Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 10 August 2023 asking for information about our bus policies.
Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy. I can confirm that we hold the information you require. Your questions and our replies are as follows:
Is it TFL policy that a child who has mislaid his or her Oyster card will be refused travel to and from school by bus?
No it is not TfL policy for a child to be refused travel. The safety and security of all Londoners is one of our top priorities, and we provide guidance to all bus drivers and revenue inspectors on the approach for those passengers that may be deemed as vulnerable. We provide guidance to bus drivers in the Big Red Book; page 140 of the Big Red Book states that drivers should not leave a vulnerable person stranded (including young people). The most recent edition of the Big Red book is published here in response to a previous FOI request: https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/transparency/freedom-of-information/foi-request-detail?referenceId=FOI-0821-2021
Further, is it also policy that if such a child has already boarded he or she be ejected or fined? Do any age restrictions apply?
Passengers over the age of 13 who do not have a ticket or authority to travel on a bus who encounter a TfL revenue inspector could be issued with a Penalty Fare. In the circumstances that a ZIP Oyster card is confiscated for a breach of the Behaviour Code, a TfL revenue inspector can issue a temporary authority to travel to ensure a young person can complete their journey. Revenue Inspectors follow established irregularities procedure which states that passengers under the of 18 must not be removed from a bus.
If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable to access it for any reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I've been hearing worrying stories on the grapevine lately about schoolgirls being thrown off buses for forgetting their Oyster cards in circumstances that leave them vulnerable. I've even heard of other passengers who have offered to pay their fares. I fired off an FOI request to TFL and got the answer above which seems to say this shouldn't happen. Further research is required. It would be odd if several people were, independently, to make it up.