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Passenger watchdog calling for fairness over train ticket fines
AS EXCUSES go, not having a ticket because you wrote your phone number on it and gave it to a pretty woman on a train is certainly imaginative.
And it is one which ticket inspectors heard before giving the 20-year-old man in question a fine.
Revenue protection officers working on train services across the News Shopper area hear stories like this every day and issue countless fines.
Train watchdog Passenger Focus says this ‘privatised justice’ needs to be dished out more carefully so people who make a genuine mistake rather than an excuse are dealt with fairly.
They include William Gatward who wrote on the Passenger Focus campaign page on Facebook about how he was fined at Dartford station.
He did not realise the town is outside the Oyster zone and so had not bought a ticket for the last part of his trip and said: “This was a mistake on my part, but why didn't the attendant just let me buy a ticket for the excess part of the journey?”
Passenger Focus’s chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Any form of privatised justice like this must be administered according to clear guidelines, be accountable, give passengers a fair hearing and not assume everyone is guilty.
"Train companies cannot continue to treat some of their customers like this – ‘one strike and you are out’ is simply not fair."
In response a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies, on behalf of Southeastern, said: "We are already working on an industry-wide code of practice that will set out how operators deal with fare dodgers and where discretion can be shown for passengers who have made an honest mistake.
"Train companies need to take a firm but fair approach to fare dodging because unfortunately there will always be people who try to get away without paying.
"The overwhelming majority of the three million people who travel by train every day get the right ticket for their journey with no problems whatsoever."
A Southern trains spokesman said: “The national conditions of carriage clearly set out the terms by which passengers must travel and at Southern, we operate according to these conditions.
“However, our on-board staff do have the option of using discretion where a case may be in doubt.
“Any passenger issued with a penalty fare has the right to appeal to the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service within 21 days of the date of the penalty fare.”
Have you ever been unfairly fined by a train company? Call the newsroom on 01689 885703.