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Thousands of rail travellers overcharged for not having a ticket

Written by: Emma Lunn
Train companies have admitted overcharging up to 10,000 passengers caught fare dodging.

As many as 10,000 people who were caught for and penalised for catching a train without having a valid ticket have been overcharged by rail companies.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents private train operators, has admitted that ticket inspectors have been overcharging fare-dodgers since the rules changed in April 2018.

New legislation reduced the punishment for some fare dodgers depending on the time of their journey but the RDG said eight rail firms had failed to implement the new rules.

The eight rail firms are: Chiltern Railways, Govia Thameslink Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, Northern, Southeastern, South Western Railway and London Northwestern.

Ticket inspector can issue penalty fare notices to anyone they find without the correct ticket for their journey. Penalty fares also apply if you’re unable to produce a railcard after buying a discounted ticket, travelling in first class with a standard ticket, or staying on a train beyond the destination paid for. Penalty fares are £20 or twice the appropriate single fare, whichever is higher.

Previously the single fare was based on the price of a ticket valid at any time of day. But the rule change in April 2018 meant the price of off-peak fares should be applied if the tickets were available for the journey taken.

About 1,500 Southeastern passengers were affected by an average of £8, while London Northwestern Railway estimates it overcharged 2,700 people an average of £4.44 per person. Great Western Railway admitted it typically overcharged fare dodgers by £6 each time.

A spokesperson for the RDG said: “When people haven’t paid to travel, it’s important for train companies to take a firm but fair approach because fare-dodging denies the railway around £200m a year, which could otherwise be invested to improve services for all passengers. People who have been charged a penalty fare shouldn’t be overcharged, though.”

RDG said that about half of the people affected would be issued refunds for the amount they were overcharged but in many cases the train companies do not have contact details of those penalised.

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