Child Fares on London’s Underground, Buses & Public Transport 2016
Author: Bob Handford
Child fares on London\’s Underground and Buses are very complicated and fragmented. Every year on January 2nd ticket regulations and prices are reviewed and normally the authorities tinker around to a lesser or greater degree with the child travel concessions.
This piece tries to explain as simply as possible the situation for your child, some workarounds to get around some of the restrictions and if you still don\’t understand an opportunity to discuss and perhaps add to this piece.
At one extreme your child may travel free everywhere, at the other end of the spectrum if unprepared you may end up paying adult fare – so its worthwhile making sure you understand the following:
Free & Reduced Child Fares Entitlement By Ageband
Children under five can travel free at any time on the Tube (underground), DLR, buses and trams in London as long as they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. Simple
Under-11s can travel free at any time on buses and trams. Simple
They can also travel free at any time on the Tube and DLR (Docklands Light railway) when they are traveling with an adult who has a valid ticket. Up to 4 children under 11 years old accompanied by a paying adult travel free on the London Underground. Simple
Unaccompanied children between 5 and 10 must have a valid Oyster Photocard for free travel. (Ah yes, the Photocard we\’ll come back to these)
Children aged 11 to 15 years must get an 11-15 Oyster photocard to travel free on buses and trams and at child-rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services.
(Simple? – its the two words Oyster Photocard that creates the problems for visitors – see below.)
But wait! – if you are only visiting London for 2 weeks or less and have a child between 11 and 15 there is a scheme aimed squarely at you and its called the Young Visitor Discount. which enables you to skip the need for an Oyster ID card.
If you are visiting London for up to 14 days and have a child between 11 and 15, do read the Young Visitor Discount section below..
In the UK you become an adult when you are 16. However in London it is possible to get child fares by getting an Oyster 16+ Oyster ID Card.
It is very similar to 11-15 Oyster Photocards, but you cannot use it to buy 1 Day Travelcards.
Simple? – again, its the two words Oyster Photocard that creates the problems for visitors – see below.
If you are studying at a recognised educational establishment in London that is registered for the scheme and you are residing in London you can apply for a Student card
This enables you to get 30% discount off bus and Travelcards of 7 days or longer
Only for students studying and residing in London, first step is to check with your educational place to see if they are registered.
The Young Visitor Discount - For Children Between 11 & 15 In London < 15 days
If you are visiting London and traveling with children aged 11 to 15 that haven\’t got an Oyster photocard; and are in town less than 2 weeks then the Young Persons Discount is probably your solution. The Young Persons Discount loaded onto an adult Oyster Card gives you half adult rate Oyster fares and caps for up to 14 days.
The official rules read.
The Young Visitor discount can only be set onto Oyster Cards and Visitor Oyster Cards at:
– Any Underground station – note manned ticket offices are closing fast, the last ones are due to close by April 2016. Members of staff will be available in the ticket hall with the ticket machines – make contact with a member of staff to have the Young Persons Discount loaded onto the Oyster.
– TfL Rail station ticket offices
– Visitor or Travel Information Centres (Gatwick & Heathrow Airports, Liverpool Street, Euston, Paddington and Kings Cross Railway Stations and Piccadilly Circus Underground Station)
– Victoria Station National Railways Ticket office
To get the Young Visitor discount::
You and your child must be together at the ticket office when asking for it to be set
No proof of age or identity is required, but you might be asked to confirm the child’s age. One adult can get the Young Visitor discount set for up to four children
The Young Visitor discount gives half adult rate pay as you go fares on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services for up to 14 days and also gives your child a daily cap half that of an adult.
After 14 days the discount will expire and the Oyster card will charge full adult rate fares.
The discount can be set on both regular Oyster Cards and Visitor Oyster cards.
Child Rate Oyster Cards & Oyster Photo ID Cards
Today with Oyster Cards, age bands, automated ticket barriers and such like much stricter controls are needed to avoid fraud.
The system is no real problem if you are a London resident with a young child. Take a little time for the initial registration process to get your Oyster Photocard and thats your passport to free and half price public transport until you are an adult. When you want a child travel product, just produce your Oyster Photoard. If a ticket inspector see\’s you are using a child Oyster and you look a little old for it, the Oyster Photocard is demanded as proof.
