Mapped: London’s Oyster Zone Boundaries

A while ago, we spotted an anomaly on the tube map and Oyster network: if you travel by London Overground from Clapham to Highbury and Islington via Willesden (clockwise) you stay in Zone 2; but if you head anticlockwise, you pass through Zone 1 at Shoreditch High Street.

This got us thinking as to where the actual Oyster-Zone boundaries physically lie (as opposed to the schematic version shown on the tube map). So here it is, a map of London with the Oyster boundaries laid over on top.

For comparison, we’ve also added in the actual outer border of the London Boroughs (orange line), as well at the congestion charge (red) and Cycle Hire area (blue, including the recent expansion into Fulham & Hammersmith).

Click image for a high-resolution version.

Click image for a high-resolution version (14 MB).

How we made it

To make it, we looked at the Oyster Rail Service map, which schematically shows tube and national rail stations and where they fall within the Oyster system. We then ‘joined the dots’ with the neatest curved lines possible between the stations. From this more geographical representation, it became apparent where the anomalies were. In large areas where there are no stations to define the zone (e.g. in the south-east of London where there’s nothing between the Tramlink and National Rail services), it is very much a ‘best guess’, but we think it’s quite a good one!

What it shows

You can see that the Cycle Hire scheme almost completely covers Zone 1. If the western extension to the congestion charge still existed, that would have broadly covered the Oyster Zone 1 area, too.

It also perhaps goes someway to answering the question “Do I live in London or not?”. For some people, ‘living in London’ equates to the official definition of living in a London Borough. Others might call themselves Londoners so long as they’re on the tube map — ‘Zone 6 inwards’ equals London. The map above helps to visualise which areas fall within Transport for London’s zone boundaries.


But look closely, and you will see some strange anomalies, which we’ll highlight here for you.

1. Hoxton should be in Zone 2, and only Zone 2. As it stands, it is a Zone 2 AND Zone 1 ‘border’ station, but you can clearly see the Zone 1 area bumps up like an enormous spot, to suck Hoxton into Zone 1. Naughty TfL have promoted it to the inner-most zone in order to justify higher fares for people travelling here. By the same token, Shoreditch High Street should also geographically fit into Zone 2, rather than Zone 1.

The Hoxton bump.

The Hoxton bump (light blue) thrusts out of the main Zone 1 area to encompass the Overground station.

2. Where the DLR snakes south to Lewisham, the border between Zone 2 and Zone 3 bends with it to ensure that all the DLR stations south of the river here are ‘border’ stations between the two zones.

DLR Snaking Zone 2 and 3

The Deptford Bridge invagination ensures all DLR stations in this region remain on the zone 2-3 boundary.

3. Epping should not be in Zone 6. This is another Hoxton-like ‘bump’, but this time it works in the passengers favour. You could argue that Epping should really be a Zone 7, or possibly even a Zone 8 station.

Epping Zone 6

The Epping bulge puts several stations, way outside the Greater London boundary, inside Zone 6.

4. The commuters of Northwood and Moor Park get a good deal, too, with a bump that pulls their stations into Zone 6, and not 7. We think Moor Park used to be Zone 7, and was moved into Zone 6 recently.

Moor Park and Northwood Zone 6

The Northwood bulge.

Let us know in the comments if you spot any other anomalies.

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  • F

    Is the Hoxton bump a bad thing? If you’re coming from Zone 2 you’ll touch out in Zone 2, if you’re coming from Zone 1 you’ll touch out in Zone 1.

    • Geoff Marshall

      but Shoreditch High Street is in Zone 1 as well because of this, and I think it should be in Zone 2. i think that both Hoxton and Shoreditch HS should be plain Z2 stations, and neither either wholly or bordering Zone 1 …

      • Geoff Marshall

        we’ve updated the text in the main article above.

        it’s worth remembering that when the East London Line existed on the Underground, Shoreditch tube station was in Zone 2, and not Zone 1! yet when Shoreditch HS station was built (literally, yards away) on the Overground, they put it into Zone 1. so a Z2 station became a twice-as-expensive Z1 station, just because they could.

        • Sasa

          Actually, it seems there was a bit of an argument over re-zoning Shoreditch back when the ELL became LO. It was a condition of DfT funding that it moved from Z2 to Z1:

          • Whiff

            While most of us agree that Shoreditch High Street should be in Zone 2, as Sasa,says, it is a little unfair to blame this on ‘naughty TFL.’ The Department of Transport would only fund the ELL extension if SHS was put into Zone 1 to raise extra revenue towards the costs. Therefore, the choice was either SHS in Zone 1 or no SHS and no East London Line extension.

