In the online survey commissioned by BSB Solicitors, respondents were presented with three statements portraying circumstances in which a penalty fare may be charged. These circumstances were based on the rules which govern the application of penalty fares and are used by operators on the National Rail Network.
The penalty fare scheme is the reverse of the normal ‘innocent until proved guilty’ British justice system, meaning passengers must appeal to dispute a penalty. The research, conducted by BSB Solicitors, infers the majority of public transport users do not understand what, or when they can dispute a Penalty Fare Notice.
Rail operators are authorised to charge Penalty Fares by the Department for Transport in line with the Railways Act 1994 (as amended by the Transport Act 2000), the Penalty Fares Regulations 1994 and the Penalty Fares Rules 2002.
In order to get a snapshot of how well people in the UK understand the penalty fares system, respondents were presented with the following statements and were given the option to answer TRUE, FALSE, or DON’T KNOW.
- If given a penalty fare, the minimum payment is always equal to the full fare you should have paid for your journey
- If you forget your season ticket and are caught travelling without it, you are still required to pay a penalty fare
- If you started your journey at a non-penalty fare location (i.e. a location where you don’t need a ticket to travel between certain destinations), you can be charged a penalty fare later in your journey if you don’t have a valid ticket
Less than a fifth (14%) answered all the questions correctly.
Older people tended to be the most unsure about rail penalty fare rules (12% answering all questions correctly), while, those in the North East has the highest percentage of residents answering one or more questions incorrectly 91%).
Those in the East of England had the highest percentage of all correct answers (19%), meaning they were the most clued in about their rights; Scots were on par the national percentage at 14%.
1. If given a penalty fare, the minimum payment is always equal to the full fare you should have paid for your journey
TRUE: Sometimes the authorised collector may require you to make a minimum payment when the penalty is issued. If this is the case then you only have to pay the amount you would have done for that journey (disregarding rail cards or any other discounting mechanisms). However, the final penalty cost should only be £20 or twice the full single fare from the station where the passenger got on the train to the next station at which the train stops, whichever is the greater.
2. If you forget your season ticket and are caught travelling without it, you are still required to pay a penalty fare
FALSE: If you forget your season ticket, you should make sure you are issued with a “nil fare” penalty notice – you do not have to pay a penalty fare – then you will normally be asked to send in a photocopy of your season ticket. You can be asked to buy a normal single ticket (but you can then get refunded at a ticket office on production of your season ticket. However, you can only do this twice a year.
3. If you started your journey at a non-penalty fare location (i.e. a location where you don’t need a ticket to travel between certain destinations), you can be charged a penalty fare later in your journey if you don’t have a valid ticket
FALSE: Not all stations are included in the penalty fares scheme. An authorised collector must not charge a penalty fare under rule 6.2 if the person joined the train at a station which is not named as a penalty fares station by the relevant approved penalty fares scheme. Penalty Fare stations are all clearly indicated as such by means of signs and large yellow posters.
More results from the survey:
● 36% of those surveyed nationally thought that the first rule was TRUE, compared to a quarter who think this is false
● Those in the North East were most unsure about the second rule, with 57% saying they didn’t know. Brits were three times more likely to think this was true compared to false (39% vs 13%)
● 63% of Londoners incorrectly thought the third rule was true
Currently, passengers in England and Wales have 21 days to appeal against a penalty fare using the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service, which is owned by the Go-Ahead group that runs Southeastern. An independent transport user watchdog, then known as Passenger Focus but now known as Transport Focus, produced a report called Ticket to Ride in 2015 which stated that there has been insufficient information about penalty fares schemes at stations and on websites. Despite some improvements, the information provided is still variable.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,019 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd – 24th May 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
– YouGov is registered with the Information Commissioner
– YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council
If you wish to discuss a case further, please contact Jonathan Black or you can read more about fare evasion solicitor services here.