Unfare!

I travelled on the train. So much easier than driving into the city and trying to find somewhere to park. Cheaper too.

Normally.

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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15 Comments Add yours

  1. oldhowie says:

    Good for you sis maybe you should start a ‘Im not a fare dodger’ movement and I’ll join we could go chain ourselves to the station ticket office. The whole system is ridiculous. Great blog Shelagh

    Like

    1. It really is. I’ll bring the chains, could you get some T-shirts printed??

      Like

  2. I understand completely why you were infuriated by this experience: I would have been, too. Your comment about the missing apostrophe made me chuckle, though!

    Like

    1. Haha – I’m a qualified proofreader, these things bother me!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. LittleDreams says:

    A similar thing happened to me in a foreign country (I won’t say which one in case they find me and hurt me!). The ticket machine wasn’t working but there wasn’t anybody at all in the station for me to buy a ticket from. I’ll buy it on board the train thinks little me, having done this a few times whilst travelling around this country. Nope, nobody turned up in the train to sell a ticket either! I arrived at the destination station fully intending to do as you did and buy a ticket. Nope, station office closed, no ticket machines to be found. I panicked but then saw that there wasn’t any electronic barriers to leave this station and, actually, nobody was (wo)manning the wide open exit anyway. So off I skipped out of the station, having travelled without a ticket..!!! And there ends my life of crime!

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    1. And I bet you’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since!! Genuine fare-dodgers wouldn’t give it a second thought!!

      Like

      1. LittleDreams says:

        I genuinely have! So much so that I made a charity donation for the exact amount that the ticket would have cost me. I know it’s not the same thing as paying for the service that you have actually used but I felt so bad and I needed to ease my conscience!!
        I know what you mean about the missing apostrophe; I’m an English teacher..!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. anglosvizzera says:

    How ridiculous! If you’d been a genuine fare-dodger, would you have gone to the ticket office at the other end? Was there a barrier to get out? If there wasn’t, I bet you wished you hadn’t been so honest and just bought a one-way ticket home instead. Just proves that honesty isn’t rewarded at all!

    As for the missing apostrophe – that’s a rarity – usually they are put in superfluously, which really annoys me, especially when there are other ‘plural’ words there correctly written sans apostrophe. I’ve started a photo collection of unnecessary apostrophes – it seems the problem is getting worse!

    And then there’s “its” versus “it’s”….

    Like

    1. Don’t get me started!!! I no the rule’s, me.

      Like

  5. oldhowie says:

    Yeks’ now Im worried about my punctuation.!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joan Mudd says:

    That was a very interesting read. The same thing has has been a very popular pass-time at our station. They target the people in the queue at Leeds station who want to pay their fare and then fine them for fare dodging even though they are in the line to pay. Ergo not dodging at all. It got so bad with targeting (some would say intimidating) youngsters that an angry local father did a piece about it on BBC Look North. It worried me so much that I bought a new phone so that I could (if needed) buy an online ticket. However. I now worry about the phone going flat or losing the virtual ticket somewhere in the firmament. In contrast, I managed to get from home into Leeds on the train and swap on to my London bound one. I was meeting my chum who lives in Newark and so my ticket provided for me to change at Doncaster and board a train that stops at Newark. My chum would get on that one and off we would go to London for the day. Unfortunately, the train from Leeds left 26 minutes late which meant that I missed my train at Doncaster. I ran round that station like a woman possessed trying to find help because it is an offence to travel with a ticket other than for the train you are booked on and that train had already departed. Yikes. The very helpful lady at Doncaster wrote on my “old” ticket that it was OK to use on the train I had just gotten off and put me back on it. I texted my chum and we eventually met up in London. So … an invalid ticket with a handwritten message from an LNER employee is OK but queuing to pay for a ticket at your destination is not. Hmmm …

    Like

    1. The system really isn’t fit for purpose. Just let us buy the damn tickets!!! One of the other women caught out was nearly in tears – is that really how they want to treat their good customers?

      Like

  7. Joan Mudd says:

    Exactly!

    Like

  8. SisterStay says:

    This is not the first time I’ve heard a story like this. It’s so much easier to catch fare dodgers when they’re standing nicely in line for you. I think they ought to have a conductor on every train and more even importantly, a proof-reader in every printing office across the land.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more!!!

      Like

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