Latest Rail News

03.02.15

Government announces changes to tickets and penalty fares

The government has launched a consultation on proposals to make the rail penalty system fairer to passengers.

Penalty fares can be charged by train operators if a passenger is found to be travelling without a valid ticket. A process already exists to enable those who think they have been charged incorrectly or unfairly to make appeals through one of two appeal bodies, the Independent Revenue Collection and Support (IRCAS) or the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS).

The government announcement coincides with the publication of a report from Passenger Focus, which said that ''the outlook for being caught making a mistake can still be bleak''.

The rail passenger watchdog released on update on its 2012 report ‘Ticket to Ride’, calling for more consistency and fairness in how penalties are applied. It cited a case where a passenger received a penalty fare for not having a ticket. He argued that this was because the permit to travel machine was broken and included a video of the broken machine as part of his appeal.

This was all sent within the 21-day appeal window but he still received a letter saying that as he had not paid within 21 days he now owed an extra £20 in administration fees. The very next day he received an email saying his appeal had been successful but that he still owed £20 in admin fees. 

On querying the justice in being found not guilty and yet still having to pay, he received a letter stating that failure to pay could result in a criminal prosecution. Only when Passenger Focus intervened was the fee ‘waived’.

Passenger Focus chair Colin Foxall said: “It is right that train companies should take steps to stop those who try to evade paying fares. But those who have made an innocent mistake and been caught out by the many rules and restrictions should be treated with understanding and not immediately assumed to be guilty.”

The new measures from the Department for Transport would try to rebalance the scales. They include requiring train operators to remove the reference to criminal sanctions in letters chasing penalty fare payment. Non-payment of a penalty fare is a civil offence, however this has not stopped TOCs from threatening criminal sanctions in their letters. Criminal sanctions will still apply in suspected cases of deliberate fare evasion.

Off-peak single for Print(A mock up of the new style Off-Peak Single ticket)

Another new measure would see all appeal bodies to adopt the ‘stop the clock’ measure, meaning that those appealing do not have to pay the penalty fare until a final ruling has been reached. The 21-day deadline for payment would be suspended when an appeal is received by the appeals body, and only resumed once a letter notifying the outcome has been issued. Currently online one of the two existing appeals bodies does this.

The government also wants all appeals bodies to be independent of TOCs. Currently IPFAS is owned by the Go-Ahead group, which runs Southeastern. Under the new proposals IPFAS will need to be separated from its current owner to continue to consider appeals.

A final independent appeals process to make final decisions would also be introduced, to look at cases that have been considered twice by the appeals bodies and remain unresolved. This would give passengers further assurance their case has been fully and independently reviewed, the DfT said.

The new process would also include regular ‘health checks’ of the system by government. Train operators and appeals bodies would have to supply penalty fare and appeals information regularly to ensure that they are complying with the code of practice.

Rail minister Claire Perry said: “More people are using our railways than ever, and passengers rightly expect that we take strong action against fare dodgers. But passengers penalised through no fault of their own must be treated fairly.

“That’s why we have listened to passenger groups and are working with the rail industry to improve the system so it is clearer, fairer and easier to use.”

The public consultation will run from 3 February to 27 April 2015.

Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail operators and Network Rail, welcomed the consultation.

Michael Roberts, director general of the RDG, said: “While train companies need to be able to take a firm but fair approach to deal with the small minority who deliberately dodge fares and expect others to pick up the bill, the industry is already working hard to help ensure passengers feel they are being fairly treated.”

In addition to the consultation in order to make things easier for passengers train tickets have been redesigned for the first time in more than 30 years.

The change will see tickets include key data such as station names, ticket descriptions, permitted routes, time restrictions and validity information - presented in clearer, larger print without jargon.

Advance Single First for Print(A mock up of the new style Advance First Class Single ticket)

One major change to advanced tickets will see passengers only issued with one ticket, rather than the traditional main pass and a separate seat reservation coupon.

RDG said the idea is to make fares “simpler, easier and clearer”.

A spokesman told RTM: “Rail journeys have doubled over the last twenty years and the industry is determined to see growth continue. As part of the industry’s efforts to help more people feel confident that they have the right ticket for their journey, we’ve worked with passengers to help redesign the famous orange ticket to make it simpler, easier and clearer for people to use.”

The redesign is the first large-scale change to the orange credit-card sized tickets since they were introduced in the early 1980s.

The DfT said the change will display route and time constrictions more clearly reducing the risk of ticket holders being caught out and receiving a penalty fare after misunderstanding the limitations of their ticket.

The new tickets have been trialled already by Northern Rail and are currently live on Northern ticket machines and East Midlands Trains ticket machines. The phased roll out will gradually see it spread to further operators and the new style become available over the counter at ticket offices as well.

A DfT spokesman said: “With more people than ever before using the rail network, it is essential passengers are able to buy the correct ticket for their journey, and at the best possible price.

“That is why we have been working closely with the industry to improve the information passengers receive when buying a ticket. This includes improving the information printed on tickets so that they are clearer to read and easier to understand.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Peter Mason   20/05/2016 at 10:20

New ticket style. What consultation with passengers? The new style is horrible and unreadable especially the poor font and lower case. The walk on tickets should not have been changed other than to remove Adult Child element at the top. This would have freed-up sufficient space for ticket validity. The new style does not tell the passenger anything new. First Class tickets are hard to read as 1ST is now not prominently displayed. Overall whoever signed-off the final design should be held accountable as the design is not fit for purpose. Advance tickets as per above example

Stephan   20/06/2016 at 17:13

After reading this, I am disgusted to say the least. Train providers just get more and more greedy, I swear. The prices have rocketed and the penalty fare scheme is a complete joke. I actually cannot stand them and as soon as I am able to travel without the use of trains, I am never travelling with them again - yes, I got charged a £20 penalty fare for the most ridiculous reason. there is just no need for it. Greedy bastards.

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