/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Are train penalty fares a fair penalty?

Ever been fined for not having the right train ticket? A recent report from Passenger Focus highlights how easy it can be to make a mistake, and slams the ‘minefield’ of rules which can cause stress and confusion.

This weekend I was travelling on the London Overground when the ticket inspectors came on.

One lady immediately panicked, as she couldn’t find the ticket she’d bought for the journey.

She pleaded with inspectors not to give her a fine, and produced the receipt showing she’d bought a ticket from a machine just five minutes ago.

Luckily for her, the inspectors were in a good mood and simply told her to be more careful. ‘Don’t worry – I believe you’ assured the friendly attendant, before moving on to check other tickets. But sometimes people aren’t so lucky.

All change please

Another time I had failed to buy a ticket, as there was a huge queue at the station booth and the one and only ticket machine was broken. I was running late for work so I hopped on a train to Liverpool Street, knowing that I’d be able to buy a ticket from the guards when I got there as I (and many of my fellow commuters) had done before.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise was that selling these tickets are ‘at the guard’s discretion’ – at least that was what the day’s less than helpful guard told me. He informed me that his colleagues shouldn’t have let me (or other commuters) buy tickets further down the line, and hit me with a £20 fine. I was not best pleased.

Passenger Focus has said that passengers are facing a ‘minefield of rules and regulations’ – I’m inclined to agree. I get as annoyed with fare-dodgers as anyone else, but I think the train system is now so complex that it’s catching honest people who just don’t know the rules.

All aboard the Confusion Express

If the ticket machine’s broken, can you still board? I know some stations have ‘permit to travel’ machines, but when should you buy one? Is it possible to buy a ticket from the on-board guard, or not? Or if (in my Liverpool Street example) the machine’s broken and there’s no on-board guard, then should we just resign ourselves to long queues?

Passenger Focus found lots of different examples of people getting fined because they weren’t sure of the rules. One elderly couple was issued with a £239 unpaid fares notice, because they boarded an earlier train to the one they had tickets for. They didn’t realise that they’d get the penalty – one of them had fallen and was in pain, so they were keen to get home faster.

The main thing that bothers me about this is the question of reasonableness – where is the admission that fallible humans sometimes make mistakes?

I’ve often sat on the train listening to a foreign tourist, young student or elderly passenger pleading with a guard over a penalty fine. The main refrain? ‘I’m sorry – I just didn’t know.’ If train companies are going to insist on so many rules, the least they can do is make them clear enough that everyone can understand them.

What do you think about train ticket rules?

Both of the above (76%, 142 Votes)

They should be made much simpler (14%, 27 Votes)

They should be communicated much better (5%, 10 Votes)

I think they're already perfectly understandable (4%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 187

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Maybe just have a blanket fine like in the Netherlands.

I was caught once as I was late for the train and thought I could get one on the train (showing my ignorance), I then had to pay a 40euro fine plus the cost of the ticket.

They said, “no ticket, no excuse”

I think it’s unfair to rely on the goodwill of the conductor as his job is at stake. As the dutch conductor said, it’s your responsibility to get to the station on time, have enough money, and find a machine that works.

In lots of stations these days though there are ticket barriers making it very difficult to jump the train, although I have seen some people use a certain technique when following someone through…..


Good point, Dean, and I don’t think I’d ever say ‘conductors should be nicer’ – I think the companies should be more understanding about the complexity of their ticket rules and confusion caused by many. My issue with the Liverpool Street station conductor wasn’t that he wasn’t nice (he doesn’t really have to be, to be fair), my issue was that if there are no clear rules you end up in a situation where (like I did) you think it’s fine to get on without a ticket and buy it later, only to get nabbed when you encounter a conductor who interprets the rules differently.


I have not purchased a ticket, I have no contract with the transport companies, buying a ticket enters me into a contract with them which takes away some of my rights and legal protection.
There is no legislative vehicle I know of that forces me to purchase a ‘ticket’ from a private company.
If I enter a venue without a ticket, all they can do is eject me. If I enter a vehicle without a ticket, all they can do is eject me.
These are not fines, it is illegal to levy fines in this instance, thus the usage of the term penalty fare or charge.
To pay a ‘penalty fare / charge’ you have to enter into an agreement to do so, the phrase ‘once you enter the vehicle without a prepaid ticket you agree to pay a penalty fare’ is a fallacious statement.
Do you think if I post a notice on my front door saying, if you enter my house you agree to pay me £100 is valid?
If caught without a ticket, offer to leave, if you are restrained then a criminal offence has been committed against you.
The whole penalty charge / fare invention is aimed at [once again] circumventing your lawful rights by creating a vehicle that once you enter into removes your rights of challenge.
Now everyone, proceed to tell me just how wrong I am with this 🙁


I’m not sure if I understand your comment properly, but are you aware that penalty fares are based on law? The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 1994 were made under section 130 of the Railways Act 1993, as amended by the Transport Act 2000.

By contrast, I don’t know of any law that authorizes you to enforce a £100 penalty charge to anyone entering your house if you put up such a notice as you stated.


What is purported to be ‘law’ is very often not and relies on you [unknowingly] entering a contract that makes you liable, I would urge you to examine this particular amendment. A private company cannot levy a fine, therefore the illegality has been circumvented by the usage of the term penalty fare or penalty charge.
The legal argument is; is the penalty charge / fare a fine. The results depend on the depth of your pocket and the knowledge / performance of your legal team.
If you want to see just how convoluted the system gets when the government twists legislation to fleece people have a look at this, it is about the congestion charge where people are being fined as well for simple errors.


Shevchenko-adeen says:
13 June 2016

No…you are obtaining services by deception. You are allowing the train company to provide a service but are deliberately avoiding to pay for it.

