Welcome to london-railfan.info
Railfanning London‘s Railways

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Visitors to London who are also transport enthusiasts (‘railfans’) sometimes ask for advice as to the ‘best’ things to see on London’s railway network. Typically they mean the London Transport railways, or in other words the underground (subway, metro) and whilst the information below is primarily about that it also briefly looks at the wider railway scene within London. This is especially important as there are many instances of interworking and shared services with London's other railway systems - the mainline railway (National Rail), the Docklands Light Railway and Croydon / London Tramlink.

This guide is primarily about present day services, so historical information is only included where it helps explain aspects of the transport network as it is today.

The UndergrounD railway uses trains of two distinctive sizes, these being the small profile ‘tube’ trains and the larger profile trains which are in fact very similar in size to trains used on the rest of the British railway system. The latter would be because when they first opened most of the routes served by the larger profile trains were originally served by steam locomotives hauling unpowered passenger carriages, so (apart from the extensive operations in tunnels) they were little different from the many other British railways.

District and Piccadilly line trains at Stamford Brook station. . Northern line train exits a tunnel mouth just to the north of Hendon Central station. . District line and C2C trains at West Ham station.
London's underground trains come in two different sizes.
A small profile 1973 'tube' stock Piccadilly line train passes a large profile subsurface S stock District line train at Stamford Brook station.
. The nickname "Tube" comes from the almost circular tube-like tunnels through which the small profile trains travel.
A 1995 'tube' stock Northern line train exits a tunnel mouth near Hendon Central station.
. The large profile 'subsurface' trains are the same size as mainline trains.
C2C Electrostar Class 357 and District line
S stock trains pass at West Ham station.

This guide comes in two variants - this page is part of the version where the information is spread over many pages.
There is also a single page version of this guide which can be reached at this link.

Site Index

Small Profile ‘Tube’ Trains
National Rail Trains That Also Travel Through
‘Tube Train’ Tunnels
Large Profile
‘Subsurface’ Trains
Local Light Railways
Other National Rail Trains

The Docklands Light Railway and Tramlink both use modern light rail vehicles. DLR trains are computerised / self-driving whilst the trams are driven by ordinary mortal humans.

Although not defined in the listing above DLR trains could also be seen as 'tube trains'. This is because there are several places where DLR trains travel deep underground in circular tunnels, as per the more well-known tube trains.

The East London and Northern City lines were ‘London Transport’ railway services but nowadays are operated as part of the mainline (National Rail) ‘London Overground’ and ‘Great Northern’ networks. For many years both lines were included on Underground maps, but nowadays the Northern City line has been removed.


Sign advertising location of station entrance. . Walk left stand right escalator sign.
Sign advertising a station entrance - typically where station entrances are below ground the subterranean passageways also act as public subways (aka: passageways) which allow pedestrians who are not travelling on the trains to cross the road and avoid the traffic. . To expedite passenger flows escalators have rules
- which visitors are requested to follow.
As someone who usually walks I say "thank you" :-)
Please remember to hold the handrail - I do, even when walking!
Roadway style cross hatched 'yellow box' at station platform entrance. . Pass along platform sign.
Wall and floor signage encouraging passengers who have just entered a station platform to spread out along its length - rather than just congregate near the entrance, where (at busy times) they cause congestion and prevent other passengers from also accessing the platform.

Fares and Tickets

London's railway fares are based on a zonal system, most of the information in this guide is about sights in zones 1-4 which covers the centre of London and much of the suburbs.

There are several ways to pay transport fares in London. Especially on the Underground, Docklands Light Railway and Tramlink buying paper tickets from the station at the start of the journey is the most expensive way to pay fares. But if you will only be travelling a little and just want to sample London's transports in the simplest way possible without worrying about ticket types or something going wrong which leaves you being charged more than expected, then this might be the easiest solution.

Since 2003 it has also been possible to pay transport fares using smart cards. London's smart card is marketed as the Oyster card. These can store a maximum of three prepaid season tickets plus some cash value in what is called an electronic purse (e-purse). Nowadays using the e-purse is known as Pay As You Go (PAYG) although sometimes you may see an old sign which refers to PrePay§. Although Oyster cards have to be purchased the fares charged are usually cheaper than the cost of paper tickets.

§The name PrePay is very accurate for smart cards which have an e-purse because the act of adding monetary value to the e-purse effectively means that the funds are given to the transport company in advance of travelling. This is in contrast with Contactless bank card (or other device) system whereby a bank or credit card account is charged after the journey (at the end of the same day).

Both Londoners and visitors from elsewhere in the UK can also pay their fares using EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard, Visa)¤ Contactless RFID credit and debit cards and some smartphone apps. The fares are normally the same as with Oyster cards, although on days when many journeys are made the total fare charged sometimes works out as being slightly cheaper than Oyster cards! The fares are charged to the credit / debit card accounts as a single transaction, overnight. Some people from outside London may also have ITSO specification smart cards on which it might also be possible to load prepaid Travelcard season tickets that can be used within London, eg: The Key which is a ticketing solution from one of the major British transport operators. ITSO card holders need to investigate compatibility and acceptability before travelling - especially as whilst the ITSO specification includes electronic purses (for PAYG travel) these may be restricted to local geographic areas outside of London.

