When is a Travelcard not a Travelcard?

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(Excuse the rather-hastily taken photo of the LU roundel/logo at Heathrow T5)

On Sunday 12th November, myself and a couple of friends attempted to complete all 270 stations on the London Underground in one day. We didn’t quite make it (3 stations short, finishing with 267!) but still was a very enjoyable, albeit tiring, 19 hours!

Upon arrival at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 5am, we had to purchase our Zone 1-9 Travelcards for the day. For those not in the know, this is what a typical Travelcard looks like when purchased from a London Underground ticket machine:

Or if purchased from a National Rail station they might look like this:

So we were slightly surprised when they printed like this (both at the ticket offices and self-service machines):


Note the LU roundel is on the front of the tickets in the first two examples but not on our Heathrow Express printed Travelcards where it only appears on the back. This didn’t cause an issue until later in the day where, upon arrival at Kenton, we happened to see a bus pulling up taking us to our next destination, Northwick Park (they’re only 5 minutes apart on foot but were glad to avoid an unnecessary jog!)

Unfortunately, the bus driver wouldn’t accept our Travelcards, and refused to move until we either used a different payment method or alighted his bus, even eventually calling the police. Notwithstanding the attitude of the driver, for which an official complaint has been submitted to TfL, it raises an interesting point.

The latest version I can find of the Big Red Book – TfL’s guidance to bus drivers on a multitude of things including ticketing issues – says this regarding accepting Travelcards:


This is problematic, bearing in mind the Heathrow Express Travelcards don’t have a roundel on the front of the ticket, and drivers are specifically shown that they should look for one. Also, bearing in mind people arriving at Heathrow Airport by plane buying Travelcards are not known to be a walking knowledgebase on the finer points of London ticketing, it seems the people least likely to be able to argue their case are those who will be caught out by this most often. My view is TfL need to either insist Heathrow Express-issued Travelcards are printed with the roundel on the front (either on the ticket stock or when the ticket is printed), or they’re made to use the same stock as the rest of London Underground’s ticket machines (including those at other Heathrow terminals). This would ensure there’s no further confusion due to the absence of the roundel on the front of the ticket.

I tweeted Heathrow Express to make them aware of this, but didn’t get a reply. Should I get a reply from either Heathrow Express or TfL, I’ll update this blog post accordingly.

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