Shevchenko-adeen says:
13 June 2016

Not necessarily – by-laws may allow private firms to issue fines.


On a Thursday evening preceding a four-day bank holiday weekend, I attempted at my local Southeastern station to buy a season ticket to run from the following Tuesday. The ticket clerk entered the details of my requested ticket into her system, but it returned an error message because I was trying to buy the ticket one working day in advance, which was more than their systems appeared to allow. She told me that she could not sell me the ticket and that I should return the following day to buy the ticket. I replied that I could not return to the station (or to any other National Rail station) until the Tuesday morning in time for my scheduled train departure and it was for this reason that I needed to buy my ticket in advance. When I arrived as planned for my train on the Tuesday morning, there was an exceptionally long queue to buy tickets, which I had anticipated following a series of bank holidays, hence the need to buy my ticket in advance. Having acted in good faith by making reasonable efforts to buy a ticket well in advance of my planned travel time, I therefore boarded my intended train with the intention of buying the necessary season ticket upon my train’s scheduled arrival in central London. Fortunately when I arrived, a ticket inspector was understanding of the problem and after some persuasion let me through the barriers to buy the season ticket at the normal ticket office. It is a disgrace that whilst I can buy an airline ticket or a Eurostar train ticket up to a year in advance, Southeastern was incapable of selling me a ticket only one working day in advance. I’m not surprised so many people travel without the necessary tickets. Furthermore, Southeastern’s (and no doubt many other train companies’) failure to sell tickets sufficiently in advance is a primary cause of unnecessary queues at ticket offices at the beginning of each working week, particularly following bank holidays.


The imposition of a fine when having the “wrong” ticket should take into account whether anyone has been inconvenienced ( packed train) or the train company has really lost money.
With all the IT available it would seem perfectly feasible to record these incidents so as to catch the serial offenders.
However it seems to be a trend not to allow inspectors etc discretion or flexibility in these matters.


I remember a time, when I was young, when there were no penalty fares because virtually all tickets were inspected. Because of that, if you boarded without a ticket, you were reasonably believed when you said you were intending to buy on the train, because you couldn’t have got away with it. So you just bought the ticket from the guard at face value, or from the ticket inspector at your destination. There was no stress involved. Now, presumably due to cuts, they don’t have enough staff to inspect every ticket, so they assume that if you don’t have a ticket it’s because you were trying to defraud the company and they introduced the penalty as a deterrent.


Nikki – I found myself in a very similar situation once. I’d seen people on my train buy tickets to London every day and thought I could do the same, but instead, found myself landed with a £20 penalty fair when I tried to do it myself.

Another time, I thought I’d tapped in to my local station with my Oyster card but apparently, it hadn’t registered correctly. On arrival at Waterloo East I held out my ticket for inspection and I was flagged up. Despite my protestations, they refused to believe me and charged me a penalty fare of £20 for a journey that costs me £3. I thought my punishment was hugely disproportionate and they were incredibly rude to me. I also had to endure getting ‘told off’ in front of hundreds of other commuters.

In short, I think it IS easy to make mistakes on the train network, especially when regulations and machinery are involved. If we must be faced with penalty fines, at least make them more reasonable and make the rules absolutely clear.

Mike says:
22 May 2012

It doesn’t help that the machines and online ticket systems are a total nightmare to use. It’s almost as if they go out of their way to make buying the correct ticket as difficult as possible.

Last night I bought tickets via the southeastern website and collected at the station – the whole process was a long drawn out nightmare.

With the reduction of ticket staff and complicated alternatives surely this just increases the people getting tickets wrong. But I don’t really see much evidence that the companies are even aware that they are creating issues for people – even the supermarkets have people standing by the selfsevice machines to help – not yet seen that at our station.


Oxted station has ticket machines which are impossible to use in the afternoon if the sun is shining. Staff seem to be very understanding with barriers left open and inspectors ready to sell tickets at normal rates.


Do we know how much revenue has been collected by these companies in ‘penalty charges / fares’?

Ben Rosser says:
22 May 2012

Bought Tickets through Redspottedhankey. Northern Rail Guard on one leg of journey refused to accept tickets, had to pay for new tickets, £42. Rechecked on computer tickets OK and can still be purchased from Northern Rail site. Redspottedhankey just gave me the runaround. Northern Rail customer service reiterated tickets not valid (despite me giving them a print-out of the route) but gave me £40 voucher. I suspect the moto of all cutomer service depts is that “You can’t please all of the people, all of the time, SO WHY BOTHER”

Stevep2012 says:
22 May 2012

I traven on the train a lot with my two dogs. sometimes i get to the station a little late so do not have the time to buy a ticket at the station before get on the train. i always have the money to pay. With having to dogs,one quite large,i find it easier to take a seat and wait for conductor as it is safer than dragging two dogs up and down the train looking for a conductor.. On many occasions now i have been threated with a penelty fair because i have boarded train without paying,Even though it clearly states that you “MAY” be subject to a penelty fair,not that you will. One time,after refusing to accept a penelty fair i was asked to leave the train at the next station where i was met by transport police. After explaining the situation,and as they could see i had two dogs,they themselves said that i was being treated unfairly and ordered the train inspector to let me back on the train to the dismay of the inspector. I wasnt trying to fair dodge,as the police themselve admitted,it was safer for me to be seated


Note the word MAY, this is crucial to the penalty process.They cannot say will as that in an invalid statement. The MAY is if you agree to pay the penalty charge, you can refuse just as Steve has done, it is how you refuse that determines whether you have unknowingly entered the process that takes away your rights of challenge through the courts.

