Rail Conditions of Carriage: Sloppy Dept of Transport Review Leaves Passengers at Risk of Fraud

Last month a new version of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage was released.  These conditions apply every time you board a train.

There are a number of improvements for passengers in the revised conditions, such as extending them to cover electronic tickets and making train companies pay you cash if you are delayed.

Risk of Fraud

Changes during the past year – such as introducing electronic tickets on contactless bank cards & smartphones – increasingly place passengers at risk of fraud during ticket checks.  It is only a matter of time before scammers spot the opportunity to pose as ticket inspectors and defraud passengers, e.g.

  • Use card skimming devices to capture bank card information – a crime that would only become obvious after the event.  Consumer group Which? recently revealed that contactless cards are not nearly as safe as you might think.
  • Steal personal data from smartphones, e.g. social media logins, address book, dates of birth.
  • Charge fraudulent Penalty Fares.
  • The potential crimes may not stop at fraud: Someone posing as a conductor could persuade a young woman to leave the train at a quiet station and rape her.

Train Companies Contribute to this Risk

Train companies & their staff are adding to this risk.  In many instances staff who approach passengers to check tickets do not have a photo ID out on display.

E.g. staff working for my local company, Southern, often approach customers with no recognisable uniform (often just a shirt & suit trousers), relying solely on a name badge with their first name as identification.  This does not constitute identification, as it does not confirm any authorised role or make them accountable.

Staff have even been known to refuse to show ID (breaking the law, when they do so!), which has the following effect:

  1. It intimidates passengers into wrongly thinking they are not entitled to see ID.
  2. It presents would-be scammers with a perfect example of how to bully passengers into submission.

How Could the Department of Transport Have Helped Prevent Crime?

The Conditions of Carriage mention more than once that passengers have to hand their ticket over to train staff for inspection.  But there is no mention of how train staff may be identified! 

Here was a perfect opportunity to protect passengers by forcing staff approaching passengers during a ticket check to have ID out on display and by defining what that ID should contain.  It would be reasonable to expect any ID to have:

  • An up-to-date photo from which the staff member can clearly be recognised.
  • Who they work for.
  • The authorised role they are carrying out, i.e. conductor or revenue protection officer.
  • A means of ensuring accountability, i.e. either a unique employee ID or first + last name.

It is very disappointing that the Department of Transport has been negligent in addressing this area, particularly given that I wrote to them pointing all this out several months ago under the public consultation on penalty fares.  And I’m sure I am not the only one who has alerted them to these risks!