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South West Trains Penalty Fare, Appeal Failed

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Hi everyone, thanks for reading.

 

Approximately two weeks ago I was issued with a penalty ticket for travelling from Martin's Heron to Maidenhead as part of my regular off-peak commute. On this day I couldn't get a ticket at MH despite there being a ticket machine on both sides (both queued) and the station having an open office (again, queued). I had about 4-5 minutes to wait and the train arrived before I got a chance to get my usual £8 return.

So, I boarded the train and figured I'd just do what I normally do in this reasonably uncommon situation and buy the return at the Reading Excess Fares office. They've never issued a penalty in this case and are very efficient. Except for this time.

 

Long story short, £20.00 penalty fare for travelling from MH to Reading without a ticket. I didn't pay anything at the time, and sent a letter of appeal to IAS describing:

-My inability to purchase a ticket

-No-one on the train to purchase the ticket from

-My total intention to buy a ticket, as opposed to intention to evade

-Fairly bad discretion on the part of the South West Trains collector

 

The appeal was rejected. I'm very much up for fighting this on principle, however I'd like to get your collected opinions. Do I have a case against the penalty fare here? Should I just shut up and pay the penalty? I'm in the process of getting a legal opinion from my parents' lawyers, for reference.

 

Any and all advice appreciated, thanks.

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Principals cost time and money.

 

Pragmatic advice is to pay and forget the matter on the 'life is too short' basis. The cost of a penalty fare in this case seems to be £20.00 and a reduced chance of a penalty fare if you travel again without a ticket.

 

However, a lot of solicitors get rich by taking instruction from people who want to make a 'principle' based claim, so:

 

Seems that all of the machines and the office were open and working. I have never heard of the station where you boarded, despite spending holidays in my (now distant) youth near Twyford. As an outsider, I do not believe that there were three queues that were too long for you to get a ticket. The appeals service will also probably 'not believe' you, and they will check, using systems that allow them to look at what tickets were being issued from the self service and manned ticket machines. From that, they will be able to test whether your story is right. It is also possible that they will look at the CCTV from the station.

 

With all 'offences' there has to be a 'reasonableness test'. What is their 'queuing standard'? Many operators will have a standard that says that they will endeavour to serve all passengers within 'x' minutes during the peak, or 'y' minutes during the off peak. Were the queues really that long that they failed badly to meet their own standard? And I mean, really badly, noy by 7 seconds, but by a factor of maybe 100%.

 

The responsibility lies with the passenger to get a ticket. Without a ticket on most railways, you simply have no right to get on the train. There are exceptions, but they tend to be in very remote areas, the Highlands, very rural Norfolk, and there will be notices showing that.

Edited by Wriggler7

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I see that Martin's Heron has a pretty frequent service, 12 minutes or so between trains. Not quite like somewhere like Pitlochry.

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I see that Martin's Heron has a pretty frequent service, 12 minutes or so between trains. Not quite like somewhere like Pitlochry.

Martin's Heron has two trains an hour in each direction, each 30-minutes apart. In peak periods the time to wait is probably reduced, what with extra trains etc.

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Whenever I PF anyone I allways tell them to appeal anyway, it's always worth a shot and you've got nothing to lose although looking at the facts in front of me you've not got much chance of being successful but like I say, you've nothing to lose by appealing.


Views expressed in this forum by me are my own personal opinion and you take it on face value! I make any comments to the best of my knowledge but you take my advice at your own risk.

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Well I have appealed, and it was rejected. The rejection was based on the fact that I didn't purchase a valid ticket before travelling or while changing trains, which is blatantly incorrect. I went up to the Reading Excess Fares office, started the routine of getting the ticket and was asked to move away by the collector and issued the penalty. This is why I'm responding with another letter highlighting this fact. I'll update when I receive a response.

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Well I have appealed, and it was rejected. The rejection was based on the fact that I didn't purchase a valid ticket before travelling or while changing trains, which is blatantly incorrect. I went up to the Reading Excess Fares office, started the routine of getting the ticket and was asked to move away by the collector and issued the penalty. This is why I'm responding with another letter highlighting this fact. I'll update when I receive a response.

 

It is worth remembering that if a notice remains unpaid for 21 days AND the TOC have answered your appeal, they can cancel the notice and issue a Summons.

 

If you have evidence that your appeal has been dismissed unfairly, then you should write to the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS). That is the correct procedure, I don't suggest that you will always get a better response, but there is a process in place for such cases.

 

As Wriggler has already pointed out, the TOC should already have looked at the circumstances of your appeal. They will have been able to check whether queuing times were excessive, how many tickets were issued by booking office and any machines during the time period claimed by you (they are all computer monitored.) They may use CCTV records to assist in this and they will also take account of the service frequency.