I asked Which earlier in this thread if they could supply data on the revenue raised by these penalty charges / fares. I suspect that year on year this figure may increase as is seems that the transportation companies are creating situations that trap people into making simple errors which they are then fined for. Such as when the congestion charge was introduced to London we were told that the system was unaffordable without the revenue from fines.
Is it possible that this is a way to make up for shortfalls in funding & passenger revenue.


Hi m. Sorry it’s taken a while to answer your question – we’ve been doing a bit of digging. I’m afraid the answer is we don’t (and can’t) really know for sure – I spoke to someone at Passenger Focus who said that they’d like to have info like this too! Their latest campaign for fairer treatment on penalty fares (you can read more here http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/news-and-publications/document-search/document.asp?dsid=5549) is aimed at getting train companies to be more transparent about penalties and how they are issues (as well as publishing much clearer rules about how and when people might be asked to pay a penalty fare. Passenger Focus is calling for companies to tell us how many penalties are issued, what they’re being issued for, and how many appeals are upheld or overturned.

I know this doesn’t give you the stats, but hope it sheds a bit of light on this. I would love to see more transparency around this, especially if it comes alongside clearer guidance for all passengers.


This is exactly what I expected, when figures are ‘unavailable’ especially to an organisation with Whichs experience at winkling these things out, there is usually a reason behind the obscurity.
Of course this data is logged and monitored, it has to be. If it is not being given out, then it is because the train companies know what a furore this will cause when released.
I suspect that I am right and when this comes to light we will all be shocked at exactly how much revenue the train companies are receiving from these questionable ‘fines’.

Ross says:
23 May 2012

I think there’s an incredible amount that’s not particularly fair or good about our national train services. As an honest commuter I live in constant fear that I’ll be penalised for not having one of my ‘i’s dotted or ‘t’s crossed. I travel around the country, to various different places, usually by rail, and there are stark differences between different policies. Quite often I’ll board a train without a ticket, because the station I’m leaving from does not have either a machine or a ticket office! It’s then up to me to find the conductor, explain this and buy the relevant ticket. If I wait until he gets to me, I’ll be given a so-called ‘penalty fare’. I think this is pretty ridiculous, and in this day and age one should never be in the position that they cannot pay for their ticket immediately and in advance, given the technology available.

The Oyster system in London is great (aside from a few flaws, like being incredibly easy to think you’ve bleeped your card when you might not have, and that in some of the remote stations, the machines aren’t attached to barriers or easy to find). I think this system could enhance the national rail ticketing system no-end, and make everyone’s life easier.

On top of that, why can’t we have an account, which we access via a smartphone, lets say, which allows us to buy tickets at any time, which are not in paper format, but appear as a QR code on the phone itself?

I think the answer as to why we don’t have anything like this is because the train companies make more out of penalising the honest folk, and it means that they don’t have to invest in their ticketing infrastructure more than they already do.


I really like the idea of QR codes or some way of purchasing tickets to have on your phone. I know that there are plans and ideas for ‘smart’ cards for train networks outside London (so essentially everyone would have an Oyster card). I think in an ideal world I’d like to have one of these cards and be able to top up credit or buy specific tickets for it online wherever I am. That would cut out the need for queuing or using machines, and mean you could always purchase a ticket. Of course there’s still a real need to have alternative methods (not everyone’s got a smart phone or internet access after all) but I think it would go a long way to making things easier for a lot of people.


Regarding the point from Nikki’s article “…I had failed to buy a ticket, as there was a huge queue at the station booth and the one and only ticket machine was broken. I was running late for work so I hopped on a train to Liverpool Street…” I think the following points are noteworthy:

1. YOU were late for work. That’s not the train company’s fault, and it’s not a good reason to fail to buy a ticket.

2. Queues and out of order ticket machines are not unusual, and if you had not been late, (see 1 above), this would have been irrelevant.

3. I regularly travel on services to Liverpool St which is on the Greater Anglia franchise. There are numerous posters on every station in that franchise which tell you clearly and unambiguously that if you board a train without a valid ticket you are liable to a penalty fare. I fail to see how that could be clearer. Incidentally, these posters are not hidden away, they are usually at the ticket barriers, and often on noticeboards placed in full line of sight of people entering the platforms via the ticket barrier.

In short Nikki, I have no sympathy with you at all in the scenario you describe.

As regards other instances mentioned, such as the elderly couple, you fail to mention that this couple could appeal any penalty fare, and in the circumstances described I would expect such an appeal would be granted. I have noted inspectors carefully explaining this point to people issued with penalty fare notices on every occasion on which I have seen penalty fare notices issued, (which I estimate to be around 40 times in the last 5 years).

I fully agree with the Dutch train guard mentioned by Dean “…it’s your responsibility to get to the station on time, have enough money, and find a machine that works.”


Hi S – you’re right of course, in that it’s not generally accepted practice, and it’s not something I would have thought of doing if I hadn’t seen other commuters, on an almost daily basis, buying tickets when they reached the end of their journey at Liverpool Street. In fact about a week or two before I got fined I had done exactly that and bought my ticket at Liverpool Street from a guard who was happy to sell me one.

The line itself is a bit notorious for having broken down machines or closed ticket offices, particularly at my station where for a long time they had to close the ticket office as they were improving it. I assumed that this was why they were OK with people buying when they left the train rather than before they get on, especially during rush hour when it’s extremely busy.

My issue isn’t really with the fact that I got fined for not having a ticket – if it was as clear as you describe then I’d put my hands up (or rather, I wouldn’t actually have boarded the train in the first place) but the fact is that it’s not. It was extremely common at the time for people to buy tickets at Liverpool Street station – there’s usually a crowd of guards standing at the platform exit for exactly this reason – and it was generally accepted that just as you could have bought a ticket from an on-train guard if there’d been one, you could instead get one from the guard at the station.

My main issue is with the fact that it *is* confusing, and that the rules are applied very differently depending on who you talk to and what mood they are in.

