Transport for London (TfL) is trialling a new way of making the tap-in/out payment points in DLR stations more obvious to passengers and encouraging more people to tap to pay for their trips.

As most of the DLR stations don’t have ticket barriers, there’s a certain level of trust that people tend to do the right thing and pay for transport, and the vast majority do pay to take a ride on the DLR.

However, not everyone does, and in addition to in-train checks, the DLR carries out around 40 inspections at stations every 4-weeks – where a load of staff check tickets as people leave.

During a question and answer session at the GLA, Richard Graham, KeolisAmey Docklands Managing Director said that the station “blocks” where they check everyone’s ticket detect around one percent of passengers are not paying their fare, although it’s expected that the real figure is higher as people avoid the station if they hear an inspection is taking place. The average across TfL is about 3 to 4 percent.

However, away from deliberate evasion, there’s always going to be some accidents, and a trial is underway to see if increasing the visibility of the touchpads as people enter and leave the station will reduce accidentally forgetting to tap-in/out when people use the DLR. And maybe also nudge people into reducing fare evasion as well.

Trish Ashton, TfL’s Director of Rail & Sponsored Services explained at the same meeting that they are testing with an illuminated sign on the floor as standard stickers tend to fade and get dirty. She also noted that over time, people get used to stickers and they become “wallpaper” rather than something people pay attention to, so hopefully the illuminated spot on the ground will be much more obvious.

Floor illuminated spot at Shadwell DLR station (c) ianVisits

The issue they are addressing, apart from reminding people to tap on them, is that due to constraints about power supplies, some ticket readers might not be in the most obvious locations, so would some form of improved signage help increase use.

The projector mounted above the card reader (c) ianVisits

As there are people counters in stations, they can compare ticket taps to passenger numbers to look for discrepancies to see where there might be an issue that needs addressing.

However, as Tom Page, TfL’s General Manager of DLR, explained that’s never a direct match as a large portion of customers don’t need to tap when using the DLR. Examples such as freedom pass users or TfL staff members were cited. They do look for changes and patterns that might suggest fare evasion, or accidental avoidance is becoming a problem.

However, the trials, currently at Shadwell and Cyprus DLR stations do appear to be showing a shrinking of the gap between passenger numbers and taps on the ticket machine.

Trish Ashton confirmed that the trial has had “pretty good success rates in additional taps”, so they’re looking at rolling them out more broadly, although at this stage no timeframe was available.

Although that can be expected to lead to increased revenue from fares, it can also reduce it — as people sometimes forget to tap out and can end up paying more than expected. If they’ve registered an account on TfL’s website, then a refund is easy to arrange, but preventing the accident in the first place would be better.

Shadwell station, showing a ticket reader with floor sticker, one without, and the illuminated ticket reader (c) ianVisits

Updated 20th Dec – the 40 inspections are per period (4-weeks), not per year as originally stated.


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  1. Brian Butterworth says:

    Perhaps if TfL could lower itself to making the displays on all of the DLR ticket machines work so you can see that you have managed to tap in or out, that would be great too.

    Not a month goes by when I don’t have to go to the website to tell the system it missed my tap in/out at a DLR station (Stratford International most often) because the machine didn’t work but the display is broken so you never know.

    • Tom Page says:

      Hey Brian. This isn’t great – sorry to hear it. Let me know if there are other locations that Stratford International and I’ll look into it. Whenever we’re aware of a fault with the validators we do report and follow up straight away, so sorry we’ve let you down here.

  2. Andrew says:

    our visit to London before the last one, we forgot to tap on at a DLR station. The tap on point was just not in our way or obvious. We were already used to Tube barrier tapping on, the same as we have in Melbourne, Australia. If there aren’t barriers, we pass through an entrance point with readers either side as you enter. If we catch a tram or a bus, we tap on inside the vehicle.

  3. NG says:

    In the past, I’ve been told by ticket inspectors that the fail/no valid rate is about 1.5% & about half of them are forgot/missed/”oops!” & the other half are genuine evaders

  4. Beth says:

    Anecdotally, I think evasion is on the rise. Only yesterday, had someone slip in behind me through the barrier, and they will also find a way of avoiding a ticket inspection. The only people that get caught up in those checks are those who have made a genuine mistake.

  5. George says:

    What about their drivers who let certain people on without paying?

