A close shave?

13 May 2014

A recent Sunday trip provided a salutary reminder of how easily you can get into trouble for having the ‘wrong’ train ticket.

Going down to Sevenoaks to see my Dad with the family we struggled through Bank Holiday London Bridge crowds, skirting around the various building works. Did not quite have enough time to renew my Network Card (one-third discount on off-peak rail fares in London and the South East). So I simply asked for two adults, two children day return – with one of the adult tickets from the edge of Zone 3 (covered by my Travelcard – I wonder how many passengers know they get credit for Zonal travel when going beyond?).

Later on my wife and the children came back before I did. As I looked at my rail ticket I realised that the Network Card discount had been applied – the expired card was in my Travelcard wallet. So, if challenged my wife could not produce the rail card – this could of led to her being issued with a Penalty Fare. So she would have fallen foul of the rules despite no intent to defraud the railway and having no knowledge that she was breaking the rules.

I renewed my Network Card on the way home. There had been no ticket checks on the train, so my wife wasn’t challenged. Yes, we were in the wrong but had not tried to cheat. Passenger Focus handles ‘appeal’ complaints that train companies and passengers cannot settle. We see some really bad cases where passengers get threatened with prosecution and worse when they can prove subsequently they had a railcard or had made an innocent mistake. That’s why we are putting a lot of effort into this issue, not to support fare cheats, but to ensure innocent passengers get treated fairly. We are making progress and the rail industry is listening, but we still see far too many cases where the passenger is heavily penalised. Customer care does not seem to come into it sometimes.

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