The great South West Trains Rip-off

Those who travel on this line, or any other for that matter who chooses to adopt such a policy, may wish to pay attention to an article in today's Guardian by Richard Colbey: One Train of Thought about Penalty Fares

"South West Trains has, according to reports, told its guards to impose penalty fares on passengers who tried to buy a ticket at one of its stations, but couldn't because of long queues at windows or ticket machines. Are these penalty fares legally enforceable? Almost certainly not.
A confidential memo, seen last week by The Times newspaper, suggested that South West Trains is planning to introduce a system under which guards are judged according to the amount they collect in penalties.

The memo, headed "commercially sensitive, please do not circulate", instructs guards to treat passengers as fare dodgers even if they ask to buy a ticket on the train.
As well as being bad for customers and guards alike, the policy is legally dubious. Rail companies have to rely on the penalty fare rules 2002, made by the then Department of Transport, to levy such charges.

These rules are explicit. A penalty fare may not be charged if there were "no facilities to issue the appropriate ticket". This, at least arguably, means there must have been a window at which there is no queue. In plain English, a person is not available if he is serving a queue. Nor is a machine available if it is in use.

SWT says its policy is to sell a ticket within, at most, five minutes of waiting. Although that does not tie in exactly with the concept of "availability".

In an attempt to get around the problem, the train companies have come up with "conditions of carriage". These don't incorporate the rules' wording, but say a penalty fare is payable if there is no window open and no working machine. It is doubtful that a passenger who has bought no ticket, and hence made no contract with the rail company, could be subject to any conditions. The conditions are invalid if they do not follow the DoT's rules.

SWT's website says one of the reasons for imposing penalty fares is to deter those who do not buy a ticket until challenged. But proving the intention to evade, beyond reasonable doubt, would be virtually impossible. A penalty then seems fair, but that is very different from a ticketless passenger seeking out the guard.

Those who couldn't buy a ticket should politely refuse to pay the penalty. The guard is entitled to a name and address and to know where they got on, and will get off. Mentioning paragraph 7.4 of the penalty fare rules is likely to win the argument, at least on the train.

If the guard issues a penalty notice anyway, there is 21 days to appeal to the company. However even if there is no appeal, or the appeal is not allowed, the company is not automatically entitled to its money. It first has to sue in the county court. Judges hearing such claims would not give judgment for the penalty sum unless the company could justify it.

There has been no reported case of a train company suing in this way. The last thing the rail industry would want is a pronouncement by a judge on its levying of penalty fares."

Those who would wish to do so may download the Department of Transport Penalty Fare Rules 2002 as hyperlinked in dark red

Richard Colbey is a Barrister and it was a previous article published by him in 2003 in the Jobs and Money section of the same newspaper in which he questioned the validity of Bank charges which led to individuals claiming tens of millions of pounds in refunded charges from banks who flouted the law, just as the Railway Companies believe they are able to do now!

Regards and best wishes

I've had a 'discussion' with a Guard on one of SW Trains on the subject of buying a ticket at Waterloo on a Friday evening. If anyone is mad enough to have tried to do this, it can take 20 to 25 minutes even waiting for a machine. Most Guards are very understanding and agree that it is a bit of a nightmare, and even allow the use of the HM Forces Railcard to get a discounted ticket on the train - something Mr Jobsworth refused to do, even though he didn't levy a fine (it was about 6 months ago).

Travelling the other way, our local Station only has a machine outside morning rush-hour. I note from the rules you linked that Section 7 contains the following:

4. An authorised collector must not charge a penalty fare under rule 6.5 if, when the person entered the compulsory ticket area:

a. there were no facilities available for selling the appropriate ticket or other authority for the journey the person wanted to make or for entering the compulsory ticket area;

None of the SW Trains offers a button for 'HM Forces Railcard'. There is one for Student, Young Persons and Senior Citizens. To my mind, that suggests that there is no facility for selling me the appropriate ticket. Mr Jobsworth told me that I could have used the 'student' button, as the discount was the same - at which point we had a minor discussion about clairvoyance.
if they carry on with this, they will rather quickly lose customers.
They're out to get you, Iolis. It's plain enough to all who have eyes to see. I'm going to bypass ARRSE, the Government, and UN channels with this one, they're all in on it.

I'll take your case straight to David Icke on the Galactic Supreme Council. It's our only hope. The overnight Light Beam Accelerator leaves earth orbit in figures one five. I'll be on it, come what may. It's not part of the SWT franchise either, so the Stella won't be three quid a tin.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a cause to fight, an injustice to right, and a hat made of Baco-foil that feels too tight.
semper said:
if they carry on with this, they will rather quickly lose customers.
I'd like to agree with you on that, except I know of no other service along South West Trains routes.

And you can be sure that people won't be looking to get a bus from Portsmouth to London on a daily basis; for example.

SWT are a pile of balls.

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