¤This includes Visa payWave, Mastercard PayPass, Barclays PayTag, Barclays bPay, American Express, ApplePay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, Garmin Pay, Google Pay plus other EMV compatible payment systems which use NFC (near field) chips that are (or soon will be) integral parts of devices such as: mobile (cell) telephones / smart phones / watches / jewellery / keyfobs / self-adhesive tags / wristbands / gloves etc., - or subdermally, ie: inside the human body (typically one of the hands). Although not officially supported some of the other types of electronic payment systems might also work (eg: PayPal).

Electronic Ticketing Terminology
The information on this page uses the word "Contactless" to refer to all forms of RFID / NFC / EMV bank debit / credit cards, smart phone apps, etc.

Each passenger must have their own payment card!
When using cards from bank / credit card accounts which are shared between several people (eg: a married couple) it is important the long numbers (typically with 16 digits) and / or expiry dates are different. Otherwise only one passenger can use a card linked to that card account and the other passenger must use a card from a different account.

Visitors from overseas will probably also be able to use Contactless bank cards and smart phone apps but should expect their bank to treat the transport fares as an overseas payment and charge currency conversion and overseas transaction fees.

In London the anonymous type of Oyster card is easy to buy. There is a deposit of just £5.00. An anonymous Oyster card can be shared with anyone - although only one person can use it at a time. Being anonymous means that your name and address is not recorded. Before it can be used you have to add either a travel product (weekly bus pass? Travelcard season ticket?) and or some e-purse (money) value. Anonymous Oyster cards do not allow annual Travelcard season tickets.

When your visit is over the Oyster card can either be kept for a future visit to London or returned for a refund . If all your transactions are in cash and the e-purse value is very small then the refund will probably be in cash. Otherwise the refund will be by cheque which is posted to you later. Usually the deposit is also refunded but if the card has a negative ( - ) value then this will be deducted from the refund.

Extra money can be added to the e-purse at almost all railway stations in London (at some stations only at the self-service ticket machines) as well as at over 3700 local shops throughout the London area. This is known as a top-up. No matter whether you are using cash or a plastic card there are no additional or handling fees for a top-up - so if a shop wants extra money then you should refuse to pay and complain to the Oyster helpline. Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian cities, the London Oyster card is only for paying public transport fares.

If you wish an Oyster card can be registered with the user's name. An Oyster card which has been registered can accept the full range of tickets, including monthly and annual tickets but can only be used by the registered card holder. If lost or stolen the card can be cancelled and the tickets plus e-purse transferred to a replacement.

It is also possible to buy a Visitor Oyster card before arriving in London, either from the Transport For London (TfL) online shop or at other locations such as on Eurostar trains / airports / aircraft travelling towards London. With these the purchase price includes some e-purse value so that the Oyster card is ready to use. This is especially useful when arriving at airports / St Pancras Eurostar as it means that you can avoid the ticket office queues and walk straight to the Underground / DLR platforms. Note that Visitor Oyster cards do not accept weekly or longer season tickets. Visitor Oyster cards have decorative designs which make for a nice souvenir of your visit. Plus you can probably use them again on your next visit to London! If returned for a refund only the e-purse value is refunded. Not the £5.00 card fee.

In London many visitor destinations and some restaurants offer discounts to passengers who have Visitor Oyster cards. It is always good to ask!
More information: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/experience-london/special-offers .

When first introduced Visitor Oyster cards were advertised as never expiring, so that they could be used again and again on future visits to London. However, it is possible that some older types of Visitor Oyster cards will expire when the computer technology used by the PAYG ticketing system is changed. Only be the Visitor Oyster cards which use older and less secure transaction protocols, such as MIFARE Classic, are expected to expire. However the e-purse value can be transferred to a replacement card. Visitors Oyster cards with a white letter D in a blue square on their backs will still work for years to come - these use a newer and more secure transaction technology called MIFARE Desfire.

If anonymous Oyster cards (and Visitor Oyster cards) are bought using cash and always have financial value added using cash then they are suitable for passengers who do not want their every movement tracked 24/7. However it is also worth remembering that in London CCTV cameras are everywhere, and that some of these are connected to computers which detect people's activity and use facial recognition softwares.

There was a time when it was possible to return an Oyster card and receive the refund without any other formalities, however nowadays you need to complete an application form and show proof of both identity and where you live. I am not sure if different arrangements are available for visitors from overseas.

The introduction of the Oyster system has led to a revolutionary change in fares and ticketing within London, significantly reducing the time it takes passengers boarding buses to pay their fares / have passes 'read' and reducing queues at station ticket offices. PAYG means that many of the advantages of period tickets are now available to everyone - even infrequent visitors - who on arrival at stations just walk straight past the ticket sales area to the ticket barriers, where they touch in and then continue directly to the platforms.

