Rail fare dodgers face stiff new penalty

Penalties for dodging rail fares in England and Wales will be increased to £100, the Government has announced.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it is hiking the penalty fare in response to “growing concern” its impact is limited due to being frozen at £20 for 16 years.

The penalty will be issued as a surcharge on top of the price of the single fare for a passenger’s journey.

It will be reduced to £50 if paid within 21 days.

The DfT said: “Fare evasion costs train operators, rail passengers and taxpayers who ultimately subsidise the journeys of those who deliberately travel by train without paying the correct fare.

“The Rail Delivery Group estimates that in a normal year around £240 million is lost through fare evasion on Great Britain’s railways.

“When set against the profound impact coronavirus has had on passenger numbers and industry revenues, it’s never been more important to minimise the cost of fare evasion to the railways.”

Penalty fares are only issued in instances where there were facilities to buy a ticket at a passenger’s departure station, and they have passed signs stating the consequences of not having a ticket.

In Germany, fare dodgers are required to pay 60 euros (£50), while in France they are hit with a 50 euro fine (£42) and face increased sanctions if they do not pay on the spot.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Penalty fares must act as an effective deterrent, otherwise fare dodgers end up being subsidised by the vast majority of honest passengers.

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

“But in doing so they must make sure that effective safeguards exist for passengers, including staff training to ensure they are able to use their discretion when it is clearly an innocent mistake.”

The DfT said it will issue an update in spring 2022 on when the new penalty fare in England and Wales will be introduced.