I travelled on the train. So much easier than driving into the city and trying to find somewhere to park. Cheaper too.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that the time had come to shop for clothes. This doesn’t happen often at the best of times, and it’s happened even less often while I’ve been Husbanding my Resources, after my husband walked away from our marriage.
I got to the train station, and there was the train, just coming in. So I hopped on board. I travel by train probably a couple of times a month, and always ALWAYS buy my ticket from the machine before I board. And always ALWAYS there is a conductor who comes around, checks tickets and sells tickets to anyone who doesn’t have one. So rather than buying my ticket from the machine, missing the train, and having to wait 20 minutes for the next one – I hopped on. Fully expecting to be able to buy my ticket on the train, from the conductor who always ALWAYS comes around.
Bet you’ll never guess what happened next…
No conductor came round. No-one. Not once. Surprise!!!
So I rocked up at my destination without a ticket. Ah well, never mind, there’s the Ticket Office, I’ll just go and get one. I asked for a return ticket, and explained that I hadn’t been able to get one on the train.
This is where it got interesting.
I was passed to someone else, who explained to me that I had been fare dodging and therefore he could, if he wanted to, fine me £20. But ‘on this occasion’ he would just issue an Unpaid Fare Notice – which effectively meant I would have to pay for two single tickets for my journey (at £4.60 each) rather than the normal return ticket (£6.10). More expensive, obviously – but cheaper than a £20 fine.
I wasn’t happy about this. I hadn’t been fare dodging – it was a bit rich to be accused of not paying the fare immediately after I’d tried to pay the fare…
Anyhoo, the UFN was issued, I would have to pay the equivalent of a single fare online, and also buy a single fare for my journey home later. On the notice, my information was listed under ‘Offenders Details’ – really not happy about that. I’m a fine upstanding member of the community…
Also – irritated that the apostrophe was missing from ‘Offender’s Details’, but that’s by the by.
It was a polite conversation, and as I turned to leave the guy told me to appeal. The thought had of course already crossed my mind – but it was very interesting that he suggested it, unprompted.
I did my shopping, and headed home. Buying a single ticket for my journey, obviously.
On the return journey, there was a conductor on the train, checking tickets and selling them to anyone who didn’t have one. But of course!!
I asked him about this whole ‘selling tickets on the train’ malarkey. I mean, if they don’t want us to buy tickets on the train, why do they sell tickets on the train? Or, if they’re going to sell tickets on the train, then they should do it all the time and not just when they feel like it. It was another polite conversation and – he told me to appeal, unprompted. Very interesting.
So, when I got home, I read the UFN in detail, and appealed.
Down at the bottom it states, in bold capitals IT IS AN OFFENCE TO DELIBERATELY AVOID PAYMENT OF THE FARE DUE.
Well, at no point had I deliberately avoided payment of the fare due. I would have paid on the train if I’d been able to, and failing that I’d gone straight to the Ticket Office and offered to pay. I mean, if I go to the supermarket and there’s no-one on the checkouts, I don’t get accused of shoplifting if I go to the Customer Service desk to pay!
I wrote to Northern Rail on 14th October, laying out my case and why I wanted to appeal. On 22nd October I received an email from them saying that they’d amended it so that all I owed was the difference between my single fare and the return fare that I would have bought if they’d given me half a chance. A total of £1.50, rather than £4.60. Fair enough.
But here’s the thing. I’m a statistic somewhere now (together with the other two middle-aged ladies who were on the same train as me, and were also caught out by the lack of a conductor). It will be someone’s job to count fare dodgers. And they will include the three of us, even though we would all have paid our fares at the ticket office if they’d let us.
Which begs the question – how many genuine fare dodgers are there? How many people DELIBERATELY avoid paying their fare? Because if the three of us are included in those stats, the stats are wrong. Which means that no-one really knows the true extent of the problem.
And wouldn’t it be a lovely idea if, instead of penalising harmless middle-aged ladies on shopping trips, they actually just let us pay for our tickets?
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