There is much more information on ticketing in London on the Fares & Ticketing Systems page of the citytransport.info website ..
These links to other websites may also be of interest.
http://www.londontoolkit.com/briefing/travelcard_oyster.htm .
http://www.oyster-rail.org.uk .
https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/ (this is the TfL website which includes all ticketing types) ..

There is a long term desire to encourage as many travellers as possible to use Contactless payment systems (especially EMV bank cards) instead of Oyster cards. The reason is that Tf L wants to reduce the costs of the ticketing system and leave the finances to the banks, who it sees as being financial experts. However not everyone has credit / debit cards, nor even bank accounts (eg: children, the bankrupt) and some people feel much safer paying their fares in advance of travel. Therefore Oyster is expected to remain for many years to come. As anonymous bank cards do not exist so it is easy for every person's travels to be traced and recorded, in the process creating a massive database for commercial companies to exploit.

Smart Card Ticketing When Travelling To / From The Airports

(Of course paper tickets can also be used on these services)

Heathrow Airport: Oyster cards and other Contactless ticketing systems can be used on the Piccadilly line underground trains plus TfL Rail (former Heathrow Connect) and Heathrow Express trains into London Paddington station.

TFL Rail passengers paying single PAYG fares will be charged a special levy for travelling on tracks owned by Heathrow Airport between Hayes and Harlington station and the Airport but fares capping will also be accepted - without the levy.

Heathrow Express passengers paying PAYG fares using Oyster or Contactless are charged Peak or Off-Peak Express Single fares. Peak fares are charged 06.30am - 09.30am and 4pm - 7pm (16:00 - 19:00) Monday - Friday excluding UK Bank Holidays. Off-Peak fares are charged at other times. Passengers who wish to travel in Business First carriages will be asked to pay the upgrade fare once on the train. Business First offers a more private, spacious environment with wider seating and tables where passengers can work, plus a selection of complimentary magazines and newspapers.
Note that Heathrow Express PAYG fares are excluded from fares capping and that it can often be significantly cheaper to buy tickets (especially for return and other multiple journeys) before travelling from either the internet or their app. Also, Travelcard season tickets are not accepted.

Gatwick Airport: Although it is possible to use Oyster cards and Contactless ticketing to pay fares when travelling between London and Gatwick Airport, this is often the most expensive way to pay fares. Paper tickets and pre-paid tickets (bought from the Internet) are sometimes cheaper!

Stansted, Luton Airports: Not accepted, but you might be able to buy a Visitor Oyster card at these airports. This will make life easier when you arrive in London.

City Airport: This airport is inside London and Oyster cards / Contactless are accepted on the DLR.

St Pancras Eurostar: This too is inside London and Oyster cards / Contactless are accepted. The last time I travelled on a Eurostar train it was possible to buy a Visitor Oyster card at the buffet counter on a Eurostar train travelling towards the UK.

The Best Ticket For Railfanning

If you are going to spend a whole day railfanning then although they are more expensive I recommend using paper One Day Travelcard (ODTC) tickets. These can be used on almost ALL of London's trains (except Heathrow Express or the SouthEastern High Speed service between St Pancras and Stratford International) as well as most of London's buses and trams and once you have your paper ticket you are completely free to travel wherever you wish (within the zones in which it is valid) safe in the knowledge that you will not be forced into paying anything extra. The advantage of using paper tickets is that there are no time limits on how long your journey takes - so you can stop at stations and watch trains without also watching the time.

For some fares zones ODTC tickets cost the same no matter what time of day you travel. These are called 'Day Anytime'. Other fares zones have two different prices with Day Anytime being more expensive and 'Day Off-Peak' being cheaper. Passengers with Day Off-Peak ODTC tickets are not allowed to travel in the rush hour on Monday - Friday mornings. For most stations this means not before 09:30 am but at some stations outside of London the rules are different.

At weekends and bank / public holidays Day Off-Peak ODTC tickets can be used all day.

One Day Travelcard (ODTC) tickets are only available as paper tickets. These can be bought at most railway station ticket offices / ticket machines etc., and Visitor centres. Ticket machines only sell them for travel 'today' or 'tomorrow' but at stations with proper ticket offices they can be bought a few days in advance of travel. They can NOT be bought at Oyster Ticket Stops (local shops). Note that in London tickets expire at 4:29 am the next morning - this allows you to use night buses as well. Depending on the zonal combination these might cost more than daily price capping.

DANGER! Beware Electronic Ticketing Journey Time Limits

Be VERY careful with the ‘pay as you go’ (PAYG) ticketing system. PAYG is advertised as being ideal for all passengers with the promise that providing you always 'touch-in/out' correctly when starting or ending your journey the total fares charged for that day will be 'capped' below the cost of a paper ticket (known as 'fares capping'). However, for railfanning there is a problem; PAYG enforces time limits on journeys, so if you keep stopping to watch trains the system may think that you have forgotten to 'touch in' at the start of a journey or 'touch out' at the end of the journey, and you risk being charged a 'maximum fare' which could be over £8.00 - even if you have already reached the 'fares cap' for that day. Because of this people on a limited budget without any spare cash may find themselves stranded somewhere in suburban London and unable to afford to get back to their hotel. This nearly happened to me (once!) so I am speaking from the voice of experience.

