UNFARE: Anger as train operator fines 'fare dodgers' waiting to buy tickets
Train operators are coming under fire from angry passengers who say they are being hit with fines for fare dodging, despite joining queues to buy tickets.
Northern introduced the penalty fares last year forcing rail users to either buy a ticket on debit or credit card from the machine at the stations before they board their train, or take a ‘promise to pay’ slip.
In recent months the train company has appeared to clamp down on passengers, and those caught without the ‘promise to pay’ ticket face a £20 fine, which could then escalate if not paid within a certain time . It could then lead to potential court action.
After a passenger took to Facebook to share his experience at Castleford, it led to dozens of others saying they had fallen victim to the new system.
Some complained about a lack of notification at stations, while others said with just one machine there can often be queues, and on occasions the machines are not working.
Shockingly, some had even said they had been queuing to buy a ticket after stepping off at Leeds, only to be pulled to one side and fined for not having a ‘promise to pay’ ticket.
Lisa Sari said her son was queuing with his money in hand, and added: “They pulled him out of the queue and asked if he had a promise to pay a ticket and because he didn’t they slapped him with a £20 fine.
“It’s disgusting, it’s not like he was trying to jump the barrier or tailgate through, he was queuing.
“It’s just a way of making extra revenue, as if they don’t make enough from us. I use the service every day and for the last six months I don’t think a single train has been on time.
“I tried to dispute it but it’s like talking to the wall.”
Georgina White said: “My husband got one a few weeks ago, the sign is not obvious, he didn’t have time to queue as there is only one machine, couldn’t get one on train so went to the office in Leeds and slapped with the £20 fine straight away.
“Wouldn’t mind paying if the train service was actually decent.”
Confusing the matter further, passengers have also claimed that while some Northern employees will issue the fine instantly, there are others who allow passengers to buy the tickets on arrival. Also, it seems that while some are having success in their appeals, many are seeing theirs rejected.
But Northern has defended its policy .
A spokesman said: “Penalty fares have been introduced on some routes to target those who persist in travelling without paying the correct fare.
“We do not seek to apply them without reason - and certainly do not target specific groups.
“Customers travelling on routes where penalty fares are in place should be aware that, where possible, they should buy their tickets before boarding trains. As well as ticket offices and ticket vending machines, customers can also buy tickets online.
“Tickets can be bought on-board where conductors are available, but customers should first obtain a ‘promise to pay’ voucher from a ticket vending machine. We have installed more than 600 new ticket machines across our network and, where possible, will look to install more in the future.
“For those customers who feel fares have been applied unfairly, there is an independent appeals process to give our customers a means to challenge the issue of a penalty fare and submit mitigating evidence.
"We would always advise customers to get in contact or go through the independent appeals process if they believe they have been wrongly issued a penalty fare.
“If customers do not purchase tickets before travelling, or do not subsequently obtain and ‘promise to pay’ voucher, then they may face a fine upon arrival.”