Get ready for the train companies to start treating you like a criminal

25 October 2010

A train, yesterday.

If you buy a train ticket, it's a bit galling to think that there's someone who might be on-board who dodged their fare. However, with the price of trains not even coming close to the standard of service you get, it's hardly surprising that people push their luck.

And so, the train companies are hitting back.

If you go to London Euston, you'll see that among the notices of timetables cock-ups and inevitable apologies for replacement service, you'll now see a list of passengers, complete with addresses and ages, who have been found guilty in a magistrates court of fare dodging.

The problem here is, apart from being needlessly heavy-handed, this list might include the names of people who have fallen foul of "railway clamping". Basically, slapping heavy fines on people who have got on the train without a ticket, even though they had every intention of buying one, but didn't have the time because they were running to get on-board before it pulled out of the station.

A House of Commons transport select committee has already noted that there's much confusion about how much money was lost as a result of deliberate fare-dodging and how much was because of a failure to give passengers the chance to buy the correct ticket.

"Too much revenue is being lost through a failure of the transport operators to provide the appropriate ticket sales facilities, to sell tickets on board, and to carry out basic checks. This is not the same as fare evasion. It is simply non-collection of fares," it said.

Worse still is that the appeals procedures for passengers wishing to challenge a penalty "are not sufficiently independent", adding: "The consequences of being accused of fare-dodging can be serious, and it is important that the procedures are just and rigorous."

The inconsistency between railway companies doesn't help. One operator will take you to court for sitting in First Class by mistake, while another won't prosecute, preferring to give the chance to leave or pay the balance.

And why would some train companies do this? Well, there's a small matter of bonuses. That's right. Unbelievably, Southern's train inspectors earn commission from penalty fares they impose. Funny that, seeing as Southern don't even vet their staff through the criminal-record checking system.

There's a massive inconsistency right across the board, with some rail companies using a common-sense approach and allowing you to buy the correct ticket during or after your journey, while others seem willing to charge you the most expensive amount they can find without even thinking about offering you the best deal.

Train companies are a law unto themselves and it is nakedly clear that something needs to be rectified.


