Ticketless passengers to be fined £100 in Northern crackdown

Ticketless passengers to be fined �100.
Ticketless passengers to be fined �100.

A penalty fares system will be strictly enforced on rail passengers travelling in the Wakefield district, despite concerns over its fairness.

Train operator Northern says they will issue on-the-spot fines of £100 to any customers travelling without a valid pass, once ticket machines have been installed at all stations in the area.

The company has intermittently cracked down on fare dodging in recent years, but their efforts have been undermined by an absence of ticket facilities at smaller stations.

Northern says the rollout of the scheme on the Leeds-Ilkley line this year has been “successful”, with more than 100 fines issued in the past two months.  

Speaking at a public meeting on Thursday, Northern’s stakeholder manager Pete Myers said that the system was part of its contractual commitments.

Asked about how the scheme will work he said: “It’s a highly regulated national system which incorporates these posters you see at stations, which aren’t particularly customer friendly, I’ll admit. I don’t like the text in them, but it’s a serious issue.

“We’ve introduced this at stations in the Leeds North West area and we’ve had just over 100 penalty fares since February. Appeals have been very low indeed.

“What we’ve found is the amount of revenue from the line has increased, which is why we’ve introduced it.”

However, some stations will only have a machine or a ticket office on one platform, prompting concerns that passengers who can’t access the facilities will be unfairly penalised.

A number of the machines will also be card-only.

Rail passenger representative David Young said: “It seems unfair to me that people have to make their way to the wrong platform to get a ticket.”

Mr Myers said that passengers travelling from platforms without facilities would not be prosecuted.

He said: “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. The system will be more than reasonable.

“All stations will have a ticket machine and the positioning will be where it commercially makes sense.

“People shouldn’t receive a penalty fare they’re surprised by.

“The machines will be card only but that doesn’t preclude people paying on the train. You can get a promise to pay voucher which lets you use cash on the train.”

Asked about what happens if a ticket machine breaks down, Mr Myers said: “The machines are fairly reliable, especially the new ones. The inspectors on the trains have a device which tells them how the machines are in real time. Even if the machine is down for a few minutes they will know. If that’s the case they won’t issue a fine.”