What can happen if I am on a train without a valid ticket?

30 March 2015

If you do not have a valid ticket or a valid reason for not having one and you board the train, the train company has a number of options: 

The full fare can be charged for your journey

Under the National Rail Conditions of Travel, you could be charged the full fare for the journey. Typical examples of being found aboard a train with an invalid ticket include:  where you have a ticket but have forgotten your Railcard; or where you have an Off-peak ticket but travel in the peak; or where you have an Advance ticket but are on the wrong train. In some instances you may be charged the full Anytime (peak hours) fare; in others, it may be the cheapest fare available for journeys made at that time. 

If staff on the train consider that your ticket is not valid and that a full fare should be charged you can pay immediately and then, if desired, complain to the train operating company to seek redress. If you do not have the means to pay immediately – or if you choose to complain/appeal before paying – the inspector can issue an Unpaid Fare Notice (UFN). This is not a fine or a penalty but an ‘invoice’ for the fare for the train you are on. An Unpaid Fares Notice is different from a Penalty Fare.  

You can be issued a Penalty Fare

Penalty fares were originally introduced to tackle ticketless travel on suburban services whose frequent stops made effective on-train ticket examination impractical. They have since been introduced to other services. They require the passenger to provide a valid reason for not having a ticket. Penalty fares are not in use on all train routes, and where they are in use signs at stations should make this clear to passengers. 

If you are in a designated Penalty Fares area and you are not able to produce a valid ticket for inspection you are liable to pay £100 plus the price of the full single fare.If paid within 21 days the charge will be reduced to £50 plus the price of the full single fare if applicable. If you feel that you should not have been issued a penalty fare you may appeal.  Details of the appeals procedure are shown on the penalty fare notice issued to you.

Prosecution for fare evasion

The Railway Byelaws make it an offence to travel without holding a valid ticket and being able to show it on request. A breach of this bylaw is a criminal offence and, if found guilty, you would be subject to a fine An operator can also prosecute for ‘intent to avoid a rail fare’ under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, s.5 (3) and you may be fined or sentenced to imprisonment for up to three months.  

If you are being prosecuted you may wish to seek legal advice.