Watchdog calls for industry to fully refund passengers affected by penalty fare overcharging

04 September 2019

London TravelWatch has stepped up its calls for rail operators to fully refund thousands of rail passengers who were overcharged when new Penalty Fares Regulations introduced in April 2018 were wrongly applied.

The watchdog and its national equivalent, Transport Focus recently revealed that several operators have issued penalty fares which were twice the cost of an anytime single fare when they should have taken into account the passenger’s age, day/time of travel and the route taken, resulting in a lower penalty. Although the industry has started to take some steps to correct their mistake by issuing partial* refunds to some passengers, the watchdogs want those affected to have their penalty fares cancelled** and receive full refunds. There is a clear precedent of penalties being cancelled when operators have admitted mistakes.

Example of potential overcharging

The anytime single journey cost from Stevenage to Kings Cross is £15.10.  If a passenger had not purchased a ticket before travelling, regardless of when they made the journey, the penalty fare issued would have been £30.20 – twice the anytime single fare. However, if the passenger travelled on a Sunday lunchtime, the fare would be the off peak rate of £11.90. Therefore, if the time and day of the journey was taken into consideration, the penalty fare would then be twice £11.90 - £23.80.

Arthur Leathley, Chair of London TravelWatch commented: 'Passengers affected must receive what they are entitled to, which is a full refund of the penalty fare they paid. Operators need to step up and take full responsibility for their mistakes - at the moment the operators have only done half a job. This is about restoring passenger trust in the industry and operators need to play fair. It is good they acknowledged the mistakes we and Transport Focus discovered, but they need to refund in full.'

London TravelWatch recommends that passengers who have incurred a penalty fare at a cost of twice the single fare after 6 April 2018 contact the operator who issued it as they may be due a refund.

Further information

  • London TravelWatch is the official watchdog representing the interests of transport users in and around London, and independent of the transport operators and government. London TravelWatch is sponsored and funded by the London Assembly, part of the Greater London Authority.
  • *The difference between the amount the penalty fare was charged at and the amount it should have been.
  • **The Independent Appeals Panel may in the past have cancelled penalty fares on appeal where the regulations have not been properly applied.
  • London TravelWatch and Transport Focus wrote to the Department for Transport in August 2019 to highlight penalty fares overcharging since April 2018
  • Follow London TravelWatch on Twitter and YouTube.
  • For more information, please contact the London TravelWatch press office on 020 3176 5941 or 07734 055494.
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