BEEP! and an “ENTER” message on the screen.
I jumped on the 2019 to Charing Cross, and hopped off at Lewisham. Down to the Docklands Light Railway platforms, where I knew there was an Oyster top-up machine. I checked my balance. It’d registered me at Blackheath.
I didn’t touch in at Lewisham DLR but took the next train, and touched out after a ride to Cutty Sark station. There, the top-up machine confirmed it… Oyster is alive and well at Blackheath station.
Of course, I should point out that anyone trying to do this with a pay-as-you-go Oyster instead of having a paper ticket is liable to be fined, as Oyster is still not valid on most of Southeastern.
This is probably on test, it may well be that all stations have to go through this, and it’ll be a common sight between now and the new year. There’s probably a small army of people doing nothing but travelling around London, checking how the system works. But it’s an encouraging sign of progress after so many years waiting. Let’s hope it works properly when it does come in.