A ‘Freedom Pass’ is supposed to mean freedom for the 900,000 London residents who obtain the free to use travel ticket.
The London Councils-funded scheme allows people with specific mobility needs and those aged above the state pension age who live in the capital to travel for free within the capital on all TfL and most National Rail services after 9.30am on weekdays and all days on weekends.
However, when travelling outside of London, these passes only allow for free travel on buses, not National Rail. This means Freedom Pass holders have to buy a ticket to make a journey that goes outside of Zone six, with the exception of a handful of stations with exemptions.
You might think that would mean taking a train to the last station in Zone six, touching the Freedom Pass out on the yellow reader and then buying a new ticket to get an onward train to the final destination.
Alternatively, you might just bite the bullet and pay the full ticket price for a faster, direct train.
However, there’s a loophole that saves all of that added time and money called the ‘boundary fare’.
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(Image: Callum Marius)
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Boundary fares are little-known tickets which can be purchased at staffed National Rail ticket counters. They cannot usually be bought from ticket machines and are almost impossible to book over the phone or online.
In fact, this is currently the subject of a £93million lawsuit which is being brought forward by a group of passengers against Southeastern and SWR, two South London rail companies.
They allow someone with a valid ticket (such as a Freedom Pass) to travel up to the boundary of the zone their ticket is valid for (in the case of Freedom Passes, this is usually Zone six), to then buy a ticket to get them to their final destination outside of London.
The crucial difference is that you do not have to take a slower train which stops at the final station in Zone six if you have a boundary ticket, meaning you can save time and money.
For example, say you have a Freedom Pass and need to make an off-peak journey from West Hampstead Thameslink (zone two) to St Albans City (outside of London).
With the boundary fare exemption you do not have to take a slow train to Borehamwood (zone six), touch out your Freedom Pass, buy a ticket to St Albans City and get on the next train there in a time-consuming journey which would take 38 minutes and cost £5.40.
Nor would you have to fork out for an adult single on the faster, direct train to St Albans City for £12.50.
Instead, you can buy a ticket from the counter at West Hampstead Thameslink to St Albans City from “Boundary of Zone six” to St Albans City and then touch in with your Freedom Pass.
With this fare, you can take the faster, direct train non-stop to St Albans City taking just 12 minutes and then exit the station using the boundary fare ticket. Altogether you can save £7.10 and 26 minutes!
Crucially, you do not need to touch out with your Freedom Pass as long as you have that boundary ticket. Although you would have to for any other journey entirely within London, a boundary ticket ensures you have a valid ticket for your journey as “Boundary of Zone six” is not a physical station where you can touch in and out.
TfL and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which provide National Rail services in London have both confirmed the unusual arrangement is valid.
An RDG spokesperson told MyLondon: “As the authority to travel (Freedom Pass) is valid within a defined area, it does not require a journey to be ended by touching out. The TfL back office system just assumes that a journey was ended at a station within its area of validity.”
The arrangement is outlined in Condition 14.2 of the National Rail conditions of travel, which states: “If you are using a Season Ticket, daily Zonal Ticket, or another area based Ticket such as a concessionary pass, ranger or rover in conjunction with another Ticket and the last station at which one Ticket is valid and the first station that the other Ticket is valid are the same, then the train does not need to call at that station for your combination to be valid.”
This condition covers Freedom Pass holders with boundary fares who take fast trains which do not stop at the boundary stations in Zone 6. Long story short, if you have a Freedom Pass, this could save you plenty of time and money on your next frolic outside of the capital.
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