Major change to rail penalty fares coming in days – don't get caught out | The Sun

A MAJOR change to rail penalty fares comes into force on Monday, January 23.

Fines for those without tickets will rise by £80 to £100 next week.

It's the first time that the charge has been raised in 18 years back when the penalty fare set at £20 was first introduced.

Fare dodgers will now have to fork out £100 and the cost of a new ticket if they're caught.

The move, put forward by the Department for Transport (DfT) comes after the Rail Delivery Group estimated that £240 million is lost through fare evasion on Great Britain’s railways.

Penalty fare notices are issued to those who are caught travelling without a valid ticket.

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Customers who book a discounted fare by declaring that they have a railcard but are unable to produce it when asked could also be fined.

Those travelling in first class with a standard class ticket can also be issued a penalty fare.

You'll also have to pay a penalty fare if you travel beyond the validity of your ticket or if those over 15 years old travel on a child ticket.

The penalty fare if caught without a valid ticket (in any of the above situations) is currently a £20 fine or twice the appropriate single fare – whichever is the greater amount.

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The new rules will apply to all rail services in England.

A spokesperson for the DfT said: "Fare evasion is estimated to cost taxpayers around £240m a year.

"We need penalty fares to act as a proper deterrent, and we are putting in place a modern system that will help create a more sustainable railway."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

"It’s right that train companies catch and deter those who evade paying for their ticket.

"Penalty fares must act as an effective deterrent, otherwise fare dodgers end up being subsidised by the vast majority of honest passengers.

"As the penalty is increasing, it is more important than ever that train companies ensure passengers are treated fairly and their staff use discretion when it is clearly an innocent mistake."

However, if you do find yourself on the end of a penalty fare you can appeal against it.

The hike to penalty fares will come only days after more industrial action was announced by the rail unions.

Strike action has been announced by both Aslef and the RMT on February 1 and 3.

This comes after January saw rail worker walkouts across five days running from January 3 to 7.

Only around one in five trains operated and mass disruption was caused.

Last year also saw strikes throughout December and Christmas Eve – ruining holiday plans for many Brits.

How can I appeal a penalty fare?

Every train operator must provide the traveller with a means to appeal.

Appeals must be considered by an appeal body which is administratively independent of the train operating companies.

However, you’ll need to process it quickly, as there are rules. 

The First Stage of the appeal process has to be completed within 21 days from the day after the fine was imposed.

If the First Stage appeal is rejected, you have a further 14 days from the decision date to make an appeal to the Second Stage Appeal Panel.

At this stage, you can submit additional information that you believe is relevant to your case.

If the Second Stage Appeal is unsuccessful then you have 14 days from the decision date to go to the Final Stage Appeal Panel.

The Final Stage Appeal assessor will consider mitigating circumstances and a "reasonableness test" will be applied to situations outside the scope of the rules.

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The Final Stage will take 21 days, after which point all avenues will have been exhausted.

Passengers are entitled to appeal a penalty fare up to three times.

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