With PAYG the cost of individual single fares also depends on the time (and sometimes the direction) of your journey. Fares are higher on Monday - Friday during the morning and evening busy periods. 'Rush hour' (also known as 'peak') fares are charged if you 'touch-in' at the start of a journey between 06:30 am and 09:30 am (even if the train leaves the station after this time) and between 4pm - 7pm (16:00 - 19:00). However, if you make enough journeys during on that day to reach the fares cap then this will not matter. Also important to know is that off-peak fares are charged in the evenings on journeys which start at a station in zones 2 - 9 and end at a station in Central London zone 1.

Only off-peak fares and fare caps are charged at weekends and on bank / public holidays.

Fares Capping

In London daily fares capping is based upon a 'touch-in' to start a journey after 04:30 am and a 'touch-in' to start a journey before 04:29 am the next day. This makes it possible for people who have been travelling on public transport during the day to stay up late at night and still benefit from fares capping when they return home (or to their hotel).

The cost of capped fares depends on the zones travelled in and sometimes also the time of day the card is used. For journeys wholly within fares zones 1 - 6 passengers are only charged Daily Anytime caps. Journeys which involve zones 7 - 9 have two daily caps - Daily Anytime and Daily Off-peak. Daily Anytime caps are more expensive but they are only charged if you touch-in at a railway station in the morning rush hour - between 06:30am and 09:30am, Monday - Friday. Daily Off-peak caps are charged if you touch-in at any other time, and all day at weekends and bank holidays. (

In addition to weekly Travelcard fares there is also an automatic Monday to Sunday weekly fares cap. But this is not much use if (for instance) you arrive in London on a Thursday and leave London on the next Wednesday. The weekly fares cap system is still new.

Note that whilst Oyster and other Contactless cards are accepted for travel on the SouthEastern High Speed service between London St Pancras and Stratford International stations, special fares are charged and these are NOT included in the fares capping system.

For passengers who are only travelling by buses and trams the fare system is different - see below.

Pink 'Route Validators'

If a passenger is not travelling via Zone 1 then sometimes the ticketing system will think that you travelled that way even when you did not. Using the pink 'route validator' at interchange stations will usually avoid this issue, although for some journeys the system automatically assumes that you travelled via a specific route no matter the reality.

Smart Card Reality

The RFID electronic cards used by London's Oyster / Contactless electronic ticketing system plus the ITSO compatible cards used outside of London may often be called smart cards, but in reality they are very dumb. This is because they rely on error-prone humans to let the fares calculation system know where the passengers are at the start and end of each journey, plus at interchange locations if they are eligible for cheaper fares.

Maybe one-day there will be no need to have card 'read' at each end of the journey (plus at interchange stations) as the fares system will simply scan people as they walk about... But do people really want to live in a society with a level of electronic surveillance which would mean that their movements are tracked 24/7, no matter where they are?

No Single Day Oyster Pay Once Ride-At-Will Tickets

Even though this option is available in many overseas cities the people who decide London's fares do not want London's railway passengers to buy electronic ticketing variants of the Day Off-Peak Travelcard. They prefer PAYG with fares capping, citing the ability to change one's journey at a whim without having to buy a new ticket as representing some kind of 'holy grail' that makes everything good.

No Problems With Weekly / Other Period Oyster Tickets

There are some people here in London who refuse to use PAYG electronic ticketing. This is because they feel that there are too many problems with failed 'touchings' that result in the system invoking maximum fares - which they see as being charged a penalty fare - even though they have done nothing wrong. These issues do not usually cause problems to passengers with weekly or longer 'Travelcard' period tickets that are loaded on Oyster cards - and who are only travelling within the correct fares zones for their ticket.

Swiping a London RFID Oyster card. . Poster reminding passengers to touch in and out.
Touching an RFID Oyster card on a pink route validator card reader to tell the ticketing computers that I am avoiding Central London's zone 1 and therefore entitled to be charged a cheaper fare for my journey. . Sign reminding passengers using RFID Oyster cards to tell the ticketing system's computer where they are by touching in / out every time they enter or leave a station.

Staying For Several (Or More) Days?

If staying in London for several days and planning on doing a lot of railfanning it might work out more cost-effective to buy a weekly Travelcard season ticket (Also called a '7 Day Anytime' ticket). Providing you stay within the zones of the ticket's validity then there are no journey time limits - especially if you have a paper weekly ticket. If the weekly ticket has been loaded on an Oyster card then providing you load some PAYG value and 'touch-in / out' at both ends of your journey then you are also allowed to travel outside the zones of the ticket's validity. Any extra charges are automatically collected when touching out at the end of that specific journey - but beware of journey time limits. Note that at the present time (2020) these season tickets can only be loaded on ordinary Oyster cards and some types of ITSO smartcards. They can NOT be loaded on to Visitor Oyster cards or used with any type of Contactless payment system.

