Transport for London – Part 1 – When you don’t travel through Zone 1, but TfL thinks you must!

For those unfamiliar with fares in London, they are, like many European cities based on a zoning system. The zones run from the centre and each station is in one or two zones.

a map of a subway system with London Underground in the background

The zones are important as they are used to calculate your fare on the tube. (Buses have a standard fare per journey).

If you buy a season ticket that includes the central zone, Zone 1, then the price is significantly higher than just having a season ticket for other zones. For example, my Zones 2-4 season ticket is £1,008, whereas if it included Zone 1 it would be £1,744. I don’t travel to Zone 1.

Now, if I have to travel around in Zones 2-4 I am careful not to enter Zone 1. However, it now turns out that just avoiding Zone 1 is not enough, TfL require you to use one their approved routes.

Take my recent journey from Finsbury Park to London City Airport. My chosen route is via Highbury and Islington and Shadwell, but this is a chargeable route. You have to go via Stratford which is much slower and involves a set of stairs where there is no lift as an alternative in order not to have to pay TfL extra.

a map of a subway system

And how do TfL expect you to know this? Why of course you use their web site and their Single Fare calculator:

a screenshot of a website

The link is here.

Madness if you ask me!


  1. How long is a season ticket valid? I hope it’s a year since $1,500 to $2,700 sounds pretty steep for anything shorter!

  2. @George – well you go through Z1, but there are special exceptions for Shoreditch which means it is not supposed to count for fares as being in Z1

  3. Poster at my station says if you travel via Shoreditch you must buy zone 1 ticket. What exceptions are you referring to? This is very interesting. You could save me a lot of money! 🙂

  4. At least the London system has the possibility of using the pink route validators to not be charged for traveling through zone 1. Stockholm isn’t so lucky.

    There you have to pay for zone A even if you never went through it on your way from zone B or C in the north to B or C in the south, there are however very few working connections, but a few.

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