Success for rail passengers: reform of penalty fares

12 December 2016

There is something for passengers to applaud on this cool, damp December day. Over the weekend the Government announced that it would be making changes to what is known as the Penalty Fares System. While quite technical, it can cause much distress to passengers.

More than six years ago we were noticing in our complaints postbag that quite a few passengers were being treated harshly when making an honest mistake with their tickets. One common mistake was forgetting to take a railcard on a journey. An easy mistake to make.

We understand that train companies must take action to stop fare evading passengers. But we saw that those making an innocent mistake were being caught by many rules and regulations and an assumption of guilt with an ultimate criminal sanction. We investigated the issue and realised that these harsh actions did not match the innocent mistake. This resulted in two reports: one in 2012 and the other in 2015.

The Government has just announced it will be improving the system through greater fairness, accountability and also introduce an independent appeals mechanism. While there is still more to do, especially around Unpaid Fares Notice (issued for having an ‘invalid’ ticket) in areas where Penalty Fares don’t apply, we look forward to a fairer system being introduced next year.

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