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Oyster Penalty Fare - Is there anything I can do?


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Hi All,

 

I'm a new member on your site and thus this is my first post (be gentle;-) )

 

I was unfortunate enough this morning to be handed a £20 Oyster penalty fare but considering the circumstances felt it rather unfair and thought I'd seek some advise on (a) if I should have not paid the fine (though this is a little late now) and (b) if I stand any chance of making a claim against the fine.

 

I am a daily Petts Wood (Zone 5) to London Canon Street commuter but rather stupidly failed to swipe in on my card this morning - first time this has happened as my Oyster records would confirm. Realising my mistake midway through my journey I decided to inform the ticket barrier staff to the situation when I arrived at Canon Street. However when I told the staff member that I had accidentally not swiped in and if it would be possible to retrospectively (on a hand-held?) do so I was informed that I as I had travelled without paying that I would be fined £20. After explaining that I had travelled from Petts Wood and that I would happily pay the fare and was only trying to avoid paying the "unswiped" fare I was told that they could not prove where I had travelled from and thus will need to pay the fine.

 

Annoyingly enough several people around me who were non Oyster users informed staff (other) that they had been unable to get tickets due to certain circumstances and they were told to go to the ticket desk and purchase the relevant ticket.

 

I can understand that there need to be blanket rules inplace that cover most scenarios and that there are a large volume of people that "try it on" and thus these blanket rules are used as a catch all. However this experience has left me with some questions:

 

1. Should I have been charged a penalty fare or should I have been allowed to either register the actual journey or at least swipe through at the maximum fare (cheaper than £20 fine)?

2. The argument that they do not know where I have travelled from is true but surely if my Oyster travel record (?) was taken into consideration they could see a rather definitive pattern and thus work from this?

3. Why do there appear differing rules for Oyster and Non Oyster travellers regarding allocation of fines?

4. I can presume if this should ever happen again (heaven forbid!) that I should not actually inform gate staff but just swipe through and pay the max fare?

5. Is there any probability that I might be able to reclaim the fine?

 

Sorry for such a long post and thanks in advance for any advice you could give.

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This should be a good debate when the revenue Inspectors get hold of it!

 

The 'authorised person' who issued the penalty was 'correct' to do so, but did have discretion to deal with the matter in other ways.

 

Pay as you go Oyster will automatically deduct a 'maximum' fare, which to my mind is a sort of penalty. However, most 'London' train companies lose a lot of revenue through failure to 'touch in', and as such, I daresay that revenue protection managers want staff to penalty whenever the situation arises.

 

What you have not told us is what sort of Oyster you have. Is it 'just' PAYG, or do you have (For example) a 'Zones 1&2' travelcard and PAYG?

 

Despite 'paying' the penalty, you may still appeal against it, and if succesful, will get you £20.00 back (I am assuming that the penalty was issued by a 'proper' railway, and not LUL, their penalties are higher. (I am told, never had one, and I don't use LUL)

 

My unexpert opinion is that the appeal is likely to fail, but don't let me put you off trying.

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I agree with Wriggler, it may of been better to just swipe out and get the maximum fare as suggested it is a penalty of sorts although I have found it easy to either go to ticket staff or phone up and explain the situation and have it removed. In your situation it does seem unfair to give you a penalty charge, Im sure you could write to TfL and explain the situation.

 

Andy

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I am a great believer in 'common sense' and 'fairness'. I would have hoped that your Oyster history would have shown the 'authorised collector' that you 'always' except today swipe in at Petts Wood.

 

But: My minor experience with such matters has brought me into contact with people who always touch in at Rainham, every day. Except the day that they spent the night carousing with their boyfriend who lives in Leigh on Sea. If i have come across such stories, I am confident that ticket examiners will have come across many, many similar situations, and they may be a tad less charitable than I.

 

Penalty fares are there (almost) specifically for the person who has an aberration, and forgets to get a ticket or 'swipe an Oyster'. They carry no suggestion that you intended to avoid a fare, they are not a 'criminal' charge. If there was clear evidence of naughtiness of the deliberate variety, I am sure that a different, and more serious, action would have been taken.

 

It is galling that one person gets penalised, and others do not. I understand that. Sadly, as Esther used to say, that's life. What you may not know is why those 'others' were allowed to buy tickets. It is possible that they travelled from stations where 'problems' had been reported. All penalty fare schemes that I have looked at require that 'authorised collectors' are somehow or another told about stations where ticket machines have failed. No doubt some were chancers who deserved a penalty, and some will have got away with it simply because the collector was busy talking to you.

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Andy and I have both 'failed' the first test, we have both assumed something. Andy has mentione Tfl, I mentioned LUL and 'proper railways'.

 

One of the good things about a penalty fare notice is that it will show the address to which appeals should be sent. There can be very confusing situations at stations like Barking and Upminster. The penalty could be issued by any one of several 'authorities', Tfl, LUL, c2c, NXEA or 'LOROL'. (added to which, some offences will be dealt with by either British Transport Police or Metropolitan Police.) Curiously, c2c and NXEA (both franchises operated by National Express) use different 'service providers' for their penalty fares. Don't ask me what the letters stand for, but c2c use RPSS/IPFAS and NXEA use IRCAS. As I am lost in London, and do not know whether Petts wood is SWT or Southern or even some strange French railway, use the address on the penalty notice.

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1. Should I have been charged a penalty fare or should I have been allowed to either register the actual journey or at least swipe through at the maximum fare (cheaper than £20 fine)?