If you need to travel in Central London Zone 1 then you need to reach the Day Anytime fares cap for five (5) days before it becomes cheaper to buy a 7 Day Anytime ticket. For instance: (2020 prices) ...
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 1-3 is £8.50 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £42.40
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 1-4 is £10.40 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £51.90
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 1-5 is £12.30 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £61.70
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 1-6 is £13.20 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £66.00

Fares Capping always includes Central London Zone 1 so if you do not need to travel in Zone 1 it will work out cheaper to buy a weekly ticket if you are travelling for (depending on zone combinations) either three (3) or four (4) days within a week. For instance: (2020 prices) ...
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 2-3 is £8.50 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £27.00
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 2-4 is £10.40 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £29.90
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 2-5 is £12.30 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £35.90
a Daily Anytime fares cap for Zones 2-6 is £13.20 whilst a 7 Day Anytime ticket is £45.10

Yes the Daily Anytime fares caps are the same whether you travel in Zone 1 or not.

Beware London Overground (East London line) Shoreditch station - this is in Zone 1. Many passengers do not realise this and find themselves having to pay more than they had expected.

Fares information (requires an Adobe Acrobat or compatible file viewer): http://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares-2020.pdf .

Oyster Card Season Tickets And Pink 'Route Validators'

If a Day Anytime season ticket does not include Zone 1 then sometimes the ticketing system will think that you travelled that way even when you did not. Using the pink 'route validator' at interchange stations will usually avoid this issue, although for some journeys the system automatically assumes that you travelled via a specific route no matter the reality.

Note that most 'National Rail' train operators require that passengers with season tickets (even if only for one week) also have a photocard. These are free to obtain and just require a passport type photograph.

BritRail / Eurail Pass? National Rail Railcard? 2FOR1 Discounts

Overseas visitors with BritRail / Eurail passes should check their documentation as it is likely that they will need to buy additional tickets for travelling on the London Underground / DLR / Tramlink. However these passes are accepted on London's suburban trains - including the London Overground, which is also a 'mainline' train service. There could be a grey area where Underground and mainline trains provide shared services - it may be best to only travel on the mainline train, so that even if the Underground train comes first (and is travelling on the same tracks) you stay on the platform / wait for the mainline train.

Holders of National Rail / mainline railway railcards may find that they can benefit from cheaper tickets - a lot depends on the type of card they have. Sometimes the discount can be 'loaded' on to an Oyster card that is registered it in your name, as then the discount is automatically applied. Sometimes it is also possible to buy discounted one day Travelcards - although often on weekdays there is a minimum charge which negates the benefit. The documentation will explain more.

Many London visitor destinations offer discounts (such as 2for1 ie: 2 entry tickets for the price of 1) to passengers who travelled to London by train. Virtually all National Rail / mainline tickets for travel to London are accepted, plus smart cards from National Rail railway companies. This offer also applies to people who have paper One Day Travelcards BUT these MUST be bought at a National Rail / mainline railway station and NOT at an Underground / DLR / Tramlink station or ticket machine. Eurostar tickets, BritRail / Eurail passes, Heathrow Express, Oyster / other Contactless are NOT accepted for this offer. BEWARE: Some transport staff do not understand the significance of where the ticket is bought - you want a ticket which is orange and cream with the National Rail logo (the two half arrows pointing in opposite directions). See the photograph below. NB: the 2FOR1 offer can also be used by people who live in London, but again they must have the 'right' type of ticket!

This link explains more, and you can also download the special vouchers you will need from here:
http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/faqs .

Note that although 2for1 offers are not available to people with Oyster cards a similar scheme especially for passengers with Visitor Oyster cards is also available.
https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/experience-london/special-offers .

All Line Rover?

All Line Rovers are effectively National Rail season tickets which can be used on almost any train on the mainline railway system. This includes London Overground, TFL Rail and virtually all of London's suburban railway network. However, they are NOT accepted on the Underground / DLR / Tramlink, as these are urban railway networks / not part of the mainline / National rail network. They are also not accepted on the privately funded Heathrow Express.

All Line Rovers can be bought by anyone, whether a British resident or otherwise. They are available in 7 and 14 days versions. However, the various private companies which operate the national railway network do not like this ticket because they say that they do not receive enough money from it. Therefore it is hardly ever promoted and can sometimes be difficult to purchase. In addition, in 2011 four longer-distance railway operators (CrossCountry, Virgin Trains East Coast, East Midlands Trains, Virgin Trains West Coast) introduced new rules prohibiting their use to board or alight from trains at 10 railway stations - including several in or near London - before 10:00 in the morning on weekdays (Monday - Friday). However this new rule does not apply at weekends or on bank / public holidays.

More information can be found at this link which leads to information on all the British regional rover tickets
http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/rangers_and_rovers.aspx .

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Open ticket gates in the late evening at London's King Cross station. The 2for1 offer can only be used if passengers have paper tickets for travel to / within London which look like this platform ticket.

Image & license: Ansbaradigeidfran / Wikipedia encyclopædia. CC BY-SA 3.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:National_Rail_platfrom_ticket_Kings_Cross.jpg

Only Travelling By Bus?

London’s buses charge a flat fare irrespective of distance travelled and time of day travelled. Bus passengers only need to 'touch-in' when boarding at the start of the journey.

