Dear all, any help in choosing between two evils would be hugely appreciated.
Since moving house over a year ago, I have bought a monthly / weekly ticket, which gets me legally only halfway to work. I am therefore a fully informed and conscious fare evader. I have been able to buy extensions on occasion where necessary, but have generally not had to. Sort of thing.
I have justified this to myself by saying that the £2,500 a year for a legal ticket was excessive (including travelcard rights which I don't use) and difficult to pay, with an extended mortgage etc. Also, I thought that if Southern and South West Trains didn't employ enough people I would take the risk of paying the odd penalty fare and be able to support the family and pay the mortgage more comfortably.. Credit crunched, but with no history of antisocial behaviour, sort of thing.
Needless to say, I ran into a SWT RPO last week, and now kind of wish I'd bought the right ticket all along. Clearly the whole thing was a bad bet, and I'm hoping that the thing now gets settled out of court, I can pay £x00 and act more responsibly. If I have to go to court, okay, but I hope not to! I realise that to have this happen again would have serious consequences, so will find the money and move on happily.
I was not trying to leave that station, but changing onto another train. I had already made one change and not seen a ticket seller, but I can't pretend that I was looking for one. Does the fact that I change(d) trains from one run by Southern to one run by SWT make me doubly liable, BTW?
The SWT RPO took a statement under caution. All very polite, but he didn't give me a copy of what he wrote, and he said that as his writing was illegible he would read me my "confession" - ie, from memory, that I had travelled on a South West train without a ticket, which constitutes fare evasion.
He took my details including phone number and said that SWT trains would be in touch - implication, they wanted to speak to me before deciding how to proceed.
So, to cut a long story shortish, three questions please and I would value your advice on my best course of action.
a Will they really phone me and give me the Spanish Inquisition, do you think? Other follow-up responses seem to suggest that letters are sent out.
b Do SWT have the ability to check where I work? If I say that I do freelance work near the station to which I can legally travel, are they able to check this, or are they likely to demand employment contracts etc? How about if it goes to court?
A key factor in that question perhaps, is that I showed the RPO that I had a valid 7 day ticket for half of my journey. He didn't look closely at it, didn't take details, made no mention of it in what he read out as my statement and there was no question of its confiscation. I didn't push this, as I thought that saying I had a 7 day season ticket to an intermediate station might open a big can of worms related to whether I make the journey regularly, was I travelling to work perhaps etc.. So, starting from where I am now, question c is
c Am I better off or worse if I say that I had a season ticket at the time which got me legally half way there? Should I
- Confess I did wrong on one occasion, and hope I don't get into a conversation about whether I make the journey regularly, can you provide proof of employment etc (I used to get a ticket all the way to work before the move so they must be aware of my travel history I guess and can put two and two together from my name and address!)
- Or say that the RPO ignored the fact I had a ticket halfway there, and was travelling beyond my stop on this one occasion? - risking the perhaps increased likelihood of them looking into my travel and employment history?
I rather think that if I speak to someone and they ask about my regular journeys, I would be flat out lying if I said worked elsewhere, but that they may only be able to find out the truth if a court's resources are bought into force - ? I guess that could happen whether or not I bring up the valid season ticket halfway there point..
Having written all this, perhaps my best and obvious move is to be proactive, write a letter (or email? If advisable, which?) to SWT and apologise for having got on one of their trains without buying a ticket or seeking to buy one, fall upon their mercy and ignore the part about having done it before (300 times!).
BTW would SWT through a court be able to seek payment for previous journeys made? I guess it would be difficult to prove exactly when I did travel, except through being able to asses my attendance at work..
I was a fare evader, and I know I done wrong. Bah.
Thanks so much again for your attention and any advice you can offer.