Previously Consumer Lookout raised concerns that Southern refuses to install ticket machines at a number of stations, e.g. a number of stations on the Seaford branch. The lack of ticket purchasing facilities forces passengers to board the train without a ticket.
Southern dodged the question as to whether passengers in this situation have to go hunting for the conductor, although their reply seemed to imply that they do expect this and that passengers who fail to do so may be issued with a Penalty Fare (in breach of the Penalty Fare Rules).
They did indicate that the conductor should pass through the train to sell tickets to customers who board at those stations. In my experience it is quite rare for conductors to do so. On no occasion when I have used the train this year has a conductor bothered to come through the carriage between Seaford & Lewes (where customers may interchange to another service) to sell tickets to those who boarded at stations without ticket machines (Bishopstone, Newhaven Harbour, Southease). This 100% failure based on a fairly random sampling suggests that conductors are routinely neglecting their duty to provide passengers with the good customer service we should expect, particularly in light of the exorbitant ticket prices.
If you do find yourself in this situation it may be worth remembering the following…
Expectation of Customer Service:
- If the train company denied you the means to buy a ticket at your station, it is reasonable to expect the conductor to come and sell you a ticket or that you will be able to buy that ticket at the end of your journey.
- It is also reasonable to expect to pay exactly the same as you would have done through a ticket office or machine, had they bothered to provide those facilities, i.e. any discount (railcard, etc.) should apply.
Penalty Fares Can Only Be Issued By Authorised Staff:
- Only an authorised Revenue Protection Officer can issue a penalty fare. They must show you ID & a special document that authorises them to collect penalty fares & allow you to note the details. If they refuse to do so, you may wish to call the police to enforce the law. Also bear in mind that someone who refuses to show ID may not be who they say they are. An ID must identify them, i.e.
- Have the employing company’s name.
- Make them accountable, i.e. either a unique employee ID or first name + last name.
- Have a photo from which they can easily be recognised.
- Confirm any authorised role they are carrying out.
Avoiding Fraudulent Penalty Fares:
- The Penalty Fare Rules section 7.3 states that penalty fares must not be charged if there were no facilities to buy a ticket.
- Section 2.o of the same rules makes clear that this applies to the original station where you started your journey, not an intermediate station where you changed trains.
- Revenue Protection Officers are deemed to be familiar with and understand the rules they are enforcing, so they will know they must not issue a penalty fare under these circumstances.
- Southern’s Revenue Protection Officers have a very dodgy incentive scheme where they can pocket up to 5% of whatever penalty fares they charge. This may motivate some of them to issue penalty fares either when they know the should show discretion or even ones that breach the rules.
- Anyone who insists on trying to issue you a penalty fare that breaches these rules may be considered to defrauding you. Fraud (what is fraud?) should always be reported to the police.