TOPICS:   Travel


  • PlatinumPlatypus
    The vast majority of train operators now insist you buy your ticket before boarding unless you are travelling from a station with no ticket purchasing facilities. I would therefore consider 'buy on board' operators to now be the exception rather than the rule and unsure passengers should buy their ticket beforehand, leaving enough time to do so. How is a train manager supposed to be able to tell the difference between a practiced fare-dodger and someone who was running late and boarded the train before buying a ticket? And regardless, the person running late has broken the published rules, which are there to ensure the smooth operation of the train. The train manager usually does not have enough time to sell tickets to all passengers on a train, and if the rules weren't in place no one would buy before boarding. Penalty fare systems are not suitable for every operator, hence why some don't use them. The full undiscounted fare for long distances is penalty enough for intercity operators.
  • PaulH
    Your article makes me want to go out and destroy the world - thank you
  • Willy-wonka
    Ahh makes me feel better about that fare I dodged all the way from Bristol to Brighton in the late 90's...
  • Nobby
    If there is an open ticket office at the time you board the train, then you should have a ticket. If you don't have one, it is your fault. Allow more time, or pay the fine and be named and shamed. I think naming and shaming is a good way of making people think about fare dodging.
  • The B.
    I haven't seen a ticket inspector in about 4 years, in fact the last one tried to nick me because his Oyster card reader wasn't working, a large row ensued.
  • parpparp
    There is no excuse for not having a ticket when you board! The train companies in this country even give you extra time to buy one since each train arrives anywhere between 3 and 20 minutes after the scheduled time.
  • Faredoggers
    "naming and shaming", we should introduce that for vile pedophile, benefit cheats and mean MPs. Seriously, might be good if someone sued the train operators for doing something that outrageous.
  • Whisky
    I didn't know you couldn't board a train with the intention of buying a ticket on board anymore. I used to do it all the time at uni when I turned up and picked the first train going south from Newcastle. Quite often I only had enough time to sprint to the train and jump on. I have not got a train to anywhere in about 5 years so it sounds like I would be accused of fair dodging if I did this now. As for naming and shaming I wouldn't give a shit. I'm from Yorkshire.
  • yippy Y.
    In Sweden there is a text service that tells everyone when there is an inspector on the train in an area. It's amusing to see half a train of people get a text at the same time and disembark. And the costs there are nothing in comparison.
  • Linds
    Public display of a person's name and address for an alleged offence is a blatant breach of Article 9 Human Rights Act 1998. The Right to privacy
  • Michael
    I fully understand the "you should buy your ticket before hand" argument but the TOCs have a duty here too. No TOC has a leg to stand on when they open two ticket booths on a Saturday in Leeds station when 15,000+ fans of the local rugby team are trying to get to the Grand Final in Manchester (as has happened for three of the past four years). Have to queue more than 10 minutes for a ticket booth (never mind half an hour as has been the case in the past for me)? That's the train company / station operator in the wrong - not the passenger who decides to try and buy on board.
  • Alexis
    "Public display of a person’s name and address for an alleged offence is a blatant breach of Article 9 Human Rights Act 1998. The Right to privacy" The offence has been deemed to have occurred though, since this is post mag court. It's no longer just an allegation. Anyway, who's going to bother reading a random list of names on station noticeboards? The chance of anyone you know spotting you are slim, and if you know them they're unlikely to give a toss whether you dodged a fair or not. It's not rape.
  • Train D.
    what a shame! I always have a ticket when boarding the train and always leave "tips" for the rail operators...
  • spooge
    Will this include people in future who have bought the ticket and get off 1 or 2 stations early? They can get fucked tbh - if I have a ticket for the route I would consider any station along that route to be aviable station to get out.
  • Paul C.
    There are a plethora of options to buy a ticket prior to boarding a train whether that be a ticket office, ticket machine, iPhone app, thetrainline and something else that I may have missed. I completely agree with naming and shaming as long as it is clear that the purchase of tickets from manned stations are mandatory. To be honest with you, most mainline stations, especially those operated by South West Trains, require tickets to actually get onto the station platform due to their ticket barrier operating systems.
  • klingelton
    i disagree with naming and shaming. and i disagree with on board ticket collectors. we live in the 21st century here and gates could be operated very simply at stations. even rural ones. we have the technology to create machines that will take our monies in return for tickets. we have iPhone apps. London has trialled Oyster card and that's been very good (in my estimation) can we not roll something like this out nationwide. if we had gates to get onto the platform and to get off and you needed to swipe at each end - then surely most fare dodging would be obliterated. a small investment now would probably cut down on the number of fare dodgers to such an extent that it would pay for itself in a short time in terms of revenues and efficiencies.
  • Lord t.
    They should close the railways down, they're clearly not viable ;o) High prices, confusing tickets and rules, power hungry scrote-faced jobsworth inspectors. What about the little old lady with the bad hip who just wants to get home and has the ticket fare in her purse, ready to pay onboard as she has done all her life? What about the mother with the kids trying to make her connecting train thanks to the late or delayed service she was on? What if it was your grandmother, wife or children? Would you change your righteous rulebook opinion? I KNOW they are real (jammy) dodgers out there, and I KNOW they are good, fair ticket inspectors out there, but like most modern "flexible (my ass)"systems (which are all made and run by people), they allow and encourage companies and individuals to hide behind them and pass the buck ("just doing my job", "rule 3027 part xxvviii states..."), instead of showing humanity and fairness to given situations. Cost cutting through competition, hardsell your granny commission incentives, and penalty fines CLEARLY EXPLAINED IN THE BIG ENCYCLOPEDIA OF T&C's are plastered all over every modern dealing we have and getting more out of hand by the day, we don't mind paying jack for lousy services and terms. But train tickets are big bucks unless you can wangle a fair deal. Anyways, i must go and take the helichopter over to the local Spar for some cut-price Bacardi and pre-sliced limes. Over and out chaps!
  • Train D.
    Excuse me.... I have to catch a train now... tp anyone?
  • Kevin
    There really isn't an excuse for not getting a ticket before getting on a train. And really in many cases these days you can't get onto a train without going through some barrier. Well in some stations that is certainly true. London Liverpool Street, London Euston and London Victoria are like this, London Paddington and apart from Platforms9-11 at London Kings Cross have open platforms. But many smaller stations now have barriers that mean you would have to leap over them to get onto a train, which yes I have seen people do. Why they don't have a system to actually buy tickets on the train or online (just as say you can pay for your parking by phone) I don't know, but the point is there is no reason to not have a ticket. Getting done over for getting on the wrong train, or them shifting around the definition of peak time or late and delayed trains are another issue completely. Late or delayed trains have a bit of a get out, they never guarentee connections, just as many airlines don't, so watch out. You can buy tickets from anywhere in that train systems network from the touch screen machines, let alone the automated machines and the morose people behind counters. As well as online of course. Ticket inspectors on the underground? I've been checked a couple of times this year and I only tend to visit London every couple of months. Try Southern Railways, they have inspectors on all their trains. Very useful they are too. Especially funny when people try to get all the way out to Gatwick on a Travelcard. Understandable for some tourists, but there people trying to blag their way through it all the time. I (and the rest of the carriage) had a great laugh at someone on the train to Glasgow who'd got on without a ticket, cost them over £150 and their credit card was rejected by the machine, had to get another one out. And they were a smart businesswoman type person. She admitted she couldn't be arsed. That was funny :)
  • John S.
    I've just read through a load of threads like this, and let me say, from the evidence herein presented, what a wholly dysfunctional, vindictive, officious and impractical bunch of twerps we Brits appear to be. It does very little for my faith in the future of this country.
  • ACriminal
    It is now easier to get a criminal record than it is to get an A Level, and that's saying something. Makes the question "Do you have a criminal record" on my job interview sheets seem a bit pointless if you ask me. What are we going to give them out for next, wearing brown shoes with a black suit? Parking in a parent and child spot at the supermarket with a child that can walk unattended? Someone who sits in an empty 1st class seat on a busy train is deemed a criminal, someone who drives at 45mph past a school gate is given a moderate fine. Which one has endangered life?
  • Edie S.
    Hey there, You've done an excellent job. I'll definitely digg it and individually suggest to my friends. I am sure they'll be benefited from this web site.
  • mark
    I think fare dodging is a great way to save money on rail travel and I get away with it all the time. My best ever was poole to birmingham,200 quids worth hiding in the bog all the way, switching bogs at regular intervals. Keep up the good workate, if you are a fare dodger reading this

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