Transport User Voice – February 2020 – Penalty fares investigation

05 February 2020

Why are passengers still unfairly penalised?

This week we asked: how can passengers trust the railway if they still get penalised for genuine mistakes? 

We worked with London TravelWatch to investigate how passengers are treated when they appeal a penalty fare. 

New regulations came into force in 2018, that allowed passengers to take their appeal to two independent bodies. But we found that there are problems with signposting of the service, poor attempts to investigate what happened, a lack of discretion shown, poor quality responses being sent and a lack of transparency. 

  • One passenger had to rush to the hospital as she was experiencing concerning symptoms relating to her pregnancy. She was unable to buy a ticket and the ticket inspector issued her with a penalty fare despite her explanation. Due to her health she then missed the date to appeal the penalty. She got in touch with Transport Focus who immediately acted to get the penalty fare cancelled.
  • Another passenger went through the appeal process after being issued a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN). After being rejected by the first two stages he went to the Independent Appeal Panel’s website. As the website wasn’t clear and there were no other contact details he did not know where to submit the appeal. He used a webform to ask ‘Is this the site where I make a 3rd appeal’ to then receive a response from the Independent Appeal Panel stating that had been his third appeal. 

David Sidebottom, Transport Focus director, said: 

“We have long called for the rail industry to show discretion where passengers haven’t intended to evade paying fares. As our investigation shows, there is still a long way to go. 

 “It is right that train companies should take steps to stop those who try to evade paying fares. But passengers must be able to trust that penalty fares are given only to those who deserve them rather than treating honest passengers as criminals. 

 “We would like to see increased clarity and consistency over the entire process for passengers.” 

 We are calling for: 

  • increased and more effective communication by appeal bodies and train operators about whole appeals process 
  • consistency in the process by which penalty fares are given and when they can be overturned 
  • transparency about the numbers of penalty fares given and appealed at each stage as well as those overturned or upheld. 

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