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25 April 2013 | Secret, Transport | By: Geoff Marshall

Oyster Oddities: How To Travel Through Zone 1 At No Extra Cost

Oyster Oddities: How To Travel Through Zone 1 At No Extra Cost

Now that the southern section of the Overground network is open and we have a complete orange orbital, it’s possible to travel between Clapham Junction and Highbury & Islington in two different directions: go clockwise through Willesden Junction, a route entirely in Zone 2; or travel anti-clockwise up through Canada Water, a journey which is mostly in Zone 2, but briefly dips into Zone 1 when passing through Shoreditch High Street.

So...hang on – when you exit at Highbury, how does the Oyster system know which way round you’ve gone? Which journey fare does it deduct: all Zone 2, or Zones 1 +2?

A friendly email (or three, it took them a while to understand our question properly) to Transport for London prompted a reply that might surprise you.

TfL is kind enough to assume that you have been the ‘Zone 2 only’ way round. So whichever way you go , you'll be charged just £1.50 (off-peak) instead of the £2.10 you'd expect to pay for travelling through Zone 1. Bizarrely, this means that it’s cheaper to travel through the 17 stations from Clapham Junction to Highbury, than it is to make the five stop journey from Shoreditch to Highbury along the same tracks.

This got us wondering...are there any other anomalies like this, with the Oyster and zonal fair system?

It also made us consider whether this is the furthest you can travel in London, on the lowest fare. Any off peak journey that doesn’t enter Zone 1 stays at just £1.50 – if you travel from a Zone 2 station to Zone 6, it’s that same ‘flat fare’ – it goes up to £1.60 if you venture into any zone beyond 6 from Zone 3 (a Zone 2 to 7, 8 or 9 becomes £2.70 for some reason).

So London…what’s the longest journey (in terms of distance) between two stations that you can make for the off-peak price of just £1.50? It’s most likely to be a Zone 2 to Zone 6 trip, but it might not be. 

Clapham Junction to Highbury & Islington (A Zone 2 to Zone 2 journey passing through 17 stations) as the crow flies is 6.4 miles – can you beat that?

By Geoff Marshall

See also:
Secrets of the Victoria Line
Secrets of the Northern Line 

Geoff Marshall

Article by Geoff Marshall | 92 articles | View Profile | Twitter

Michael M

yet another question to ponder. if you were to make the journey on the central line from Epping to west Ruislip (zone 6-6) but changing at stratford for the overground (and maybe Willesden Junction) and then Shepherds bush back to the central line. ultimately avoiding zone 1, would you get charged as if you went through zone 1?


You can do Clapham Junction to Barking, at 11.9 miles, for £1.50 if you take an "avoiding zone 1" route (e.g. change at Whitechapel, or go the long way round entirely on the Overground via Gospel Oak.)

Paul Corfield

There are loads and loads of "cheap" fares if you use the pink route validators. Beckton to Richmond, for example, is £1.50 off peak if you touch on the route validator at Stratford. Ditto Upminster to Richmond if you zap at Stratford or at Gospel Oak (change at Barking). Going north - south the default off peak PAYG fare (no need to find a route validator) for South Kenton - Peckham Rye is £1.50 (assumes travelling via West London Line and Clapham Junction). Upminster to West Croydon also has a default off peak fare of £1.50 (changing at Whitechapel or West Ham / Canada Water).

All this info is on the TfL Fares Finder.

Geoff Marshall

Hang on.. i think i just found a '30 miler' !

Heathrow to Upminster. As long as you change at Acton Town, Rayners Lane, West Hampstead, Gospel Oak, Barking you'd get to Upminster never having been into Zone 1.

i bet this also takes longer than 2 hours, which is pass the 'valid' time limit that you have on an Oyster Card journey. Who wants to try it?!?


erm....168 bus, 292, 148 cover about 10 miles each and cost less than 1.50


also, a great anaomoly is getting the train and transferring. when i tap in at borehamwood (z6), i tap out at west hampstesd tlink, tap back in at west htd tube before completing my journey at Westminster- at £6.90 cost.

however, if you top up your oyster card before transferring, or wait 15 mins, it treats the 2 legs as separate journeys, saving about £3 a journey- 0r £6 a day.

Joe Lynch

In terms of track distance I think that Earl's Court to Uxbridge on the Piccadilly line is the winner for a continuous single journey, although it's a close call between that, Richmond to Stratford and Epping to Bethnal Green. It's certainly between those 3 though.

Jamie Drew

I did this literally just last night, from Clapham Junction to Highbury & Islington, and when this article arrived on my twitter feed I was Googling this very question! SYNCHRONICITY.


I actually have the opposite to a money saving experience. A trip from Hayes & Harlington to Clapham North can be fully within Zones 5 to 2. The journey is below, but the Oyster system charges £2.10 for the privilege. TfL say "The journey between Hayes and Harlington and Clapham North stations has one default fare set for the route. Therefore if you make this journey with a Travelcard an extension fare is applicable."

