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Can I board a train if the ticket office queue is too long?

The rail industry standards on queuing time are that operators must make “reasonable endeavours” so that no one has to queue for more than five minutes during peak periods and three minutes during off-peak periods. A sign at the station should advise when peak periods occur.  If you decide to board a train without a ticket, as the queue at the ticket office and/or ticket machine was too long and by queuing you would miss the train, it is advisable to get permission from station staff and/or seek out the conductor aboard the train and explain the situation.  If you are given permission to board without a ticket we recommend that you take the name of the member of staff.

If you do get on the train without having bought a ticket and there were facilities to pay, or you did not get permission from station staff to get on without a ticket, you may be prosecuted for fare evasion, charged the full fare for the journey or issued with a penalty fare.

We receive complaints from passengers who have boarded trains as the queue for tickets was too long to allow ticket purchase before the train leaves, who have received a penalty fare, if the train company cannot establish the situation at the station at the time.  Station operators are supposed to monitor queue times to ensure that they comply with the three- and five-minute queue times.  We encourage them to do so and to publish the results, although most will not publish them. 

Where it is not possible to pay before boarding the train (for instance, because the station is unstaffed and has no ticket machine) you may board the train and pay the usual fare during the journey.

  • Train
  • Fares and ticketing


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