Penalty Fares should be fair and independent on 27/01/2010
Passengers should be given every opportunity to buy tickets before, during or after their journey, and the appeals system needs to be independent and more transparent, says London TravelWatch, the watchdog for transport users in London, in its response to the Government’s review of the Penalty Fares system on national rail services, which closes today.
In its response, London TravelWatch supports the Penalty Fare system in principle as passengers should always pay for their journeys, but calls for the system to be fairer, easier to understand, kept up to date with new ticketing technology, and for the appeal system to be wholly independent from the train companies.
Sharon Grant, Chair, London TravelWatch, said: “We are pleased that the Department for Transport (DfT) has ordered a review into the rules of the Penalty Fares system,, as we have been concerned for years that almost 10% of all the appeals we receive at London TravelWatch are concerned with Penalty Fares, despite the existence of 'independent’ appeal bodies.
“Most passengers are happy to pay for their tickets, but they must be given a fair chance to purchase the correct ticket for the journey. If there is no facility to buy a ticket before the journey, then they must be allowed to buy tickets either during or at the end of their journey, and not be expected to pay a Penalty Fare.”
As well as passengers being given ample opportunity to buy tickets, London TravelWatch has also called for the use of discretion when the passenger has made an honest mistake owing to the complex nature of fares and ticketing on the railway.
London TravelWatch is particularly concerned at the appeals system, which is not always clear and passengers have found difficult to understand. The appeals bodies are also often difficult to contact.
Sharon Grant continued: “We hear constantly from passengers who have received a Penalty Fare, but were unaware that they can appeal, or that an administrative charge has to be paid if the Penalty Fare is not paid within 21 days. We have also heard innumerable times of passengers being charged even as while the appeal is still underway. This is blatantly unfair, and we are calling on the Government to ensure that the appeals system for Penalty Fares is transparent and impartial, and should be fully independent of train companies or debt collection agencies in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
“Penalty Fares must be fair and punish the tiny minority of people who have set out to be dishonest, not those who have made honest mistakes or have found themselves, for no fault of their own, unable to purchase the correct ticket.”
For media enquiries, please contact Jo deBank in the London TravelWatch press office on 020 7726 9953 or 07734 055494
The voice of London's transport users
27 January 2010