Can you be PF'ed if using an off peak ticket at a time an anytime should be used?

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by gray1404, 7 Jan 2019.

  1. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    Can you be issued a PF if you use an off peak ticket at a time you should be using an anytime? Or are you simply allowed to do an excess? Is there a requirement to do this before boarding if it is a staffed station?

    I guess what I am wondering is if a PF was issued on these grounds would it be turned over on appeal? To add context I have the ticket already as there's a chance I might be travelling at peak time (but possibly off peak hence getting the off peak ticket) and wondered if I can just get on the train?

    (There is no way the Merseyrail booking office is going to be able to issue an excess before getting on the train.)
     
    Last edited: 7 Jan 2019
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  3. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    If you know you need an excess and are able to obtain it before boarding then you should always do so - why wouldn't you? But in normal circumstances you should only be charged that excess on board in line with NRCoT 9.5.1.
     
  4. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    So if a ticket is, apart from the time of day, otherwise valid then a PF should not be charged and only the excess charged on board? Is that correct?
     
  5. Skie

    Skie Member

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    Merseyrail is a PF zone, so you would likely be charged a PF.
     
  6. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Why don't you think they could do it?
     
  7. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    I have never been sold an excess at my local Mereyrail station. I've either been told I need the anytime ticket and need to refund the off peak one and buy a new ticket, told that I need to buy a single to Liverpool and sort it out at Lime Street or just told to get on the train as the time restrictions don't apply on Merseyrail. In any case it has meant that they have taken the ticket off me and taken ages trying to look up my journey or phone another booking office to ask and its taken about 10 minutes each time. I have never been given an excess.
     
  8. gazthomas

    gazthomas Established Member

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    What would be the incentive to buy an anytime ticket if you can just get an off peak and only pay the difference on the rare occasion you're challenged?
     
  9. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Ah, yes, I forgot about the not insignificant number of Merseyrail ticket office staff who are trying very hard to make themselves redundant.
     
  10. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    And if that happened, that would be entirely wrong. Unless there is evidence of fraudulently using an Off-Peak ticket at peak times (e.g. the booking office being able to issue an excess, and being caught repeatedly making the same "mistake", neither of which apply here), all that is payable is the difference to the cheapest valid ticket (which may still be an Off-Peak ticket, e.g. from Off-Peak Day to Off-Peak [Period]).
     
  11. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    So therefore I am fine to get on the train and any PF issued with have to be cancelled on appeal on the basis that only the excess should have been charged. When I get to Lime Street I shall go into the Travel Centre and sort out the excess there or indeed on the next (long distance) train. Never had a problem paying the difference in the latter and only once in the former.
     
  12. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    I think the situation is 100% clear:
    You will be charged 'the difference'. Not '£20' or 'double the difference' or 'double the full fare' or indeed anything else.
     
  13. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    For clarity, I was questioning why the booking office couldn't do the excess, but I forgot that so many Merseyrail ticket office staff are just glorified TVMs, and simple ones at that which are confused by anything more complicated than tickets to Liverpool.
     
  14. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    It's unclear what you are asking. You must pay the fare due. I would never try to avoid paying the correct fare for my journey, or provide any sort of evidence to anyone who might be looking to accuse me, incorrectly, of doing just that. That would include posting on a forum about how I will get on a train with a ticket that I know is not valid, having decided not to go to a ticket office when I could've.

    It's completely clear under the NRCoT that if someoe is travelling on a train with a ticket that's valid except for the time restrictions they will be charged an excess. I would be very unhappy if this protection were removed from the NRCoT as some others were not long ago.
     
  15. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    But the NRCoT also says:

     
  16. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    As I said my view is that the situation is clear. If there is a conflict in the interpretation of the terms then the ones in this customer's favour prevail. There is certainly no room for any doubt about the meaning of 9.5, which I quoted.
    I would say that a lot of them would be better as TVMs. TVMs will load ITSO tickets onto all compatible cards, unlike their staff who refuse to place anything other than a Walrus card on their reader.
     
  17. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    If I still lived round there I would happily take a TVM with TOD as a substitute for a ticket office which is less useful than a standard Scheidt & Bachmann TVM with remote issue and TOD.
     
