We've always been slightly amused by the word 'oyster'. Following the pattern of trickster and punster, it should refer to one who delights in shouting 'Oy!'. Which is exactly what we say to Transport for London. Today, the BBC revealed that 18,000 people per day are not using their oyster cards correctly, and are thus charged full fare.
Shashi Verma, director of Oyster cards, has this to say:
If people use the system as we tell them to - which is to touch in and touch out - then they should be just be paying the correct fare.
We repeat our Oy! at Mr Verma. This is not always our fault. First, the system is too complex. Some overland routes are in the system, some are not, some are partially in, and certain stations - such as Finsbury Park - go so far as to conceal the card readers. It would confuse a day trip comprising Stephens Fry and Hawking, with Johhnie Ball carrying the picnic hamper.
We emit another Oy! Once you've memorised the ever-changing intricacies, there are still times when it becomes impossible to pay the correct fare. Take the Holborn blackout yesterday. Thousands of people were forced to leave the station with no means of touching out. All commuters using pay as you go will have been charged the maximum price, through no fault of their own.
We expel an additional Oy! Almost daily, we see people struggling to make their cards work. LU attendants usually let them through by swiping their staff cards over the readers. Again, these commuters will be charged full fare for not touching out.
Automatically charging the maximum fare smacks of a guilty-till-proven-innocent means of generating extra cash. Until the system is robust, reliable and comprehensively implemented across London, we will continue to put the Oy! back into Oyster.