Free Tube and bus travel in London as Oyster card reader glitch coincides with first day of higher fares

Transport for London said the fault was fixed by 11am and the system was working as normal

Londoners and tourists woke up on Saturday morning to find public transport unexpectedly free across the capital, thanks to a technical glitch.

Barriers at many Tube stations were left open and no payment was required on buses because of a fault with sensors that read Oyster and contactless payment cards.

It came as Transport for London’s (TfL) annual New Year fare rises kicked in, with an average increase of one per cent across the network.

A spokesperson said contractors were working to fix the glitch as soon as possible but commuters were in no hurry.

“Thanks @TfL,” wrote one passenger on Twitter. “I was expecting to pay the new 2nd of Jan fares in the tube but the whole oyster ticketing system is down! Free journey for me!”

“Time to use the tube. The Oyster system is down and everyone is travelling free!” another person encouraged.

Others called the fault an “unexpected blessing”, although some people found that their contactless cards were still working.

Public transport in London is normally only free for a brief period overnight on New Year’s Eve, when fares are waived between 11.45pm and 4.30am to allow party-goers to get home.

A spokesperson for TfL said: “We are experiencing technical issues with our Oyster card readers this morning. 

“We are working extremely hard with our contractors to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In the meantime, customers can continue to travel across the Tube, bus and rail networks. We apologise for this disruption.”

The fault was fixed by 11am and the system is now working as normal.

The Oyster is a plastic smartcard which can be used for pay-as-you-travel fares as well as for travelcards, bus and tram passes. 

The card can be used to travel on bus, Tube, tram, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services in London.

Additional reporting by PA

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