2. The argument that they do not know where I have travelled from is true but surely if my Oyster travel record (?) was taken into consideration they could see a rather definitive pattern and thus work from this?

3. Why do there appear differing rules for Oyster and Non Oyster travellers regarding allocation of fines?

4. I can presume if this should ever happen again (heaven forbid!) that I should not actually inform gate staff but just swipe through and pay the max fare?

5. Is there any probability that I might be able to reclaim the fine?

 

Sorry for such a long post and thanks in advance for any advice you could give.

1. There's no right or wrong in this situation, however, the Inspector was within his rights to issue you a Penalty Fare, yes.

 

2. They could have done, but that only takes in to account your previous journeys, and not the one you are making at the time, therefore they'd still be replying on your previous journeys, which aren't relevant.

 

3. It's not one rule for Oyster and one for other travellers. There might have been no way of purchasing a paper ticket at the origin station, therefore the staff wouldn't be able to issue a PF anyway, as long as what the other travellers have told them. It's all to do with different situations, of which you probably wouldn't have been party to.

 

4. You could try that, but then the ticket barriers wouldn't open (assuming there are barriers) and you'd have to 'seek assistance' anyway. Even with no ticket barriers the tone emitted from the reader will differ, alerting staff and giving them a fault code of sorts.

 

5. You have the right of appeal, although to be honest you'd be relying on the better nature of a person who's never met you before...

 

At the end of the day, the PF scheme is in place as a deterrant to dilliberate fare evasion, and if you try(ied) to tap out and were caught, the RPI/A might have had reason to believe you were traying to evade your fare, and chose to report you instead, which could result in a court appearance. Staff are under no obligation to either sell tickets or issue a PF, and can resort straight to reporting the facts of the matter, if they chose to. Even then there doesn't have to be proof of dilliberate fare evasion.

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Thank you all for taking the time to respond. To clarify the notice was issued by South Eastern and notes for payment or appeals go via IPFAS/RPSS. I can see from the advice/information provided that it would probably make sense to just bite the bullet and put the whole situation down to experience. As I only ever travel from Petts Wood to Cannon Street it might be better to just buy a monthly travel card (paper) which avoids the possibility of not swiping in (Petts Wood has no barrier).

 

Thanks again.

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Wriggler7 & Stigy have covered just about every point in question I think

 

The only useful comment I can add is to suggest that you do write to RPSS PO Box 89, Portsmouth PO1 2EG (the letters stand for Revenue Protection Support Services) and appeal the issue. They can overturn it and refund you the payment less the full single fare if they choose to do so.

 

Don't hold your breath please :-)

 

If you are not satisfied with their response, the next step is you can write to IPFAS ( Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service ) although as that office is owned and run by the same people (SE Trains) I have always questioned how it can appear totally independent in my own mind

 

Just for clarification, IRCAS is a business unit of ITAL ( based at Unit 2 First Floor, Ridgeway Office Park, Petersfield GU32 3QF )

 

ITAL stands for Independent Transport Associates Ltd and IRCAS stands for Independent Revenue Collection And Support and the company offers the same facilities as RPSS for collecting Penalty Fares on behalf of various rail operators, LUL, DLR and London Buses

 

Don't muddle them up when writing appeals letters. Always be sure to send a written appeal within 21 days to the specific office identified on the Penalty Fare Notice that you have received.

 

 

Good luck

Edited by Old-CodJA
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Old Codja and I are both cynics! I think that the indpendance comes from the situation that IPFAS is most certainly not part of the 'train operator' 'revenue protection team. They charge the train operator for each appeal received and responded to, whether it is 'granted' or 'declined'. They will look mainly at whether the penalty was correctly issued, which is not always the same as 'fairly issued'.

 

RPSS has the longer 'pedigree' being what is left of the old British Rail penalty fare set up, and even having the same PO box number. In practice, both offer the same range of services to train operators.

 

I have never liked 'fixed penalties'. Penalty fares are a little like the speed cameras we all love so much. They tend not to be interested in 'why' you did something, merely that you did it. You got on a train without a valid ticket, you are liable to a penalty fare. It is not a 'fine' although most people call it one.

 

Fixed penalties are used for a huge variety of offences now, and are very useful for keeping 'offences' out of Courts. Police even use them for a range of matters that I feel should be before a Bench, public order matters, strangely Sec 55 British Transport Commission Act 'trespass' matters and so on.

 

I sometimes feel that they are all part ofthe 'dumbing down' processes. You no longer need an intelligent constable, you can replace him with a cheap option armed with a fixed penalty pad. Ho hum, rant over.

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Fixed penalties are used for a huge variety of offences now, and are very useful for keeping 'offences' out of Courts. Police even use them for a range of matters that I feel should be before a Bench, public order matters, strangely Sec 55 British Transport Commission Act 'trespass' matters and so on.

Indeed. Also, the S.55 Trespass 'ticket' is a lower tier (£50) PND (Penalty Notice for Disorder), I'd imagine because it's non-recordable, whereas a S.5 Public order PND is £80, which I agree is the right amount, but you could argue all PND offences would be better heard by the Mags. All about keeping the low-level stuff out of court!

 

I would only issue a Trespass PND with discretion. For example, if somebody crosses a Level Crossing after the lights had started to flash red or if somebody walked down a ramp off a platform to exit a station, and there's no direct danger. If they crossed a track in front of a train, as far as I'm concerned they either need arresting or reporting for the offence!

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