  18. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    I agree. It’s an example of the contradictory nature of the NRCoT. Quite disgraceful really, you’d be forgiven for thinking that no-one proof read it.
     
  19. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    Outside a Penalty Fare area, you should simply be able to pay the excess on the train. But I am not sure that the situation is that clear in a penalty fare area, where the Penalty Fare Regulations 2018 apply additional conditions (which is why there has to be the additional signs on the station telling you that these additional Penalty Fare conditions apply over and above the usual Conditions of Carriage).

    The Penalty Fare Regulations are quite clear that travelling with a ticket that is not valid for that day or time means that you are travelling without a valid ticket, and may be charged a Penalty Fare.
    http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/Penalty Fares Guidelines 2018 Second Edition.pdf

    I think that what we all agree on is that you should not have to buy a new ticket, you should only have to pay the excess. In a Penalty Fare area, if you don't buy the excess before boarding, then I think that you run a real risk of being charged the Penalty Fare. If you are charged a Penalty Fare, you can always try to appeal it, but I am not convinced that your appeal would succeed, as the Penalty Fare Regulations are quite clear on this. The best course of action is to try and buy the excess at the booking office before you board; if they refuse to sell you an excess, buy the anytime ticket and then complain to the rail company to get a refund. It is only by complaining that bad practices get put right. I have successfully complained and got a refund when sold the wrong ticket (admittedly with a different TOC), but in the unlikely event that the Rail Company refuses your refund, you can appeal to the Rail Ombudsman. To my mind, the odds of you getting stuck with a Penalty Fare if you don't buy a valid ticket before boarding are significantly higher than the risk of your not getting a refund if you do buy the anytime ticket, so I know which option I would choose.

    Note that not having time to buy a ticket before boarding will not get you off a Penalty Fare.
     
  20. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Under the old regulations the position was unambiguous - a PF could never be charged, but the DfT's changes last year means we now have people on here arguing otherwise!

     
  21. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Even those so-called guidelines still contain mistakes, and are anyway unenforceable (unlike the Rules they pretend to replace) - really the document acts as an attempt to interpret (and extend!) the regulations. For example, the definition of 'Promise to pay' is incompatible with the ones Northern issues (drawing attention to the problems Northern has trying to enforce their use) and section 5 claims the collector may request a minimum payment, which is no longer allowed by the regulations (meaning info box 6 should be rewritten as the minimum payment is now zero).
     
  22. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    Apologies, I should have pointed out that the Regulations themselves appear at the end of the guidelines. The Regulations themselves are quite clear that for a ticket to be valid it must be valid for that day and time - part 1, section 3, clause 2a(i). So, under the Regulations, someone travelling with a ticket not valid for that train may be charged a Penalty Fare. While the guidelines have no statutory authority, the Regulations themselves are effectively law, having the authority of the Railways Act 1993.

    Someone charged with failing to pay a Penalty Fare would surely be charged with a breach of the Penalty Fare Regulations, not of breaching the NCoC, so I personally wouldn't want to bet on a favourable outcome.
     
  23. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    An unpaid and valid Penalty Fare constitutes a civil debt, which can be recovered through the County Court in the usual way. However, failure to pay a Penalty Fare is not, per se, an offence. There is, therefore, behaviour which may trigger a Penalty Fare but which wouldn't constitute a Railway Byelaws or Regulation of Railways Act offence, for example.

    It's unheard of for a TOC to take a Penalty Fare to the County Court (primarily because their processes simply aren't set up for it, and they incur costs that can't be recovered), so any such Penalty Fare would likely go unpursued (though likely not without letters claiming bogus "administration" or "debt recovery" fees are also due).
     
  24. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Pretty much!
     
  25. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    I'm not sure how a customer can be in breach of the Penalty Fare Regulations!

    In any case, if they customer won't accept the Penalty Fare, it's unlikely that it could be considered to have been 'issued', so the regulations would be irrelevant.
     
  26. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    In what cases can a Penalty Fare be issued but a Byelaw prosecution would not be applicable?

    The only one I can think of relates to Compulsory Ticket Areas, as being in one of those without a ticket is not any kind of criminal offence.
     