In London it is NOT possible to pay bus fares in cash.

For people who will only be travelling on buses - and not trains - then using Oyster / Contactless in PAYG mode represents the cheapest way to pay fares.

Hopper Fares

What is called a Hopper fare means that passengers can benefit from an unlimited number of bus journeys within 70 minutes of the 'touch-in' at the start of the first journey. You must still use the card reader when boarding the bus, but you will not be charged anything!

Hopper Fares do not apply to the railways, river buses or Emirates Air line cable cars but the 70 minute rule still applies - even if you travel on any of these between your bus journeys.

Important: The official Hopper fares promotional information quotes a time period of 60 minutes but to allow for clocks to be a few minutes inaccurate and to reduce the chances of an arguement with passengers who feel the bus they were waiting for was late in arriving the system is set for 70 minutes.

Fares Capping

In addition to Hopper Fares bus passengers benefit from fares capping, which means that you will only be charged a maximum of three (3) times per day. In London daily fares capping is based upon a 'touch-in' to start a journey after 04:30 am and a 'touch-in' to start a journey before 04:29 am the next day. For bus passengers the same fare cap applies at all times. There is no 'peak' or 'off-peak'.

Note 1: Because an Oyster card which has a negative PAYG balance is then blocked it must be topped-up and the negative balance cleared before it will allow any free Hopper journeys.

Note 2: Free travel and fares capping only work when you use the same Oyster or other Contactless payment card (or device) at all times.

If staying for five days (or more) then a weekly bus pass might be worthwhile. Typically these are loaded on an ordinary Oyster card (but NOT Visitor Oyster card, Contactless card or smartphone app).

One Day Bus & Tram Pass

Bus passengers who do not have Oyster cards and do not want to use other types of Contactless ticketing can also buy one-day Bus & Tram passes. Although slightly more expensive than the daily fares cap these are ideal for passengers who are only in London for a day or two, who do not wish to use the railways and who want a physical souvenir of their visit. One Day Bus & Tram Passes can only be bought on the day of travel and are valid from 00:01 am on that day and for any journey that starts before 04:30 am the next day.

There are two versions of the One Day Bus & Tram pass, both cost the same.

  1. Printed paper versions are sold by ticket machines at Underground and DLR stations. London Overground and most other National railway stations also sell the paper version although sometimes they have to be bought from staffed ticket offices and not ticket machines.
  2. Oyster smart card One Day Bus & Tram passes are sold at local retail shops (newsagents, etc.,) which are Oyster Ticket Stops and at Visitor Centres. These are special single use smart cards which cannot be used for anything else.

Because London's buses only have one fares zone Day Anytime, Day Off-peak and 7 Day Anytime Travelcard season tickets can be used anywhere in London - even if the ticket is only for railway Zones 1-2, on the buses this ticket can be used to travel in all the zones - and on most of the red London buses which travel outside of London.

Also note that there are a few private bus services in London which do not accept any type of 'London' ticket.

Borismaster / new style Routemaster bus. . Historic Routemaster bus.
The first of the 1000 famous new buses which were created for
(former) Mayor Boris Johnson and are officially called New Routemaster.
These buses are used on over 25 bus routes serving much of
Central London and some suburban districts.
. Unfortunately the original iconic Routemaster buses
are no longer used in London.

There is also a website where it is possible to find the location of any bus is London
http://londonvf.co.uk/. .

Tram Fares

Tram passengers generally pay the same flat fare as bus passengers, and passengers with smartphone apps, Contactless and Oyster cards should use the card readers on the tram stop platforms before boarding the tram. This includes at Elmers End and Wimbledon stations where the trams stop inside the railway stations' fares paid areas. ALL Passengers travelling TO Wimbledon who are using electronic ticketing, no matter what type - ie: even if it is a Travelcard season ticket - are supposed to 'touch-in' before boarding the tram.

It is also possible for passengers interchanging between a tram and a bus (or between two trams) to benefit from the 70 minute Hopper fare for free journeys, as detailed above.

Although the two main railway stations in Croydon are in zone 5 the entire tramway system is a special fares zone and any Day / 7 Day Anytime Travelcard season ticket which is valid in railway zones 3, 4, 5 or 6 can be used on the trams. Note that the need for Travelcards to be valid in at least one of the zones served by the trams is one of the few differences between tram and bus fares.

Tramlink stops used to have ticket machines where passengers could buy tickets using cash. However these were withdrawn in July 2018.

There is more tram ticketing information on the Tramlink page.

Bombardier Croydon Tramlink tram on railway tracks. . Stadtler Croydon Tramlink tram on street tracks.
Modern light rail trams / streetcars combining private right of way and street trackage in and around Croydon,
which is to the south of the Greater London metropolitan area.

River Buses

There are many different river bus operators and they all seem to charge different fare scales. Some of them accept Oyster Cards and even offer discounts for passengers who are using Oyster PAYG or have a Travelcard. River bus fares are not included in fares capping.

London's river bus services vary between tourist-themed leisure cruises and public transport-type services aimed at local people.
This page at the TfL (Transport for London) website offers more detailed information.
https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/find-fares/river-fares ..

