Welcome to Britain
01 February 2012
Fare evasion is a crime. People who deliberately do not buy tickets are not only committing a crime, but also putting up fares for everyone else. However, some honest passengers are being harassed, penalised and possibly face criminal prosecution when there was no intent to defraud. We have battled on behalf of rail passengers to get scores of unpaid fares notices overturned. They may have left their railcard at home (but can prove later that they have one), left their ticket on the train or lost the return portion. Even parking offences now no longer carry the threat of criminal sanctions. The rail industry is now essentially privatised. You could not be prosecuted for shoplifting without some proof of intent – why should the railway be different?
We are working with train companies to get a more consistent and fair application of the rules surrounding unpaid fair notices in place. Ultimately the law needs to be changed. In the meantime train companies must stop assuming their passengers are automatically guilty. They could then spend more time and energy chasing the real criminals.
Who are the real criminals? Not the tourists my colleague saw on the Gatwick Express this week. They had bought Southern Railway tickets with London Travelcards attached. Not valid on the Gatwick Express of course – a fact that is a little unclear to many of us natives, let alone foreigners. The Gatwick Express, now run by Southern, ceased to be an airport only service some time ago – the older trains in use, varied stopping pattern and unclear branding at the Gatwick ticket windows have all diluted the distinctiveness.
In this Olympic year with a recession going on you would have thought a little bit of sensible discretion could be exercised now and then, with at least credit given for the not insubstantial amounts already paid. What other business would treat their customers like this?