  27. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    The Penalty Fare Regulations are a Statutory Instrument, which have the same legal authority as the enabling Act (this is the legal advice I was given when I had to persue my Local Authority for failing to abide by a SI). The Penalty Fare is not a summons, it is not "issued" and "accepted". The Regulations lay out the conditions under which a passenger may legally become liable to a Penalty Fare, and Regulation 12 states that an unpaid Penalty Fare may legally be recovered as a civil debt, i.e. through the courts. So if a passenger breaches the Regulations as to what constitutes travelling with a valid ticket, and as a result the operator charges the passenger a Penalty Fare in accordance with the Regulations, then legally the passenger becomes liable, whether the passenger accepts it or not.

    If they never enforce Penalty Fares in the County Court, then there seems little point in them!
    However, does this explain why there is the bit in the guidelines that not paying the Penalty Fare could be viewed as a deliberate attempt to evade paying? They would rather prosecute for deliberate fare evasion (as an offence against the RoR Act, for example), rather than pursue a civil debt through the courts.

    The Penalty Fare Regs seem to be much more stringent about what constitutes travelling without a valid ticket. For example, the Penalty Fare Regs do not allow for you paying an excess on the train (the original subject of this thread). The catch is that if they decide to prosecute for a Byelaw or RoR offence, then under Regulation 11 the Penalty Fare does not apply!
     
  28. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    As you're starting to realise now, it's all a tangled web! The train companies have chosen particular routes through the web that they normally follow and unless and until those routes are challenged and ruled out by the courts we know how they normally handle various situations in practice. So you have a "theoretical" position covering how you might imagine it is all supposed to fit together if you just read it and took it all at face value (and took the same approach to the ambiguities as the courts might), then you have the "real world" - and they are not the same!

    Examples:

    Theory - a PF can always be imposed and the passenger has no say in the matter [yes, the company has decided they have become liable to pay]
    Normal Practice - if the passenger doesn't accept the PF it isn't normally issued and a prosecution/out of court settlement route is taken instead [it just acts as an obvious short cut to the next example - why bother to issue a penalty that the passenger isn't going to pay and you aren't going to enforce?]

    Theory - once issued, as a statutory penalty, a PF cannot be withdrawn and replaced by a prosecution unless there is new evidence of more serious illegality that was unavailable to the company at the time the penalty was issued (or, exceptionally, a court agrees)
    Normal Practice - if left unpaid, a PF is simply cancelled and a byelaw (or sometimes RORA) prosecution is attempted [the passenger isn't engaging with the process, so they are hardly likely to challenge the cancellation, and even if they did, they wouldn't have the court's sympathy]
     
    Last edited: 11 Jan 2019
  29. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    The regulations cover the TOC and its penalty fares scheme, not the actual passenger contract. I don't see any reference to them anywhere relevant to the latter? If I've booked a ticket that's subject to the terms of NRCoT. NRCoT has a defined process for dealing with this situation. Not to follow that would be breach of contract by the train operator. The train operator cannot force you to accept a Penalty Fare against the terms of your existing contract. You could be made to verbally provide your name and address under the Byelaws... if they know which one is needed and can remember it to inform you.
     
  30. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    Let's be honest, penalty fares exist to reduce casual fare evasion (i.e. getting on a train without a ticket and getting to the destination without having purchased a ticket) without needing to waste TOC time and resources or having to go through the courts.

    It's not uncommon to hear of unpaid penalty fare cases which are not pursued by the TOC (normally only for those who haven't got a ticket for the first time) under the assumption you won't travel without a ticket again. It can be seen as a punishment but also a deterrant.

    The precise legality of PF is questionnable.
     
  31. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    I've had a full read of the PF regulations and there is nothing that mentions being allowed to charge one in circumstances whereby the ticket is otherwise valid, except for the time of day the journey is taking place. It only mentions things like being in the wrong class of accommodation, not having a railcard, not being entitled to a discount. Therefore it would be arguable that a PF is not valid if issued in these circumstances as the provisions in the NRCoT (i.e. the contract) should apply, i.e. they you merely may an excess fare.
     

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