Regarding the “it’s your responsibility to get to the station on time, have enough money, find a machine that works” – I agree within reason. However I don’t think it is acceptable for a station to have only one available place to buy tickets, causing queues of 20 minutes or more at rush hour. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect commuters to add 20 minutes to their journey every day just because the train company isn’t properly resourced. Likewise the ‘machine that works’ only really applies if a station has ticket machines and at least one of them is working (oh, and takes cash, as some people won’t have credit cards, etc) which is not always the case.

Sorry, that’s quite a long post, but I think the key issue for me is the fact that the rules are not communicated properly and (I think more importantly) not enforced consistently across the board. If the rules were at least consistent then we’d know exactly what was and wasn’t OK.



I think you are being very hard on Nikki. I am all for big fines for people who try to get away without paying or frequently waste staff time, due to their own lack of planning, but most of us are human and occasionally make mistakes. Maybe a small supplementary payment might be in order, but no more since the ticket machine was faulty.

Let’s have a little tolerance, at least to start with.


One could very well say to the train companies:
it is your responsibility to make the trains run on time.
It is your responsibility to provide machines that work.
It is your responsibility to have a consistent ticket purchase policy, and not leave it at the ‘discretion of your employees’
It is your responsibility to provide enough ticket purchase points to prevent unreasonable queuing.
It is your responsibility to provide enough trains to alleviate the dangerous and unhealthy overcrowding on your trains.

When the train companies let us down, we are expected to bear it and ‘be understanding’ but when we [flawed human beings remember, not perfect automata] make simple errors, we are penalised.

Shevchenko-adeen says:
13 June 2016

Yes, we should be able to allocate a penalty against them when if arrives 10 minutes late, smells of wee, get crushed by 10 x the number of people that the carriage is designed to carry. It’s funny that animals have more legal space in carriage than people do on trains…

hannah says:
12 June 2012

I recently boarded the wrong train by mistake but when i realised the error i asked to leave the train at the next station and just pay for that part of the journey i was told i could not leave the train and board the correct train.i had to pay £123.00 for the entire journey i had already paid for.


Am I reading this correctly, you were prevented from leaving the train you had wrongly boarded?

hannah says:
12 June 2012

Yes once the conductor had made me aware of my mistake she told me i couldnt leave that train and that i had to pay the full fare. The conductor also took my ticket.


This seems illegal, what right did the conductor have for preventing you from leaving the train?
Once you explained your mistake and gave your details, by physically preventing you from leaving the train it seems that a crime has been committed, you have been detained against your will.
I may be mistaken [if so someone please correct me] but it seems that this incident needs to be reported to the police and you need to take legal action to get redress for this.

forhad says:
24 August 2012

in may 2012 i was travelling on the London Overground when the ticket inspector asked me to show my valid ticked i gave the ticket and the ticked was day travelling which is i bought £5.60 then he asked me to show photo id but i knw i have done mistake becauce i dont have young pereson rail card.
he asked me do u really have young person rail card i said no after that he asked to give my date of birh and address i gave him,after that he didnt give this ticket and gave me a permission letter to go to west croydon.i asked him do i need to pay any panelty he said no but this week i got a letter from london overground and they asked me just fill up this from and sign and dont send any money with this letter, plz can any one help me i dont understand why they send me this letter. and wht should i do now.

Steph says:
3 November 2012

I was recently on a journey from Bamber Bridge to Blackburn, there is no ticket station or machine there so i boarded the train without a ticket as I usually do from that station. Once on it was very busy and the ticket collector did not even come down to check tickets so obviously when I got to Blackburn I didn’t have a ticket. As soon as i stepped of the train I was pulled up by a man who worked there who asked to see my ticket, I politely explained I didn’t have one as there is no ticket machine and there was no opportunity to buy one on the train. I told him I had the money and would be happy to go pay at the ticket office. Instead he said I couldn’t, and that I had deliberately tried to fare dodge, he took my details and rang revenue and customs to check I had not lied ( I hadn’t as I didn’t think I had done anything wrong anyway), about 3 months went by and I got a letter saying I had a fine of £150. Corrrect me if I am wrong but on their website it states that if you are caught travelling without a valid ticket, which is what I assume they are fining me for, their is a penalty of £20 or double the full singe fare of the journey whichever is greater, but on the posters say they can fine up to £1000, surely they should have the same information on both their website and posters. I dislike how they feel they can change their rules whenever they like and depending on the mood of the employee’s that day. I often get on the train in the morning and there is generally a massive queue for the ticket machine, meaning I am waiting to buy a ticket for maybe 15-20 minutes, and sometimes the train arrives without people being able to buy a ticket, one time they made about 15 people miss their train as we had not had time to buy one and had to get a ticket and wait for the next train, making people late for work, college and school. The very next day the same thing happened and the exact same guy who had said it was the rules for us not to go on waved us all on to board the train, why did that rule not apply the day after? I often have terrible service from Northern Rail and i begrudge giving them £150 more of my money when I have been travelling with them for years, paying full fair, having given them probably thousands of pounds of my money.