          • Michael Jennings

            The East London Line Extension cost a lot of money. This money had to come from somewhere, and Shoreditch High Street station was put in zone 1 so that some of this money would be raised in increased fares. This doesn’t actually seem all that unreasonable to me.

        • David Richards

          Find an old bus map from the 1990s, when buses had separate zones too. That’ll give you a much more accurate picture of where the Z1/2, Z2/3 and Z3/4 boundaries should be.

          It’ll show you that Shoreditch High Street (and Hoxton) belong solely in Z1. The old Shoreditch tube station was in Z2, but should really have been in Z1 – the boundary ‘bulged’ considerably to keep it in Z2!

        • Andrea Casalotti

          You say ” so a Z2 station became a twice-as-expensive Z1 station, just because they could.”. This is from the perspective of someone who lives in Z2; if you live in Z1, isn’t it cheaper?

          • John

            True – though only the rich these days live in Zone 1 so I think he’s referring to those in Zone 2 and beyond who already pay more taxes proportionally than the rich.

          • Andrea Casalotti

            Are you sure? Lots of social housing in Islington, Pimlico, Southwark, all in zone 1. Anyway, who are “the rich”? Many people in Zone 2 live in properties worth more than £500k. Do you not call them rich?

  • ben__c

    Surbiton is in Zone 6 not Zone 5 as on the map. That might create a bit of an anomaly because the boundary will have a bump going in.

    • Geoff Marshall

      whoops! good spot. am only human! will correct it for a future downloadable version…

      • Charlie

        Same with Kingston – should be Zone 6 not Zone 5 as shown in the map. There’s a long running campaign that it should be Zone 5

        • Robyn

          It seems drastically unfair that Essex gets zones far beyond the Greater London boundary, but only half of Kingston – an actual London borough – is even within the zones at all. (This has nothing to do with errors on the map, more a rant against TfL and their biased planners. Poor Kingston. And they don’t even have a tube station. Thank god I don’t live there any more).

          • Ceejay

            Essex CC subsidises it – that’s why.

          • Robyn

            Well who knew?! (You, apparently.) Thanks for the intel! Back in my box . . .

  • Takooba

    Love it! I might print one out naaace quality and get you to sign it. As for anomalies … “do do do do do anomalies do do de do.”

  • Jonn Elledge

    This is great.

    Couple of inevitable niggles… Upminster’s zone 6 – from this map it looks suspiciously like you’ve pushed it beyond the boundary into outer darkness.

    Also, there are stations in zones 7+8 in the Lea Valley.

    • Geoff Marshall

      niggle away! all good, am editing Upminster now. never version will include the Walthatm Cross/Theobalds services, yes. i think Broxbourne is ‘special fares’ though, like Watford – and not a Zone 9 station.

      • Jonn Elledge

        I actually think anywhere inside Greater London should probably be zone 6 – okay, there’s no station there now, but if there was they wouldn’t put it in zone 7.

        I also think I shouldn’t have an opinion on this and yet, somehow, do.

        • Jonn Elledge


      • Michael Jennings

        Several Lea Valley / Broxbourne stations are in zones 7 and 8, as Jonn said. There are also four “special” zones that aren’t shown on maps, but which do exist internally for the Oyster charging system. One of these is Zone W (Watford, as you say). The other three are zones B, G, and C.

        Details here.

  • owain

    What’s the history of the Metropolitan’s extra zones? Did they originate as a way of pegging fares to British Rail’s ones? This would explain why Epping never got the same treatment.

    Also, was the line out to Ongar still operating when the zoning system was introduced? If that was Z6, that’d be one hell of a bulge…

    • Geoff Marshall

      Epping to Ongar closed in 1994, Oyster was launched in 2003!

      • Graham Taylor

        But the zone system existed way before that and Z1 was split into ‘City’ and ‘West End’ And before Oysrefication bus routes were covered by it.

        • Ric Euteneuer

          As I recall from my student days at QM(W)C, the tube map that showed the zones said “Special fares apply” and therefore Ongar, Blake Hall, and North Weald, like stations at the north end of the Bakerloo used to be, were not part of normal travelcard zoning.

