/ Travel & Leisure

Petty train fines for getting off early

Ticket master on train

If you’ve gone to the expense of buying a train ticket to a far away destination, you’d think you could get off a stop early. But rail companies are playing a petty game of punishing travellers with complicated terms.

Even professors are getting it wrong with train tickets. Professor Martin Evans was made to pay £155 by East Coast for getting off his train… one stop early.

Yes, early. Rather than getting off at Durham (the station he had an advance ticket to) he got off at Darlington, one stop earlier and nearer his home.

To add insult to injury, he’s reported as saying he was made to feel like a ‘wrongdoer’ – which isn’t a nice perk for travelling first class.

The rules of getting off early

The conditions of advance tickets do state that you have to make the journey printed on your ticket without breaking that trip or changing destination. Nevertheless, these conditions aren’t on the ticket itself, so you’ll have to make a pro-active effort to read them.

Is it just me scratching my head at the idea of being charged more for actually travelling less? Even leaving that aside, how can the £155 that Professor Evans was made to pay be justified when he couldn’t have caused any such loss to East Coast?

I’m guessing the answer is that it’s meant to act as a deterrent. The rail network’s argument is that if you want to catch any old train and break your journey, you’ll have to pay for it with a walk-up ticket. And by ‘walk-up ticket’ I mean the normal (usually expensive) ticket you buy when you don’t want to be tied down to a particular train.

Trains don’t live up to their potential

But here’s the rub. People’s lives aren’t run to strict timetables that never change. Meetings overrun, a swift half isn’t so swift. That’s life. This is something cars, motorbikes and bicycles are brilliant at coping with – when you’re ready, they’re ready.

Planes aren’t so good at this. With all the check-in and security palaver, you know you’ll have to arrive well before take-off. And since flight frequency isn’t that great, you definitely won’t want to miss your flight.

But trains could offer a compelling halfway-house alternative. There isn’t any traffic, and you can turn up whenever you’re ready.

Oh, wait, they do offer this. But only when you buy a walk-up ticket that costs so much more than an advance ticket that many us simply can’t afford them. Not only that, but peak-times are now longer and regulated fares are also on the way up. Whatever way you look at it, the kind of railway where you can just turn up and go is in retreat.

I know, there are more passengers than there used to be and there’s a limited rail network to put them on – but this all seems a bit petty to me.

Should the rail companies go the way of Ryanair – with cheap advance fares if you commit ahead of time and chunky penalties for even the slightest of changes? Or should they try to tempt you with more flexible offers?

Sophie Gilbert says:
29 October 2010

Professor Evans should appeal against his fine in court and the judge should say to East Coast, don’t be daft, and if I hear about more fines like this, I’ll fine you! Once again train companies prove that they are not there to provide us with a service but to extract every penny they can out of us.


Not only that,when one you their defective rubbish trains breaks down they demand the ‘right’ to hold you prisoner while they do nothing to resolve the problem. Another reason why I would avoid using a train at almost any cost.


All Rail companies are not passenger friendly.They divide the people like first class and second class,peak hours passengers and non peak passengers,expensive fare and advance ticket fare etc.
They have different terms and condition with restriction.They have made a such bad rules that anyone can trap in to their penalty fare.They are playing their monopoly game with passengers to be always winner.They do not listen the passenger focus also. We all wish that Govt should show red eyes on them and make fare more affordable without any restriction and remove peak time and off peak time.It strange that no any M.P is interested to solve Rail passengers misery.


I was disappointed to see that you have removed my expanded comments on how ‘prison trains’ should be treated by those illegally detained by their defective miss-operators. I see that further adverse comment about the appalling way that the miss-operator treated passengers and ‘prisoners’ has now appeared in the press, including allegations of dangerous driving by at least one bus driver. It really is time that these failing outfits, (you cannot call them organisations) were made responsible and made to suffer for their failings.


Hello Richard, we’re not quite sure what happened to your expanded comment and don’t recall seeing it. Perhaps something went wrong when you were submitting it, for which we apologise. Please feel free to submit it again.

As for the problem that richard refers to below. There are two solutions – one or both of you could have an initial added to your usernames, which I can do for you – so please let me know if you’d like to do this by using our Get in Touch form: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/

The other solution doesn’t involve changing your names, but uploading a personal avatar so that people can distinguish between both of you. If you haven’t already registered for a free account please do so here https://conversation.which.co.uk/register/ you’ll be able to upload an avatar there. If you’ve already signed up, click on your name once you’ve logged in and you’ll be sent to the user area where you’ll again be able to upload an avatar.

I hope this solves the problem. Thanks.


May I point out that there now seems to be TWO Richards

Malcolm Ripley says:
11 November 2010

Try this trick: buy the longer distance cheap discount ticket AND a ticket for that last leg of your required journey. Then you have a valid ticket for getting on and getting off! For example: Manchester-Leeds £8.50, Huddersfield-Dewsbury £2.15, total £10.65, versus Manchester-Dewsbury £12.10. Madness utter madness especially since I will have a reserved unused seat from dewsbury to leeds on a busy line!

Howard Smith says:
19 February 2012

In the March Which? magazine, John Hargaden’s second question re ‘Getting off a train too early’ was “What is the reasoning behind it?”, (I was awaiting the reply with anticipation!), to which there was no answer. I found the answer in this forum, but would have thought it important for Which? to make this known to the many Which? members who do not have access to the internet. Can you explain why this was not done, please?


As far as I can see there is no rational explanation in this forum for train companies’ policy of fining you for getting off early – it just says they do it to “deter” us. But why are they so eager to deter us? What is the actual logic behind selling a service then fining customers who choose not to avail themselves of the entirety of that service? We’ve seen the same thing with return ferry and air tickets – operators have been known to pursue people who do not make their return journey for “compensation”. It is bizarre, but technically legal.

Their argument is that the contract for a “discounted” ticket says you MUST travel the whole way (respectively make your return journey). Too bad if you don’t like that. The fact that you are sitting in the train (ferry/plane) for less time, so wearing out the upholstery that bit less, and causing us to use slightly less fuel, and perhaps making a seat available for another passenger – all this counts for nowt because you AGREED to go the whole way. Travelling to a different destination, whether en route to the purchased destination or not, is a breach of contract. They might add, with absolutely no evidential justification in my view, that the economics of discounted tickets can only work