I went to catch a train from Canterbury West to Ashford International, admittedly was running late, got to the ticket barrier and the train was already at the platform. The ticket Inspector at the gate helpfully allowed me through as I was late and even checked with the Train conductor to okay it, was all okay. Went to then buy a ticket on the train, the conductor apologized that the card reader wasnt working and that I’d have to purchase a ticket for my return journey at Ashford. Both were really helpful and understanding. Arriving at Ashford I was fined £20. Which has since increased to £50 from not paying it, and not being able to get hold of a representative where I can challenge this fine. I have no problem with the conditions of Carriage or that they fine people, I do have a problem though with the inconsistency of this practice where its clear to see that 2/3 times even within a journey it is fine to board and be traveling on a train without a ticket yet 1/3 times you get a £20 fine. Either allow for purchase of a ticket on the train or dont. Either fine someone consistently every time they get on a train without a ticket or dont. You money grabbing dirty b******s.

jane says:
7 January 2013

I’m after some advice. I am a frequent rail user as I don’t drive and spend a fortune on public transport. In June I was getting the train to Guildford from my local station whose ticket machine is often out of order. I boarded the train without a ticket as yet again the machine was broken. When I got to Guildford the men at the barrier (who are used to this problem) told me to go through and buy a ticket at the window as there is no facility to buy one on the platform. I got round the other side and there was a huge queue. I went outside to see if there was a ticket machine as there often is at mainline stations. Before I could check I was ‘arrested’ by a an official who did not give me a chance to explain. He read me the riot act and then asked me for ID this was ironic as he saw the amount of tickets I had in my purse! He wrote everything down and I put down my evidence in his note book – I had to ask to do this as he didn’t put any of my points down himself and didn’t ask me if I wanted to either. After this prolonged procedure he said go and get a ticket now. I assumed this meant it would go no further. He didn’t tell me anything about going to see a guard on the train for a ticket next time or anything just to go and get one now which I did. the next I hear is a court date. I have the ticket(luckily I thought to keep it). do I plead guilty or not guilty as I have the ticket? I rang south west trains as advised by the court but they just said it was my fault for boarding a train without a ti ticket. I thought it was the guards responsibility to check and sell tickets. Also the fact that they had someone following people from the barrier demonstrates they know this is a problem at Guildford so I feel very confused that they know there’s an issue but choose to allow people to incriminate themselves rather than make the rules clear and provide passengers with the means to buy tickets before, during or immediately after their journey I feel almost like it is entrapment! Any advice before my hearing would be gratefully received!

Harry says:
10 March 2013

Hi there, you are totally in the right in this case!
My message below, even though I am totally in the right.. I would still be given a fine, however if the machine was not actually working, and they can’t prove it was working then you will be fine, also take along your purse full of old tickets as proof you get regular trains and that this was a one off due to their company being the ones in the wrong as it is up to them to ensure their machines are working properly and to also have correct number of staff on duty to sell tickets, so it is them in the wrong. No lawyer needed…

Hannahnorthernrail says:
30 January 2013

I have had issues with train companies I’ve used a train for 6 years the same time everyday and one evening I boarded the train as ticket office is closed at 9pm, the conductor told me my fare was more than it usually is I said no I usually pay such amount (which I do) has the fare gone up? She replied no its 21:12 the fare is dearer at this time given that the train was 3 minutes late and the fact the conductor only came round after 9mins why should I pay more I only had the usual amount on me as I pay it everyday I was ordered to leave the train at the next stop and the conductor snatched my money out my hand printing me no ticket

4 days after this event I was on my way home on a train when I heard shouting in my carriage it was the conductor saying to the passenger “Are you thick? Leave the train” this was because the guy had no money to pay for his ticket, let me say the passenger did deserve a fine for boarding a train knowing he can’t pay for it but when wearing a companies uniform, when is acceptable to speak to a passenger like that infront of all other customers?

With all the money train companies have made just off fines why don’t they invest in ticket offices that operate at the same times as trains with barriers that u need to put your ticket into to let you on the platform I.e no ticket no pass through gate that way it would save the conductor a job and save thousands of innocent customers abuse of moody horrible staff on top of wrongly issued fines

Harry says:
10 March 2013

So where do I stand?
I had a meeting and was at my local station AT LEAST 10 minutes before my train, meaning usually there would be plenty of time to get a ticket, however there was a huge queue at the ticket office and at the machine, meaning I did not have time to purchase a ticket. (bearing in mind they have recently stupidly taken away the permit machine) I hopped on the train, hoping and expecting to be able to buy a ticket at my destination. Oh how I was wrong.. After explaining my story the silly first capital connect cow came out with, well ‘you should of been there on time’ in which I responded with well I was there at least 10 minutes before my train, that is plenty of time! And it is actually your company who need to employ the correct number of staff in peak times like the rush hour mornings. Because having one ticket booth open and only one machine working when there were about 40 people waiting to buy tickets, its just not on!
The ticket lady then rang the station I was from in which the ticket man CONFIRMED my story. So there was me thinking she was going to let me off, but no the stupid b***h still decided to fine me, ( I mean why go through all this, to then fine me anyway?) It’s wasting my time, and her own time. It just shows that they have like to think they have a bit of power over the public. Which they do not.. She made me out to feel like one of the scum bags who actually do fasre dodge on a regular basis. I was fully intending on paying for my ticket, however the way she reacted even after having my story confirmed was BANG OUT OF ORDER! So I refused the fine, and offered her the money for the ticket, which she declined and then recieved NOTHING! And I am apparently the one in the wrong? I don’t think so.

Lesley says:
19 March 2013

My 17 year old daughter and a college friend have travelled down to cambridge for the first time on monday for a law conference to see if they would like to attend cambridge university in the future. I booked them their ticket on the internet from liverpool lime street to ely, but then i didnt buy the next ticket from ely to cambridge as it was only a short journey and i thought that if i book them the tickets for a particular time and their first train arrived late for any reason they would not be able to board the next train with that ticket, so it would be better for them to buy it when they got there for the next available train. They arrived in ely and asked a train worker about the train they needed to cambridge and about buying their ticket and was told to get on the train and they would be able to buy their ticket on board. My daughter didnt question this as she travels to college each day while at home and most mornings buys her ticket off the conductor on board without any problem. They boarded the train and the conductor told them it was illegal to board a train without a ticket! This is the first time she has travelled this far without an adult with her and at 17 was upset by the thought of doing something illegal! sThey were both asked to pay £20 fine there and then or give their details in to the conductor to recieve the fine later! She told me she didnt want to give all her details out as she didnt know if he would use them later for any other reason and as a young person under 18 and in a place she was unfamiliar with, she didnt think she should be giving her details out to a stranger! So basically her and her friend were not allowed to buy the £4.20 ticket each off the conductor as advised, but were fined £20 each! Both girls had only been sent to cambridge with £40 each for the 4 day conference so straight away they had been left with only £20 each to get drinks, snacks and return train ticket to ely from cambridge on the way home! All of this has been very upsetting to my daughter and her friend and myself! I would like to know why there is no consistancy, one trainline allows you to buy a ticket aboard the train and another one doesnt! And why does the staff who advised them to do this not know the rules of the company he works for!

