Train passengers getting unfair treatment, report says

People queuing for train tickets at Victoria
Image caption Some passengers face criminal prosecution through innocent mistakes, according to Passenger Focus

Rail passengers are receiving unfair treatment for making innocent mistakes with their tickets, according to a watchdog.

A report by Passenger Focus said passengers were getting caught up in a "minefield of rules and regulations".

Two elderly passengers had to pay £239 for boarding an earlier train after one fell over and was in pain, it said.

But the Association of Train Operating Companies said the majority of passengers had no problems.

'Not fair'

Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Passengers deserve a fair hearing. If they have forgotten their railcard, lost one of their tickets but have proof of purchase or have been unable to pick up booked tickets, they should be given a second chance.

"Train companies cannot continue to treat some of their customers like this - 'one strike and you are out' is simply not fair."

The report said some passengers faced fines for forgetting tickets even though they could provide proof of purchase, while others faced criminal prosecution for mistakes because of strict regulations.

Other cases mentioned in the report included:

  • A man who received a court summons for not having a valid ticket despite having an email confirmation of his purchase. He had forgotten to print the ticket after choosing the print-at-home option.
  • A woman who was threatened with prosecution when she could not produce her full ticket despite having proof of purchase and the return half of the ticket. She was forced to pay £92 to "settle".
  • A woman who bought an advance ticket for a long-distance journey using a railcard and was issued a penalty fare for £260 after she forgot her railcard. She had only been given a £4 reduction with the railcard and was willing to prove that she owned one after the event, she still incurred the fine.
  • A woman who was unable to pick up her booked tickets from a ticket machine and was given a UFN (Unpaid fares notice) of £239 for boarding the train without a valid ticket. Her appeal was rejected even though she was advised to board the train using her email confirmation and was able to collect the tickets at the end of her journey.
  • A woman who left her £2 ticket behind on board a train and could not produce it at the ticket check and was offered an "out-of-court" settlement if she paid £85. She had previously had it checked on board the train and had no previous record of ticketless travel.

A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "We recognise the concerns raised by the report and 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.

"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."

Rail Minister Norman Baker said passengers had the right for rules to be "consistently applied across all operators", and it was "worrying" if this was not the case.

"It is in the interests of train operating companies that passengers are confident in what they are buying", he added.

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