 

It is relatively recently that I was presenting in a Magistrates Court and hearing a very similar 'point of principle' defence offered when a defendant pleaded 'not guilty'. The Inspector was called as a witness along with an expert witness from the ticket office audit & monitoring team, who had given a statement and was able to show that all facilities were available, working normally and that queuing times were not excessive.

 

The defendant had been Summonsed for failing to show a valid ticket on demand. He had been given opportunities to pay and a notice had been issued to him. He had appealed, his appeal was rejected and he refused to pay on a matter of principle, arguing that he 'had a very important job where time meant money', that he 'couldn't afford to wait to get a ticket', that 'he had a very important meeting and had arrived at the station with only 5 minutes before his train'. He claimed that 'there were long queues and not enough machines' etc..

 

In finding him guilty the Magistrates reminded him that if they had to queue, then so did he. They imposed a fine of £350, ordered him to pay prosecution costs of £100, compensation of the single fare of £6.00 and a victim surcharge of £15 that is imposed by the government where someone is fined by the Magistrates.

 

That's a total cost of £471 due to the Court immediately, when he could have paid a penalty fare of £20.00 and simply learned a valuable lesson.

 

I'm not saying don't continue with your 'principled' argument, but do be aware of where it can lead.

 

If you have failed to pay the Penalty and you fail to pay in due time following receipt of notice that your appeal has been rejected, it can become very expensive.

 

Do remember that you can always mitigate the likely effects by paying the penalty and continuing to appeal through IPFAS. If they find your claim justified you'll get your money back and avoid any likelihood of a more onerous penalty.

Edited by Old-CodJA

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Hm, fair point. I've sent off a letter asking for a re-evaluation of the appeal anyway. If it gets to within a few days of the deadline I'll just pay anyway - as you say, it's only £20. This will probably mean they'll ignore my letter but I have 14 days from the 7th of September to pay, so I have some waiting time. Thanks, I appreciate the information. What train company was involved in the proceedings you mention?

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I come on to this forum to help people where I believe that any advice I can offer will provide assistance, but I am sure that you would not really expect me to reveal the company that I work for.

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Ah, apologies, I probably misread your fourth paragraph. :)

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No need for apology, no problem. :-)

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If I may ask, how often do you see court cases regarding penalty fares, and how often does the defendent win? Is it a common occurrence to be summoned to court by any train company regardless of penalty size, or is it random, guaranteed, or unknown?

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Judging from the amount of work my local line put into Court, it is pretty common. They are a small company, but prosecute about 1,000 cases a year, how many are penalty fares and how many are other forms of offence, I don't know.

 

I know that they 'settle' more than they prosecute, and they issue about 8,000 penalties a year. They are a very small line!

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From conversations, the other line in Essex do about twice that, and the Undergroun seem to fill the City of London Magistrates.

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Railway prosecutors may not understand the finer nuances of litter offences, but they seem to know the job when it comes to 'bunking train fares'.

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If I may ask, how often do you see court cases regarding penalty fares, and how often does the defendent win? Is it a common occurrence to be summoned to court by any train company regardless of penalty size, or is it random, guaranteed, or unknown?

 

As I think I have made clear before, I have been involved in this line of work for a very long time and in my experience, prosecution resulting from unpaid penalty fares is very common across those TOCs where PFs exist. Beginning working in this field for BR before the introduction of PFs and through the years since, I can safely say that a conservative estimate of in excess of 12,000 cases go before Courts every year

 

It must be remembered that when a Summons is issued to allege an offence to be heard by a Magistrates Court it is not a prosecution for an unpaid penalty fare, but either a prosecution for a breach of Byelaw, or for intentional fare evasion. The compensation claimed by the TOC is always the unpaid single fare.

 

The unpaid penalty fare notice is potentially a civil remedy and the opportunity to pay the sum shown on that notice will have been cancelled before the Summons is issued.

 

The size of the fare is irrelevant, LUL or DLR are just as likely to prosecute for an unpaid fare of £1.60 as East Coast Trains, FGW or Cross Country are for an unpaid fare of £70 or more.

 

In truth, I have to say in answer to your direct question, it is rare for the defendant to win as you put it.

 

If there is any likelihood of a case failing, experienced prosecutors will not take it forward and I can honestly say that with average lists of 40 or more cases per day, 2 and sometimes 3 days a week my office probably see less than 30 acquittals per year.

 

It also has to be acknowledged that these are usually because of some technical error in process rather than because the Bench have found against the evidence of the prosecutor.