Darryl says:
4 May 2013

I arrived at Gatwick after a long flight. Had a return ticket to Hertfordshire. At the gates my ticket would not work passed it to the ticket inspector who opened the gates for me. At Victoria again the ticket did not inspector let me pass. Same again at the underground at Victoria and Kings Cross. On the train north a inspector my ticket was out of date. I thought I had purchased and open return, so fined me £28.60. I pointed out I had been allowed to travel but he was not interested. Appealed but they ignored the fact the inspectors allowed me to travel. Are they working to ensure people get fined? Appealed again but they will only deal with the process not the reason why I was allowed to travel.

I believe this is totally unreasonable as I could have been stopped at any of the four ticket barriers and told to buy a replacement ticket.

The IPFAS will not enter into further correspondence any suggestions?


Darryl says:
4 May 2013

I arrived at Gatwick after a long flight. Had a return ticket to Hertfordshire. At the gates my ticket would not work passed it to the ticket inspector who opened the gates for me. At Victoria again the ticket did not inspector let me pass. Same again at the underground at Victoria and Kings Cross. On the train north a inspector my ticket was out of date. I thought I had purchased and open return, so fined me £28.60. I pointed out I had been allowed to travel but he was not interested. Appealed but they ignored the fact the inspectors allowed me to travel. Are they working to ensure people get fined? Appealed again but they will only deal with the process not the reason why I was allowed to travel.

I believe this is totally unreasonable as I could have been stopped at any of the four ticket barriers and told to buy a replacement ticket.

The IPFAS will not enter into further correspondence any suggestions?


jordan says:
22 May 2013

I was on the train today and when the conductor came to me I asked for my ticket etc and was paying by card. I had just finished work and didn’t know were any cash machines were, I didn’t think this was a problem because i had payed on card on the train before. So…my card got declined and he issued me with and unpaid fairs notice, fair enough. But the next day I did the same hoping that my card would work (as it has done many times before). So when the conductor comes to me, he says its a criminal offence to purposely avoid payment and I will be charged £200 or sent to court, but whybdo they have card machines if they NEVER work?! I never carry cash due to once losing a wallet full of money, I wasn’t avoiding the train fair, I showed him I wanted to pay by producing my card!

Sue says:
9 June 2013

My husband and I went to the ticket office to buy return tickets to St Albans from Sydenham. The woman behind the desk sold us 1-6 zone travel cards which we discovered at St Albans were the wrong tickets. We were then both charged a penalty fare which we will now have to appeal. My fear is that we will be told that somehow we should have known that the station staff had sold us the wrong tickets and as the conversation isn’t recorded we won’t be able to prove it.


I know this is an old conversation, but bare with me:-)

Is a train penalty ticket valid if I contains errors.

My son and stepson travelled by train today and as there was a queue at the ticket machine, and no manned ticket office were going to miss their train.

They boarded it with the intention of buying tickets on board as they have done before.

They couldn’t see a conductor, however were advised by another passenger on departing that there was one, but he hadn’t got off his seat all journey.

when they got to the destination they were asked for the tickets and they explained the situation, but were both issued with penalty tickets although they both offered to pay the fair.

My son is 23 and there Is a part on the form when the inspector has to write the name of the parent or guardian of anyone under 18, he wrote someones name who lives at the address, but not his parent or guardian.

In the case of my stepson who is 16 he spelt his mothers name wrong.

We are appealing the fines anyway, but is this enough of a loophole to get them off?

a very upset commuter says:
7 February 2014

As many of you, I once hopped on the train in Godalming without my ticket (there was a really long queue and we re afraid to miss the train, usual stuff). My husband and I had the firm intention to buy it at Guildford station, as we have to collect someone else there and go all our way into Central London, now the 3 of us together. We arrived at Guildford station, went all the way through the tunnel, APPROACHED the ticket office that it is next to the barriers, YES, I MEAN WE WENT STRAIGHT TO THE GUARD that was standing outside the office (as there was not anyone inside) and ASKED him for the tickets. RESULT: We were FINED 20 pounds each. The guard kept on saying that “the law is the law”; I think that the reason was that we were just a foreign couple and wanted to tick himself a box at our expense.
Now I have read a very useful article about the steps to follow if you find yourself in this hassle and feel you are treated unfairly:

Hope it will be of any help to any of you.

angeli2 says:
5 July 2014

how can they justify asking me to pay £88 pound fine when I had a valid oyster card which I topped up to cover my whole trip they saw my receipt and acknowledged that I had paid but said I had not tapped my oyster card in which I did that’s why I have to pay the fine I appealed this but still told to pay, I am disabled and barely leave my home as I am barely mobile but had to go to a hospital appointment, I cannot afford to pay the amount they want and cannot justify them asking me since I had a valid oyster card, what can I do has anyone got advice and by the way they took the money from my oyster card as well

