Penalty fares on trains are designed to punish those who try to evade payment. It is quite right that they should be caught and punished, otherwise they are travelling at the expense of those of us who do buy a ticket.
However, it is an area that often causes great concern to rail passengers, with a wide perception that many honest, innocent people who tried to – or, at the very least, intended to – pay for their journey, unfairly get charged these penalties through no fault of their own, e.g.
- Because their train company refused to provide ticket machines or a ticket office at their local station.
- Because they bought the wrong ticket (not always their fault if a ticket machine does not have the correct information).
- Because they left their railcard or discount card behind.
- Because some rail staff break the rules, e.g. by failing to produce identification (call the police if this happens), by failing to issue the Penalty Fare Notice, or simply by defrauding passengers.
Passenger Focus has produced a detailed Ticket to Ride report on this subject, which explains the laws in this area and some of the complexities of the system, together with some case examples. It is well worth a read.