Train Fare Evasion
If you are unable to show a valid train ticket when asked to, you may be issued with a Penalty Fare or Unpaid Fares Notice giving you the opportunity to settle matters with a payment. However, there are different schemes in operation around the UK. Not all companies have this scheme and the member of staff or other authorised person questioning you is not obliged to accept or apply a penalty fare.
This means that if it is thought that you have intentionally travelled without a valid ticket you may be reported for train fare evasion. If the Officer or member of staff has reason to believe that you intended to avoid paying the correct fare then they may report you and this will start proceedings that could result in prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court and a fine of up to £1000.
What is train fare evasion?
You can be found guilty of train fare evasion if you are found to have travelled on a train without a ticket or if you refuse to pay for a ticket for a journey that you are taking. You can also be found guilty of train fare evasion if you intentionally pay for a shorter journey than the journey that you are taking. Child tickets can only be used by people aged between 5 and 15 years old.
The train company requires you to have the correct ticket for the journey that they are taking and it is your responsibility to ensure that you buy a ticket and keep it safe.
Once you have been reported for train fare evasion, this starts a process that could result in prosecution and a fine of up to £1000. The investigating companies will give you the opportunity to explain what happened and where there is a clear mistake and it is a first time offence, they will consider settling the matter out of court by payment of a fine and giving a final warning.
Do all train fare evasion cases end up in court?
Prosecution is seen as the last course of action. Prosecution will be unavoidable where is it considered that there is evidence of the following:
- Giving false personal details
- Knowingly claiming a short journey
- Repeat offender (travelling without a ticket on more than one occasion)
What if the ticket machine is broken and there is no-one on the train selling tickets?
The train company accepts that you must have the opportunity to purchase a ticket. It is important that you can show that you have done everything you can to buy a ticket at the earliest opportunity. If you have not been able to buy a ticket when you are questioned by staff then you should be given the opportunity to buy a ticket.
If you find that the ticket machine is not working it is a good idea to take a photo of the machine or some details and/or report the problem to train staff. If no train staff are available at the station then you should report the problem to staff on the train as soon as you can. Keep a record of staff that you speak to as this will be your evidence if you are later questioned about not having a ticket.
What if I lose my ticket or miss my stop?
Train companies recognise that passengers can make genuine mistakes. If you have made a genuine mistake and it is the first time that it has happened, you should have the opportunity to explain this and be given the opportunity to settle the matter by paying the ticket price or a fine. However, if your explanation is not accepted, then you may be reported for travel without a valid ticket and further action will be taken.
How do the train companies check tickets?
In Cardiff, Revenue Protection Officers from Transport Investigations Limited (‘TIL’) work on behalf of Transport for Wales and carry out spot checks at stations on a regular basis to check that all passengers have the correct tickets for travel. If you are stopped by a Revenue Protection Officer and you are unable to show a valid ticket for travel then you will be questioned by them. If you are able to show that there was no opportunity to purchase a ticket at an earlier point in your journey then you should be given the opportunity to buy a ticket then. However, this might be difficult to prove and you may be interviewed by the Revenue Protection Officer who may report you for train fare evasion.
If you are reported, you should be given a leaflet explaining why you have been reported and what will happen next (link to example printed notice). The printed notice explains that you will be sent a letter from TIL setting out the details of the report made by the Revenue Protection Officer. You will be offered the opportunity to respond in writing within 21 days, giving an explanation and your version of events. At Student Advice (link) we can help you if you would like advice or support in replying to TIL.
How can I avoid being accused of train fare evasion?
In order to be sure that you are travelling on a train legally, you should purchase a ticket at the earliest opportunity and keep it safe. If you have difficulties obtaining a ticket, keep a record of the problems you find and report then to a member of staff soon as you can.
Where can I buy a ticket?
You can buy a train ticket at:
- The ticket/booking office
- Self-service ticket vending machine
- If there are genuinely no facilities available to buy a ticket in advance online, at the ticket/booking office or the self-service ticket vending machine then you can get on the train and pay on the train at the earliest opportunity.
You can buy train tickets online in advance from Trainline: https://www.thetrainline.com
The benefit of buying tickets online is that you will have evidence that you paid for your journey if you later lose your ticket and are questioned by a Revenue Protection Officer.
The Transport for Wales website provides some information on railcard discounts: https://tfwrail.wales/ways-to-save/railcards
Can’t I just get on the train and get a ticket from staff on the train?
In some areas, there may be a ‘Pay on Train’ policy which means that you can pay on the train. There will be signs in the station to notify you of this.
In all other areas, you are required to buy a train ticket in advance. If there are genuinely no facilities available to you to buy a ticket then you can get on the train and pay at the first opportunity. It is advisable for you to find a member of staff to notify them that you need to purchase a ticket.
What if I am in a rush and there is a queue to buy a ticket?
Running late for a train or not wanting to queue are not acceptable reasons for not having a valid ticket for travel. Give yourself plenty of time to buy the correct ticket for your journey to avoid a fine or prosecution.
What if I leave my Season ticket at home?
If you forget your Season ticket, you will need to purchase a new day ticket for your journey. You can then apply for a refund of the day ticket at the station that issued your season ticket.
If you don’t realise you have forgotten your Season ticket until you are on the train and asked to show it for inspection, you may be reported (or issued a Penalty Fare Notice where such schemes apply).
What if I continue to travel with an old ticket or out of date Season ticket?
It is your responsibility to check that you have a valid ticket for travel. If you are on a journey and realise that you need to extend your journey on the last train to your destination then you need to find a member of staff on the train to tell them this and pay the additional fare.
If you intentionally travel with an out of date ticket then you do not have a valid ticket and you could be reported for train fare evasion or liable to a penalty fare if applicable.
I have been reported for travelling on a train without a valid ticket. What should I do?
If you have been interviewed by a Revenue Protection Officer for travelling without a valid ticket, you will receive a letter from the relevant company and you will have 21 days to respond in writing. This is your opportunity to explain what happened and provide any evidence in support.
If you do not reply to the letter within 21 days, further action will be taken.
If you do reply to the letter within 21 days, your case will be reviewed. There are 3 possible outcomes:
- ’Ceasing of Proceedings’ – no further action is taken
- ’Administrative Settlement’ – settle matters with a fine and possibly a final warning
- ’Prosecution’ – you will be notified that you need to attend the Magistrates Court for a hearing of your case.
I have had a letter from ‘TIL’. Who do I reply to?
If you have received a letter from Transport Investigations Limited (‘TIL’) in relation to travel on a Transport for Wales train their details should be on the letter, together with information about next steps.
You can write to them at:
Transport Investigations Ltd. 1 Station Approach, March, PE15 8SJ
T: 01354 606 988 E: email@example.com
At Student Advice we can advise you in train fare evasion matters.
7 Top Tips for Train Travel
- Always buy a ticket as soon as the opportunity is available to you
- Get a receipt or proof of online purchase
- If the ticket office is close or ticket machine broken – report it and record it
- Keep your train ticket in a safe place
- Buy online and/or in advance to save money and have proof of purchase
- Give yourself time to deal with any ticket problems such as queues
- If you are reported for train fare evasion – don’t ignore it! It is important to reply.