 

Discontinuation, or withdrawal of a case may be a little more frequent where a late decision by a TOC to allow an administrative settlement is concerned, but even then, these will rarely total more than 15% of annual listings.

 

The time for settlement is through correspondence before a Summons is issued and the 12,000 or so that get Summonsed are the result of perhaps 60,000 or more cases that get reported.

 

.

Edited by Old-CodJA

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After the summons has been issued, there is very little reason for the prosecutor to 'want' to settle. The donkey work has been done. In Basildon last Friday, the prosecutor worked through roughly a case a minute.

 

My advice to passengers is firstly to always have the right ticket, but when it has gone wrong and the railway have found you 'off side', don't ignore the matter. If you want to settle, make sure and write to them after their first communication, and make it clear that you want to 'make them happy'.

 

A lot of appeals against penalty fares, through the normal appeals process, are not entertained because they were made too late.

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Reference Penalty: Fare Notice: R198023/APP0621

Thank you for your letter dated 12 August 2010, I have attached a copy of my Annual Season ticket GOLD CARD Ref: 6652403087W41 & a copy of a ticket I purchased on the day. I have also made copies of the football tickets of match I was going to watch with my wife. As I mentioned in may first correspondence to you.

I MADE A REASONABLE EFFORT TO PURCHASE A TICKET BEFORE BOARDING.

I asked your ticket inspector at Watford Junction Station if I needed a ticket and I showed him my ANNUAL ticket and he said no. When I was at the window buying my wife’s ticket I was advised for the SECOND time that I didn’t need a ticket as my ticket was for Zone 1-6 and further then Watford, and last but not least on the train I was advised the onboard ticket inspector that I didn’t need a ticket. I feel I made a more the reasonable tempt in waiting to purchase a ticket and I feel in accordance with Rule Eight for the Government's guidance on what constitutes a reasonable waiting time.

I CHECKED THAT THE PERSON ASKING FOR THE FARE WAS AN "authorised collector".

Under the Penalty Fares Rules 2002, sections 5 (2) and (3), only an "authorised collector ...individually authorised by or on behalf of the operator of that train" is allowed to collect penalty fares. Your inspector on my return was on the phone pointing me to the window and IGNORED my request to produce the special identification document which proves who he was. I would also like to mention that the penalty FARE WAS NOT written by the person who I had asked to show me his identity but by one of his colleagues.

S.5.3(a) Regulation of Railways act 1889

Section 5 (1) Every passenger by a railway shall, on request by an officer or servant of a railway company, either produce, and if so requested deliver up, a ticket showing that his fare is paid, or pay his fare from the place whence he started, or give the officer or servant his name and address; and in the case of default shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine.

I FULLY COMPLIED WITH THE ABOVE ACT AS I PRODUCED MY TICKET TO THRE OF YOUR INSPECTORS, AND WAS ADVISED BY THE THREE THAT I DIDN’T NEED A TICKET, HENCE WHY I PURCHASED ONE TICKET FOR MY WIFE, WHICH I HAVE ATTACHED AS A COPY.

Section 5 (3) (a) If any person travels or attempts to travel on a railway without having previously paid his fare, and with intent to avoid payment thereof he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine.

I had EVERY intention of paying for my ticket as per the above ACT.

Therefore in order to avoid further delay and to enable a fair assessment of my appeal I give you 14 days of the date on this letter to respond or cancel this GROSSLY unfair fine.

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Whilst I think that is a well written letter, it doesn't seem to have any bearing whatsoever on the original post in this thread.

 

The OP posted a call for help in respect of a SWT Appeal which had already been made and failed

 

Your letter seems to relate to an entirely different matter and at the first stage appeal level.

 

We are not party to the reason for your PF issue save to say that it appears you were issued a PF and may have held a ticket that covered the journey you were making

 

Without being party to the specific case and having sight of both the PF notice and any ticket tendered, I don't think that comment can add anything at this stage.

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Can you tell us the background to your story Tobby76?


Views expressed in this forum by me are my own personal opinion and you take it on face value! I make any comments to the best of my knowledge but you take my advice at your own risk.

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I thought I'd follow up with the result of my re-appeal. In summary the first appeal was rejected and the second appeal was accepted, and now I only owe £5 (the single fare from my start to where I was fined). I'm happy with this and will pay it.

 

Thanks for the letter Tobby76, that's quite a useful template to use should anything similar happen in future. I haven't actually seen the conductor I interacted with since I was issued with the penalty fare, so I'm curious as to what he actually does when not annoying people. :)

 

Anyway, thanks for the feedback guys, much appreciated.

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Travel beyond validity?

 

Slightly terse introduction to your case!

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