For visitors its a hassle you can do without and often its too late when you do find out the hoops you have to jump through to get child fares via the Oyster Photocard.
First of all, the recurrent question from visitors – my child has got a passport with his/her age on it, isn\’t that good enough as ID?.
I\’m afraid the answer is no, you need London\’s unique Oyster Photocard, nothing else.
How Do I Get An Oyster Photocard?
If you are a resident of London, its quite straight forward. Get a form from your local Post Office and fill it in, then return to the Post Office with the fee, a passport size photo plus birth certificate or passport and you should get it in 2 weeks.
If you are resident in the UK then you have to do the process on-line, you\’ll get the Photocard within 4 weeks.
Now the aspects of Oyster Photocard that works against visitors from overseas. The Oyster Photocard costs between £10-£20 per child and you need to order the Oyster Photocard at least 3 weeks ahead on-line.
It won’t be sent to your home address, you have to collect it from a small number of visitor centres in London, (Heathrow Airport or Liverpool Street, Victoria, Kings Cross or Euston Stations)
The application web page is: https://photocard.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gotoApply.do?type=under18&res=false&from=home
Can I Get Around The Child Oyster Photocard Requirement
There are four main ways of getting around the need for an Oyster Photocard to get half price child fares if your child is under 16 and isn\’t entitled to free travel.
1) Use the Young Persons Discount facility (see section above) loaded onto an Oyster card.
2) The first is to buy a 1 day child Travelcard, (it doesn\’t need Oyster Photocard), but a 7 day child Travelcard does.
3) The second is to buy Travelcards from a railway (not Underground) ticket office. The railways have their own ticketing system but sell Travelcards at their Central London stations. Perhaps bizarely the railways issue their photo id cards free of charge, but they can only be used to buy tickets sold from a railway ticket office. So for a 7 day Travelcard you can walk up to a railway ticket office with a passport size photo of your child, buy a 7 day child Travelcard and a railway photo id will be issued on the spot. Note: only railway stations in Central London sell Travelcards (e.g. Paddington, Euston, Kings Cross, St Pancras, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Charing Cross, Waterloo and Victora), they do not sell Travelcards at the railway station ticket offices of London\’s airports.
Another minor complication is that at railway ticket offices adults need a photo id card to buy adult 7 day Travelcards, whereas this is not a requrement at TFL outlets like Underground Stations.
The other bonus with buying Travelcards from a railway station is that it qualifies you for the railways 2 for 1 sightseeing promotion.
4) The third work around is that you can buy 7 Day Child Travelcards without any photo id on-line from the TFL / Visit Britain on-line shop and have them delivered to your home, including overseas. There is a delivery charge.
5) Use the Young Visitor Discount applied on Oyster Cards. This gives you up to 14 days half price travel on an Oyster Card for 11-15 year olds who do not have an Oyster ID card. Its not the golden bullet solution the headline suggests, so read the section above this carefully.
Free Travel - How Do I Get my Child Through the Ticket Barriers Without A Ticket?
London\’s buses are ticketless, so no problem there.
On the Underground and DLR and suburban railways you have to pass through a ticket barrier where you need to insert a valid ticket for verification before the barrier is raised. If your child is entitled to free travel you do not get a ticket that costs nothing, instead you need to get a member of staff to let your child through the manned barrier onto the platforms.
London's Urban Railways
For visitors it can be very confusing as the national railways only offer free child travel to children under 5 years.
The London Underground and the DLR (Docklands Light railway) use the TFL ticketing rules where children under 11 travel free without a ticket.
Rail services designated as the Overground or TFL Rail also use TFL ticketing rules.
The rest of the train services are run by the railways where only children under 5 travel free. To complicate things further, in the last few years many lines have transfered from railways operated to the Overground or TFL Rail networks.
The good news is that a simple map has been produced depicted which suburban lines a child under 11 can travel free and which do not.
Map Of Suburban Railways Offering Free Travel For Those Between 5 and 11 Years Old