Zach says:
7 July 2014

I have recently been served a penalty of £20 and I don’t believe this is fair. I renew my season ticket quite regularly and have been under stress of education (Am currently in full time education). This week I decided to stay at a friends then get the train back in the morning, as always I have my ticket in my wallet ready to go, I got on the train and travelled one stop to my location, season ticket in hand. I walk up to the ticket men/women to go out of the station and they say my season ticket is out of date by a couple of days. I immediately looked at my ticket and realised indeed it was, I apologised and said I wasn’t aware. So I said I would pay for my ticket to where I was upfront. They rejected me and handed me a penalty which I now have to pay or appeal. I appealed against this but do I have a case?

angeli2 says:
7 July 2014

you can appeal it but they have become so greedy now doubt that it will help, I appealed my fine as I had a valid oyster card but still got denied even though they took the money from my oyster card and now they want £88 but I am not paying I will see them in court. but good luck

Andrew Crook says:
8 August 2014

Could Honest Passengers Be Unfairly Charged a Penalty Fare?

We all know we need to buy a ticket before we board a train or we may be subject to a penalty fare. Those who try to evade payment for their journey are being unfair towards the rest of us who do pay our own way. It is quite right that they should have to pay a penalty when they get caught.

But with a system that assumes you are guilty unless proven instrument, you even the most honest of us might find ourselves facing a penalty fare through no fault of our own. Here are a few ways that this might happen:
 There may be no ticket office or ticket machine at your local station. This is quite common on some quieter branch lines. The conductor on such lines should walk through the train and sell you a ticket. But suppose you only travel a couple of stops before changing trains and the conductor is nowhere to be found? You might then find the conductor on the main line does not believe your explanation for why you have no ticket.
 There may be just a ticket / permit to travel machine at your station but it is broken, not accepting credit cards, or a key may not be working on the PIN keypad so that you are prevented from paying.
 You may be using a smart card, such as Oyster, and when you held it against the machine it does not correctly register that you touched in.
 You might have joined the tube system at a busy station via some automated barriers and because you were too close behind the person in front your smart card did not register. If you then transfer to lines where ticket inspections are carried out via hand-held smart card readers (e.g. DLR, London Overground), you will not have a valid ticket.
 You may have bought a ticket ahead of time but it is not the correct ticket for that route or you may be travelling on an earlier/later train than you were supposed to.

In any of the above circumstances whether you are charged a penalty fare comes down to whether the person inspecting your ticket believes you. There are plenty of stories out in newspaper articles and consumer forums of where people appear to have been treated unfairly.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?

First check that you are dealing with a genuinely authorised conductor or revenue protection officer (RPO). Not all rail staff are entitled to impose penalty fares. In order to do so, they must be explicitly authorised to collect penalty fares so under section 5.3 of the 2002 Penalty Fare Rules. When imposing a penalty fare they are obliged to show you the following documentation:
(i) Their “authorisation to collect” document.
(ii) Their ID. Do not let them try and pass off either a name badge or a uniform as being their “ID”. Standard formal identification will bear the name of the authorising company (their employer), an up-to-date photograph from which they can clearly be recognised and either their first + last name or possibly a unique employee ID number.

Note down the details of both documents (they are obliged to let you do this), as this information may help you to appeal the penalty fare.

If they refuse to show you either document, then they are breaking the law. Keep in mind that as tickets migrate to new technologies (smart tickets, contactless bank cards, mobile phones), there is an increasing risk that criminals will pose as RPOs to defraud customers. So, if they refuse to show you their ID + documentation, call British Transport Police for assistance.

Next explain your circumstances and show them any proof you may have such a photo of the station where you boarded. Be polite and remain calm when interacting with them; becoming irate or shouting will not help your case. Keep in mind that you acted in good faith and that you are not a criminal, as the Evening Standard explains. Not having a valid ticket for travel is not a criminal offence, although the intention to evade paying for your journey is.

If they insist on issuing you with a penalty fare notice, make it clear that you are disputing the penalty fare and will be appealing it. You are not obliged to pay the penalty fare straight away and it is better not to pay at this point: it is never easy getting companies to refund money once you have handed it over! You have 21 days to either pay up or lodge an appeal against the penalty fare. You are obliged to give the ticket inspector your name and address so that the company can pursue the penalty fare. The inspector must give you a copy of the penalty fare notice and it must include the address of the company with whom you can lodge the appeal.

Ask to purchase a single full fare ticket from the station where you boarded to your destination. You need to buy a ticket for the journey you are making and proactively asking to do so helps to dispel any suspicion that you were trying to evade payment.

The vast majority of conductors and RPOs will try to treat you fairly and decently. Unfortunately, a small number are very heavy handed or even threatening in their manner. Examples of such behaviour might be: refusing to formally identify themselves, using threatening language, accusing you of being a criminal, suggesting that you should have walked through the train to find a conductor (you are not obliged to do this if the train company failed to provide working facilities to buy a ticket), etc. If you feel unfairly treated or threatened then call the police and ask them to attend the train. It may be worth filming the incident with your mobile phone, as this can be used as evidence by the police in court if necessary. Do not rely on the train CCTV: it often does not record sound and train companies may be inclined not to download it if it is not in their interest do so.

When you get home, write to the train company straight away to appeal the penalty fare. Ask for any CCTV from the station where you boarded to be held as evidence (in case the appeal proceeds to court).

It may also be worth contacting British Transport Police (BTP) to request CCTV from the station. Bear in mind that if you did not have a ticket because there were no facilities to buy a ticket or because a machine was broken, then others may be in the same position and may also have contacted the train company or BTP. A number of people reporting the same issue could also form evidence that supports your account of events.

Passenger Focus may be able to provide advice and assistance on how to proceed.


