Passengers with a genuine reason for not having a valid ticket will now be able to challenge penalty fares under new rules announced by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Fare dodgers – who reportedly deprive the railway of around £200 million each year – will continue to be penalised but those who have made an honest mistake can now challenge fines through an independent committee.
A penalty fare is either a charge of £20 or twice the full single fare from the station where they got on the train to the next station at which the train stops. They are issued when an individual travels without a valid ticket, is unable to produce a railcard on a discounted ticket, stays on the train beyond the destination they have paid for or travels in the wrong class.
Under rules introduced on April 6, the 21 day deadline for the payment of a penalty fare will be paused once an appeal is received, until the outcome is resolved.
In a statement, the DfT said that the process will give greater consideration to circumstances of how and why the penalty was issued.
Rail minister Jo Johnson added: “Rail users should make every effort to get the right ticket for their journey, but if you make an honest mistake, you should feel confident that the appeals system will recognise this and treat you fairly.
“We are simplifying the rules around penalty fares and introducing an independent appeals process to help those who make a genuine error when using the railway.”
Independent watchdog Transport Focus welcomed the news. Head of policy Mike Hewitson said: “The key thing now will be for the rail industry to empower its front-line staff to use more discretion right from the start.”