Riverbus pier entry. . Tourists buying river cruise tickets in Westminster.
It is possible to use water buses to travel in London, fares vary depending on the company operating the service and
whether it is a tourist-themed leisure cruise or aimed at local people making normal public transport-type journeys.

Cable Cars

The Emirates Air line cable car in east London charges special (higher!) fares. Passengers who pay using Oyster / Contactless in PAYG mode should remember to 'touch-in' at the start of their 'flight' and touch-out on arrival at the other end. Note that the cost of Air line 'flights' is excluded from fares capping. Passengers with Oyster cards may receive discounts which are not available to passengers who pay their fares in a different way.

Passengers with paper tickets and Travelcard season tickets (of whatever type) will also need to pay an extra fare but should let the ticket staff know about their other tickets as these too may entitle the holder to a discount / cheaper fare. Passengers who wish to travel on a 360° 'out and back' ride should visit the ticket office to buy a special two-way pass.

Between 10:00 and 15:00 (10am and 3pm) flights normally take about 10 minutes. Note that for the benefit of regular passengers who commute on the cable car earlier and later flights will usually take about 5 minutes, and that at very busy times daytime flights may be speeded up as well, so as to reduce queueing / waiting times.

Realistically, as long as passengers with prepaid Travelcard Season Tickets have to pay a surcharge to travel on the cable car and the fare charged to PAYG passengers is not included in daily and weekly price capping, the cable car will remain a niche tourist ride that is of little use for the people who live in the local area.

Emirates Air line cable car. . Emirates Air line cable car.
Emirates Royal Victoria cable car terminus and some cranes from when the Royal Victoria Dock was a working dockyard. Close nearby is Royal Victoria DLR station. . Two Emirates Air line cable cars and an aircraft (seen near the top of the image) pass by the distinctively styled Crystal building, close to Royal Victoria DLR station.


In London cryptocurrencies (eg: Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, etc.,) are NOT accepted for fares payments.


The railways say that their trains and stations are private property to which the public are only admitted for the purpose of travelling - and not ‘railfanning’ or filming. That said, as a general theme the 15 different organisations which operate local railway services within London tolerate amateur photography anywhere where passengers are admitted and whilst the passenger is passing through the station as part of a journey from A to B. A few train operators only permit photography in bad grace and mainly because so many people / tourists have mobile phones with cameras nowadays that it is virtually impossible (and represents bad ‘public relations’) to even try and stop them taking photographs - especially of family groups (for instance: standing next to a station name sign).

Railfans should note that if intending to stay at one station for longer than the next train they are supposed to visit the station master’s office and let them know who you are and why you are there. Some station staff might ask what you are doing or even tell you photography is not allowed. This is NOT correct but alas, some station staff like to make their own rules. (This can also happen because they were not trained properly when they started their job). It is important to understand that there is a high state of alert about a possible terrorist attack so you may be questioned by the police if taking photos. This has happened to me, several times. Of course answering truthfully about who you are, what you are doing and why is the only way to keep the authorities happy - and it saves you having to remember your previous answers. Sometimes it is useful to have a few ‘railfan’ style magazines (etc) which can be shown to anyone who questions your interest in transport. Whilst we here in Britain do not need to always carry identity cards / internal passports with us, it can be useful to have something with your name and address just in case the police decide to verify that you are of no interest to them.

metal mesh railings block view from railway bridge. . vegetation partially blocks view from railway bridge
Open-air sections of railway often have bridges over them, especially near to stations. Online maps and 'street view' camera systems represent the best way to find these, although for some locations whilst it is easy enough to see the trains the security fencing can make photography a challenge. West Hampstead Jubilee line station. . Another hazard with attempting to photograph from bridges comes from vegetation, especially in spring, summer and autumn.
This view shows Piccadilly line trains at Sudbury Town station.

If you are stopped by any official (especially a security guard) for using your camera try to put it away (a zipped pocket is ideal) as quickly as possible. By law only a judge in a court of law has the right to demand that you delete your photographs from your camera. So it is actually a criminal offence for any police officer or member of station / railway staff to force you to do this. If in the unlikely event you are asked to do this its best to try to avoid confrontation by suggesting that you will leave the station on the next train (and of course you must then do this). If the official is really intent on you deleting your images then refuse and demand to see a superior officer. Whilst it is unlikely that events will reach this stage you should note that a police officer can confiscate your memory cards to use in a court of law at a later date.

There is a known issue (that is, known amongst ordinary people - officialdom seem to be blind to this) where some people who wear official uniforms (especially PCSO's - Police Constable Support Officers and private security guards) do not seem to understand that photography is permitted and even within the general street scene harass otherwise innocent people who are using cameras. There was one extreme example where someone believed to be a PCSO told some Austrian tourists that it was illegal to photograph buses and that they must delete their images. Tragically the tourists did not know better and complied with this request - just because someone may be an overseas visitor does not give people in authority the right act illegally.

At some stations the station master interprets the photography rule as being that whilst still image cameras are acceptable, video cameras are not.