  6. AndyH says:

    More machines would help too, not nearly enough at busy stations like Heron Quay

  7. Armi says:

    Yeah last week 9 travels with tfl with delays over 15 min… I think you reached the level when people going sue you or break your stuff

  8. Richard King says:

    I forgot to tap out the other day on a trip to London. Why can’t they have a line of machines like in a normal station exit?

  9. Alex says:

    One thing that puzzles me is why the DLR platforms 4a/4b at Stratford have yellow exit readers. Because as far as I can tell, there’s no way to exit Stratford without going past another set at some barriers. Sure, you can change lines, but then they ought to be pink ‘change line’ readers not yellow ‘entry/exit’ readers.

    • Jimmy says:

      The obvious one – getting on a train. If you’re changing to a train outside of Oyster zones into Essex and you’ve got a TfL service into Stratford, you’ll want to end your Oyster journey somewhere. It’s the same reason they have yellow pads on the other platforms too.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for that Jimmy – I should have guessed

  10. Dan says:

    Gets super complicated. I was charged 2 full single fares once as I had changed from DLR to tube without realising that i had to tap out at the DLR platform before tapping in at the Tube barrier. Was too used to changing between underground lines where no tap is required.
    Got refunded as it was clear what my actual journey was but far too easy to get mixed up

  11. Tom Page says:

    Hey Ian, good write up as ever! There’s a small mistake – we run about 40 revenue station “blocks” per period, not per year. Periods are a funny railway term for one thirteenth of the year. You can see this being said at about 0:49:55 in the video of the event (

  12. Jimmy says:

    I do find it odd how attached the DLR is to not having ticket barriers. While it’s definitely enabled them to build better stations in a lot of places where a whole ticket barrier layer would make things complicated, there are definitely some stations with only one or two exits that could fit them in easily enough, and stations like Bank and Stratford seem to survive having them behind the gate line. Would it be that difficult to just put gates in at, say, Cutty Sark or Stratford International, or to have Custom House all behind one gate line instead of a weird internal gate linr?

    • Keith says:

      Presumably installing ticket barriers would require a member of staff to be present at the station when its open, and for that station to have some basic staff facilities. Some of the DLR stations I’ve visited in the past have been seemingly unmanned.

    • Tim Conlan says:

      Keith is correct, you need staff to operate gates in case there are any issues.
      Hardly any of the DLR stations I use have staff, plus where exactly would you put them? Most of the stations are what I call open plan and it would take a massive reconfiguration to get gates fitted and at a huge cost. Plus people jump barriers.

  13. Chris Quish says:

    Cracking down on every fare “evader” would likely be loss to the economy.Most people just need to fetvto work and back. Especially if irs their first week or month in the job. TFL should work with the DWP on a scheme for these people otherwise how would anyone be able to afford to start a job or get a new job?

  14. Chris Quish says:

    Cracking down on every fare “evader” would likely be loss to the economy. Most people just need to get
    to work and back. Especially if it’s their first week or month in the job. Alternatively perhaps TFL should work with the DWP on a scheme for these people otherwise how would anyone be able to afford to start a job or get a new job within London many travel zones?

  15. Geoff Cosson says:

    There is quite an issue at Stratford, where people regularly squeeze in behind you at the barrier.
    Staff just stand and watch.
    I accept that staff don’t relish abuse or a confrontation, but there must be some answer?

  16. Tim Conlan says:

    Tom Page states that those with Freedom passes don’t need to tap in or out. This isn’t true, I have been told that if I don’t I could be liable for a fine.
    The other issue with fare evaders is that when they get stopped on the DLR train and checked by the train operative there is little they can do without stopping the train. They ask the evader to get off at the next stop and buy a ticket which to me doesn’t sound much of a deterrent.
    Fare evasion on the DLR is rife.

  17. Chris Quish says:

    Job centre plus run a scheme for those who have been claiming UC but not everyone is on UC when they start a new job. The scheme is called support funding and I’m not sure but I’d be very surprised they would pay e.g. zone 5 to zone 1 abs back evert day for a month. Like most things in life people just need to stop worrying so much. TFL are hardly on their uppers and London would be an even worse and even more gentrified place if only very well off people could travel around as well as is currently the case the only people able to afford to rent or buy property there. Ken Livingstones GLC had the right idea!

  18. Tony Skinner says:

    When I go on the DLR it is usually with a One Day Travelcard, these do not get swiped in any way unless by a ticket machine.

  19. Billy says:

    As a student that uses the dlr pretty much everyday, not just for school I don’t pay ever for the dlr. I worked out that in a year I would spend over £1000 just for the dlr. No thanks, I like having that extra grand in my pocket

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