TOUCH IN: Hayes & Harlington to Ealing Broadway (Zone 5 to 3)
TOUCH OUT: Shepherds Bush Overground (Zone 2)
TOUCH IN: Shepherds Bush Underground (Zone 2)
TOUCH OUT: Balham Station (Zone 3)
TOUCH IN: Balham Underground (Zone 3)
TOUCH OUT: Clapham North (Zone 2)

By over charging for this legitimate route is a con. But it seems my complaints go no further than a CSR.

martin stein

my mates used to travel from Walthamstow Central to Wembley (Victoria line via Euston and then Metropolitan) and Oyster would count it as changing at Highbury for overground to West Hampstead. Cheaper and about 30 mins quicker! :D


it didn't work that way few years ago, which was a buzzard for me. I have talked to the staff at London Bridge station previously, but none could offer me any solution and so I simply don't think it that way at all. I used to travel from Shepherd Bush (Overground) to Clapham Junction to catch the train from London Victoria to London Bridge via Crystal Palace, and get off at Brockley with my Z1-2 Travel Card on Oyster, and they charged extra a few time, claiming that I have passed though Z3, so they may sometimes do realise it!

Mark Speight

Okay, its not zone 1 but I regularly travel to see my friend in Amersham from Walthamstow. 3.70! What a bargain. One side of London to the other.

Holly D

I attached my young persons railcard to my oyster so every off peak journey I make is max £1.40 to zone 1 ;)

Miss Tash

In late 2011, I used to commute from Bermondsey to Uxbridge, i.e. zone 2 to 6, but travelled via zone 1 on the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines. I didn't bother with a Travelcard as sometimes worked from home or in central London. I paid 4.50 each way in peak times. However, if I started or ended the journey at London Bridge (Jubilee), I only paid 2.70 each way. I was told that if I didn't take the quickest route, I wouldn't be charged the premium to travel through zone 1 and would only be charged a zone 2-6 fare. After 4 months of fares of 9 pounds per day, I moved to West London and straddle zones 2-3!

Gina Ribena

I travel from Hainault to Island Gardens via Bank in Zone 1. But I am charged as if I have travelled via Stratford - therefore only £1.50.

Tyrone Shoelaces

I have nothing to add except that it's nice to see the small town in which I was brought up, Hatch End, getting some kudos beyond being the birthplace of the late Richard Wright and the abode of Barry Cryer.


Please any1 wi a bit of advice?? I travel from archway (zone 2) to Northolt (zone 5) for work everyday but in order to do this I have to take the Northern line to Tottenham Court Road (zone 1) to get the central line to Northolt. A 7 day travelcard from zone 2 to zone 5 costs £30 whereas a 7 day travelcard from zone 1 to zone 5 costs £51.80. Would I be able to travel on the zone 2-5 travel card on this journey even though I pass through zone 1? is there anyway I can be caught out? Any help please as my travel costs will be nearly halfed


I love this website!


Hi anyone! Mine is a travelcard 2-3. I usually buy the 1-3 but i thought to try this as part of an attempt to save money.

After work I tapped in: Canary Wharf (Zone 2)
Tapped out at Highbury & Islington (Zone 2)
Was disappointed to find I was charged £2.20!!
I asked one of the TFL workers and he said it was because I went past Shoreditch High Street (Zone 1) on the overground. I told him 'yes I went past Shoreditch on the train, but never left the train or even set foot on that station'. His response was it doesn't matter it works like the congestion charge. I must say this bizarre! Any comments would be appreciated as I feel I have been conned £2.20. I only left tapped at Highbury for a burger.

Ben @ TDF

Is there a more complicated charging system on this fair earth?

naveen gupta

I travel from hounslow central(Z4) to canary wharf(Z1) but my journey passes through the Z1 although I dont touch the card in Zone 1.
I would need the monthly pass for Z1-Z4 or Z2-Z4?


Hello, I travel everyday almost on the central line from Hanger Lane to stratford they are both zone 3 and I don't change trains or enter zone 1 I simply just go through it underground... I still pay 27 pounds for weekly Oyster card zones 1-3 is it possible to get a zone 3 only Oyster card weekly for 17 pounds rather than paying an extra 10 pounds every week for no reason... ? This is on a 18+ Oyster card by the way


i live in westferry zone 2 which is east london and I recently got a new job in chiswick park which is zone 3 in west london. if this is true I could travel via zone 1 to work and back and only pay for the zone 2-3 travelcard right? I went to ticket office and they said no it will charge me zone 1 too. can anyone confirm this?

robert hingston

We should pay where we Touch in! and where we Touch out! so if you go from zone 4 to zone 2 via zone 1 should not matter.. this is a scam by TFL


I have a question, i do regular travel from manorpark to brentwood (just by tfl-train) sometime it charge me £4.00 and sometime just £2.70. What is the explication? thanks!


I am not sure how correct this is as there are pink card readers at Stratford and Highbury & Islington to calculate that you are taking the correct route. I have been charged an extension fare this month when travelling from Canary Wharf, I forgot to touch the oyster on the pink reader at Stratford.