As a general guide tripods should not be used, as they create a tripping hazard. Tripods are prohibited at London Underground stations. Also railfans should be sensitive in their subject material and try to avoid photographing people - especially ‘close-up’. Even though this is sometimes done with the CCTV surveillance cameras (albeit without the person being filmed realising it) few passengers like camera-wielding railfans being intrusive with their photography.

It is strictly forbidden to use flash or other artificial lighting on station platforms. Especially not when filming trains entering stations as it can induce short-term blindness for train drivers whose eyes have become accustomed to the dark tunnels. You may be asked to leave the station if you break this rule.

Another issue is that the press officers / media centres of some of London's rail operators are so concerned about their public image that they want to maintain 100% control of anything that shows or visually represents the transport services they provide. It is if anything an understatement to say that their attitude is one of a   paranoid fear   that people with cameras (even tourists) have the sole desire to use whatever they photograph in ways which damage the reputation of the organisation. This attitude is of course quite normal for large commercial companies, with it even having happened that they threaten transport enthusiasts who create personal websites (such as this) with prosecution (slander / libel etc) for saying things about them which they do not like. Not me, thankfully, but it has happened... of course no names will be revealed here!

The topic of harrassment of people using cameras is also raised on one of the Nostalgia, Heritage & Leisure pages on the citytransport.info web site ..

Advice If Asked To Pay An 'On The Spot' Fine

British police do not ask for money so you should NEVER be asked to pay a fine to someone who claims to be a police officer. If in doubt ask to see a superior police officer.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Recording images of something it was known was about to become history - Surrey Quays station, East London line, just weeks before the prolonged closure for rebuilding into part of the London Overground network. People in Strasbourg, France, photographing an historical
artifact which has been preserved for the benefit of future
generations (historic rolling stock).

Why Taking Photographs Is Important And Good

Photography is a creative activity which expands upon an historic meme of recording events which in later years will be of interest to historians and the wider population, helping future generations discover and understand how people lived in times past and how that era contributed towards creating the society in which we live today. In 'olden times' this data recording might have included paintings, mosaics, rock / cave wall art, statues, busts, miniature models, etc.

Photography also conforms with the important ethical motto of doing no harm unto others and the moral code which requires that people
take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

Further Reading / Second Opinion

For further reading about railway photography this page at the District Dave London Underground themed discussion forum may be of interest. Although the page is titled "Photography on the Underground: Rules and Advice" it also looks at the Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink and the mainline railways (including Network Rail).
http://districtdave.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=selfhelp&action=display&thread=6610 .

Links to web pages published on the websites of local governments, transport operators and the police which include information that may be of interest to transport enthusiasts. Some of these links also require the use of a portable document pdf reader, such as Adobe Acrobat.

Question to the Mayor of London on the topic of permitting photographs on TfL property at a meeting of the London Assembly.
https://london.gov.uk/questions/2017/1791 .

Transport for London Conditions of Carriage.
http://content.tfl.gov.uk/tfl-conditions-of-carriage.pdf .

Filming & photography on TfL - the information here is mostly for professional film crews, not amateurs filming on their own or people taking family snapshots with small hand-held cameras.
https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/filming-and-photography/filming-and-photography-on-tfl?intcmp=1594 .

Network Rail guidelines for taking photos at stations (mostly applies to large city centre stations).
https://networkrail.co.uk/communities/railway-enthusiasts/guidelines-for-taking-photos-at-stations/ .

Advice for Rail Enthusiasts visiting stations on the National Rail network.
https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/51952.aspx .

British Transport Police information for rail enthusiasts.
http://btp.police.uk/advice_and_information/safety_on_and_near_the_railway/rail_enthusiasts.aspx .

Photography advice from the Metropolitan Police.
https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/ph/photography-advice/ .

So, What To See????

As a general guide all services in the Central London area are below ground, whilst the services which reach the suburbs travel in the open air. People who just wish to sample a 'tube' train can do so by travelling on any of the 'small profile' lines as listed below. Just expect to be in a deep level subterranean section of railway.

If you would like to see detailed diagrams showing track layouts and on which side of the track station platforms are located, then the London maps at this website may be of interest.
http://cartometro.com/metro-tram-london/ .
More links to websites of interest can be found on the further information resources page.

To make planning easier this guide lists services line by line, detailing what part of the line is below ground, what part is in 'open air' and some other information which may be of interest. Because of the extensive interworking of some services some sections of line are also detailed in a separate page which looks at routes with shared services.

. .
this page
. .
London Underground
Small Profile ‘Tube’ Trains
. .
London Underground
Large Profile
‘Subsurface’ Trains
. .
National Rail ‘Tube’ Trains .
. .
Other National Rail Trains .
. .
Local Light Railways .
. .
General Information .
. .
. Flag Counter

The background image.
The background image for these pages: a tiled mural at Kings Cross station (Pentonville Road entrance) which celebrates the merging of London Transport and British Railways services when the north-south Thameslink service was introduced.
Note that this station entrance is closed at weekends.

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Most recent update: 8th January 2023
(The page about the Elizabeth line has been significantly updated to reflect the full opening of the new-build sections of railway).

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