Stop Ticket Inspectors fining honest passengers.

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Every weekday morning during the rush hour a team of four ticket inspectors stand beside a queue of passengers waiting to pay their fares on the platform at Leeds train station because they did not buy a ticket before boarding their train. These passengers are not avoiding their fares but if they declare that they have travelled from a station with a ticket office they are pulled from the queue and fined £80, if it is the third time this has happened. I estimate they must stop about ten passengers every morning this way. So, are they being fined for fare dodging? No, because they are queuing to pay their fare. What then are they being fined for? For not buying a ticket before boarding the train, perhaps because they forgot or were in a rush.

The Railway byelaw that allows this to happen was introduced to stop fare dodging but none of these passengers were fare dodging. In fact they are the honest passengers who did not lie about which station they travelled from. Yes, the dishonest fare dodgers who lied and said they boarded from a station with no ticket office were ignored. Is that fair?  

These ticket inspectors might catch some fare dodgers if they were positioned at railway stations which do not have ticket barriers, of which there are many. Leeds station does have ticket barriers. Perhaps the real reason they are there is not to catch fare dodgers but to make money for the railway company.  

So this petition which I hope you will support is to put pressure on Mr Alex Hynes, the Managing Director of Northern Rail, to move these inspectors to a more suitable location. Failing that, to put pressure on Paul Maynard, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, to change the railway byelaw which Northern Rail are using to make money instead of it’s intended purpose of stopping fare dodgers.   

I recently received a fine of £394.30 because I forgot to buy a £2.50 train ticket from Horsforth to Leeds on 30/6/15. The reason I forgot to buy it was because I was used to having an annual travel ticket and was used to not having to buy a ticket before I boarded the train. However, I did not renew this annual ticket because I was moving home and intending to get an Annual ticket from a different station after I had moved. The house move was very problematical and stressful with having to deal with two difficult solicitors, two estate agents, a building society and organize everything, so I had a lot on my mind when I entered Horsforth station. I forgot to buy a ticket on three occasions at Horsforth station but each time I queued up at Leeds station to buy my ticket there with no intention of avoiding the fare. Nor could I have avoided my fare there since they have ticket barriers at Leeds train station. So after the third warning I was sent a fixed penalty notice of £80. This seemed very unfair to me, like I am being punished for my honesty whilst the dishonest fare dodgers are ignored. So I intended to wait for a summons and plead my case in court rather than pay the £80 fine. I know technically they had a legal right to take me to court but I do not believe this was fair since the byelaw was intended to discourage fare dodgers not to make money and since I was queuing to pay I was obviously not one of those.

Unfortunately for me, I never received the summons which was delivered to my old address after I moved. I never heard anything about it until I received a red letter (Further Steps notice) from the West Yorkshire Collection and Enforcement Centre threatening me with further action if I did not pay them £394.30. I tried to arrange a new court hearing on the grounds that I never received the summons but was told it would be in Huddersfield and since I do not drive and I am very busy at work, in the end it seemed easier just to pay the fine, which I have done. 

To avoid people forgetting to pay, as in my case, they could install ticket barriers on the platforms so that people cannot forget to board without a ticket. This is what happens at any theatre or cinema or football stadium. They do not wait outside after the performance and fine people who do not have a ticket! No other commercial business I know fines people for not having a ticket when they are leaving. Taxis allow you to pay at the end of your journey. The one big difference is that these other businesses do not have a monopoly on your custom. The railway companies do have a monopoly and it is therefore the reponsibility of the government to ensure they are not abusing their position by taking advantage of passengers in order to increase profits.    

I sincerely hope that you will support this petition on behalf of the many people who are stopped each morning at Leeds train station and fined. I would be interested to hear from any passengers who have had similar experiences at other major railway stations.  



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