    • Craig Bauer Melson

      the Met line was the first line built, and one of only lines that actually got finished as intended. The tube was meant to go alot further (up to Luton on and down to Epsom on Northern), but WW1 got in the way, so they stopped building stations,. You can still see bits of the unfinished Northern line around Elstree and Brockley Hill….

      • David Richards

        From Edgware as far north as Bushey Heath… not Luton!

  • Paul R

    Technical question: What is the scale of this map? Apologies if it is already stated.

  • Roger Manser

    Great piece of research… could you correlate it with flat prices/rents? I know most things north west and south west is more expensive, but any clear relationship?

  • Dan

    Looking at this, you could make a strong argument for moving Wood Street Walthamstow to the zone 3/4 boundary.
    TfL are you listening?!

  • E

    Looking at it Kennington gets a rough deal too, as it all kind of sucks in to make e&c a zone 1/2 boundary, but looking it at it it is clearly a z1 and Kennington if the line was smoothed out should be on the z1/z2 boundary. Its also a bit unfair regarding the cycle scheme doesn’t cover down to at least Camberwell which would make sense if you smoothed out a couple of lines there too!

  • Ceejay

    Regarding the ‘Epping Bulge’ bear in mind that Essex County Council subsidise LU to maintain the central line to Epping north of Woodford. If it wasn’t for that subsidy Epping would indeed be in Zone 7 or 8. The western end of the Met doesn’t receive a subsidy from the council in that area so that is why it lies in Zones 7-9.

  • Craig Bauer Melson

    Borehamwood is only 1/3 in Zone 6 on the map (obs as there’s only 1 station), but there are buses that you use Oyster on that go in to parts of Borehamwood (and indeed further that aren’r covered.

  • Craig Bauer Melson

    Also, the whole zone thing is nonsene as buses are a great anomoly. For example I can use my z 1-6 travel card to get from Edgware (z5) to Watford (z9) on the 142 bus.

    • David Richards

      Buses have been treated as one zone for ages – 15 years or more?

  • Craig Bauer Melson

    Indeed a z1-2 tvl card can get you from Victoria (z1)-Cricklewood (z4) on the bus. Even when an inspector once checked my ticket near Cricklewood it came up fone…

    • Zoe

      Isn’t it because zones simply don’t apply to buses? Even on pay as you go you pay the same fare everywhere regardless of the zone you get into the bus and where you are going…

      • Craig Bauer Melson

        I don’t know. But it seems a good added value thing. A bus pass for the entire of London (value £14) is therefore included in the £30 price of a 102 travelcard (if you’re silly enough to live that centrally of course)….

  • aria

    what a boring article…

    • Geoff Marshall

      what a great comment! :-)

  • ktg

    “We think Moor Park used to be Zone 7, and was moved into Zone 6 recently.”

    No, Moor Park has always been in Zone 6 and Rickmansworth was in 6a (of the former 6a-d Zones at the end of the Met line) until the recent invention of zones 7, 8 and 9

  • Sharon

    Apparently my local station Theobalds Grove in Hertfordshire will be part of TFL in 2015. Oyster machines have been installed and been in use for the last year or so. The map, no doubt will be rejigged next year!

  • Footprints of London

    Epping used to be in what was Outside Fare Zone B up until 1996 – that is you had to get a Travelcard that covered Zone 6 + B. It then got moved into Zone 6 when Essex County Council subsidised the route. I think Ongar was Outside Fare Zone C

  • andybrice

    But is it right to think of TfL zones as geographical at all? Isn’t a station’s “zone” more to do with how busy it is? Maybe “zone” is a misnomer and something like “tier” would be better.

  • Me

    Also, Wanstead should be zone 3-4, instead of Leytonstone

    • Geoff Marshall

      no, according to the current TfL map on their website, Leytonstone is Z3/4, but Wanstead is Z4.

  • P

    Manor House (on the Piccadilly Line on the eastern corner of Finsbury Park) is a Zone 2 & 3 station.

    • Giselle

      I was going to say the same thing: Zone 2 doesn’t stop at Finsbury Park, Manor House is still Zone 2, and apparently some bus stops beyond it towards Seven Sisters even though Seven Sisters itself is definitely Zone 3 – I am not sure where the boundary is.

  • SemNorbert

    wow its too much Huge Boundaries .

  • Stuart Fanning

    The Oyster Card is coming to Epsom, Surrey in September 2015. At this time it is not known whether it will be in Zone 6 or Zone 7.