Tips for Avoiding & Dealing With Unfair Penalty Fares

Before Travel
 Buy a ticket before boarding the train if there is any working facility to do so.
 Purchase a Permit to Travel if there is a machine to do so.
 If you cannot purchase a ticket:
o Photograph the station where you board.
o Photograph any error message on a broken machine.

During Ticket Inspection
 Be polite and remain calm.
 Check the inspector’s ID and Authorisation to Collect document and note down details.
 Make it clear that you are appealing the Penalty Fare.
 Do not pay the Penalty Fare on the spot.
 Purchase a full single fare covering your entire journey.
 Provide your name and address.
 Make sure you are given a copy of the Penalty Fare Notice and that has the train company address on it.
 Film the incident if you feel it is necessary for your own protection.

 Contact the train company to appeal the Penalty Fare. Request CCTV to be retained.
 Contact British Transport Police if you need evidence to support your case, e.g. CCTV.

 You are not a criminal if you were not trying to evade payment.
 The conductor/RPO must show you their documentation & let you note details (PFR 5.4).
 Penalty Fares cannot be charged if (PFR 7.3):
o There were no (working) facilities at the station to purchase a ticket.
o The station at which you boarded is not included in the Penalty Fare Scheme.
o Someone appearing to be a member of staff, i.e. in uniform, tells you to board the train without a ticket.
o Warning notices of that it is a penalty fare area are not out on display.
 The conductor must issue you with a written penalty fare notice that includes details of their identity, the Penalty Fare amount, the train company name + address for appeal/payment (PFR 8.3).
 If in any doubt about the identity of the inspector or if you are concerned about their behaviour, contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016.

N.B. PFR = 2002 Penalty Fare Rules

2002 Penalty Fare Rules: https://www.ircas.co.uk/docs/SRA%20-%20Penalty%20Fare%20Rules%202002.pdf

Evening Standard: 10 ways to avoid penalty fares: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/10-ways-to-avoid-penalty-fares-on-trains-6762684.html

Telegraph: Innocent passengers facing huge fare-dodging penalties: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/9280167/Innocent-rail-passengers-facing-huge-fare-dodging-penalties-watchdog-warns.html

Passenger Focus: Penalty fare guidance: http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/faqs/ticket-inspection-penalties/what-can-happen-if-i-am-on-a-train-without-a-valid-ticket

Mayorwatch: Could you become a victim of crime just by showing your ticket: http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/could-you-become-a-victim-of-crime-just-by-showing-your-train-ticket/

Pam Webb says:
17 October 2014

I had an oyster card to make a 2 station journey to Hayes in Kent. The train was entering the station and I ran up 2 flights of stairs in time to hear the doors beeping,stupidly I dived onto it not having time to get card out of my bag. On arrival at Hayes I offered card and apologised I fully intended to ask station staff what I should do. The inspector treated me like a criminal made me write my details on a scrap of paper and failed to issue me with a penalty fare notice.I would have paid it, and thought I would hear by post, this has never happened to me in 69 years. I got a letter demanding £40 as I had not PSID, but I was not issued with notice.Woman at London Watch was very rude and unhelpful.I realise that I should have touched in but this heavy handed approach gives all inspectors a bad name

ian gilf says:
22 January 2015

hi i didnt have a ticket for my journey from broadstairs to sittingbourne ,the rail police got on and gave me a fine i gave them my debit card details and about a month later they took it out of my account , in the mean time they also sent me a letter for this which had the same fee and an additional admin fee so in total its cost 76 pounds i tried contacting southeastern trains about this and they dont want to know what can i do please i have a bank statement with southeastern trains taken 28 pounds and we also made a payment to penaltyfares.co.uk where we have a refrence number and a reciept and there saying we did not make a payment but we have what can be done please who and where is the best place to complain thanks


Your station ticket office should be able to give you a leaflet on the train operating company’s complaints procedures and also on its penalty fares system which you need to check in the first instance to see whether what has happened complies with their policy. If your complaint to South Eastern Trains remains unresolved you can take it up with Passenger Focus which is the consumer body for rail services outside Greater London.Their website says they wil try to help resolve the issue and that the process takes seven weeks on average. Make it clear that your complaint is against the double penalty due to bad administration, not the fact that a penalty was issued for not having a valid ticket. Good luck.

DHack says:
24 January 2015

Hi, I recieved a fine in Dec for travelling in 1st class. On this day my morning train to work was cancelled causing me a 40 minute delay on getting to work where I had 6 employees awaiting my arrival costing me hundreds of pounds but who cares certainly not London Midland. On my return journey home again the train was cancelled resulting in me missing an event that night. As you can imagine the train was completely packed and everyone flocked to 1st class as did I, when confronted to pay a fine or upgrade I refused out of protest. I made my appeal within 28 days also requesting my 50% refund for my 2 journeys ( I might add that after years of travelling I have never made an appeal for refund prior to this day but simply had enough on this day) only to be told that the dept I had contacted only dealt with the fines and consequently now missed the deadline as you can imagine I was outraged even further as not even so much as an apology but an increase in the fine now up to £54. I am prepared to go to court over this and the fine has now risen to £74 threatening all sorts towards me. Can anyone advise on this please.


it has just to my notice i have been paying a fine back to hmcts since 2013 for bunking a train i did not bunk so in other words some 1 has been court and given my name in. i phoned them where i needed to leave a message for them to phone me back so they did almost a week later and they asked me why only now since they been taking money from me since 2013 which i informed them i didn’t know i thought what was being deducted was for my social fund loan where they are like what addresses have i lived in so i told them and they was like so we traced you back to their where they said i told the officer at the time it’s where i lived but i didn’t give my address to no 1 as it wasn’t me so she was like if i want to contest it i will need a another number and be 4 she give me it the phone went dead and i don’t know how to contact them or get the number or nothing. can some please help me.