Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) penalty fare appeal success

yorkie

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The ticket inspector was very pleasant about charging me the excess £20 so I decided not to pursue the point about the NRCoT but just make some enquiries of her about what she understood to be the situation. When she explained to me that “Thameslink and Southern are separate companies just like Sainsbury’s and Tesco” I replied I didn’t think that was correct pointing out they were in fact both part of one company (GTR) with one managing director (Patrick Verwer).
Summary: A passenger used a ticket which is restricted, under the terms of the Ticketing & Settlement Agreement (TSA) to travel on services operated by Govia Thameslink.

However the Govia Thameslink employee denied that it was valid, used an incorrect supermarket analogy and issued a Penalty Fare.

The Penalty Fare was successfully appealed.

If anyone is aware of any similar disputes with GTR please do get in touch as I know someone who would find the evidence very useful indeed.

If anyone has any evidence from GTR such as class claims about th company status or validity of tickets this could be very useful too.
 
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MotCO

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One of the comments in the busandtrainuser article says:

"NRCoT does allow restrictions by brand: “Restrictions may be applied to services departing or arriving at certain times; to the services of one or more specified Train Companies; or to groups of train services indicated by a particular brand name or identity.”
That’s in both the March 2018 and December 2019 NRCoT. " (https://busandtrainuser.com/2020/05/12/i-got-my-20-penalty-fare-back-from-gtr/)

There has been much previous discussion on this forum that brands are not recognised by NRCoT, but this suggests otherwise. Who is correct?
 

yorkie

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One of the comments in the busandtrainuser article says:

"NRCoT does allow restrictions by brand: “Restrictions may be applied to services departing or arriving at certain times; to the services of one or more specified Train Companies; or to groups of train services indicated by a particular brand name or identity.”
That’s in both the March 2018 and December 2019 NRCoT. " (https://busandtrainuser.com/2020/05/12/i-got-my-20-penalty-fare-back-from-gtr/)

There has been much previous discussion on this forum that brands are not recognised by NRCoT, but this suggests otherwise. Who is correct?
The bit that purports to allow by brand is an 'information panel' this does not form part of the contract.

It would be unlawful for a train company to restrict a product by brand as the TSA does not allow for this. The TSA is a legally binding overarching document and it would be unlawful for any train company to go against the terms of the TSA.

Compliance with th TSA is a franchise commitment, as well as a non-negotiable term of participating in the National Rail ticketing scheme. (Not relevant here but open access operators are not bound by franchise agreements but, if they want to participate in National Rail ticketing, they must also comply with the TSA)

It's interesting that the information box says this, as it's highly likely that GTR and/or Rail Delivery Group requested DfT for permission to alter the National Rail Conditions of Travel to include brand restrictions. However no such permission was given. But DfT permission was not required to add information panels.

So we have a situation where information panels are at odds with the contractual terms. That is very interesting indeed.

The term 'train company' is an inalienable term and cannot be twisted to falsely claim that trains branded Southern are somehow not part of Thameslink. They clearly are.

It's interesting that the staff used a supermarket analogy; the member of staff doing this knows their employer is Govia Thameslink; to suggest that they were not employed by that company and/or that the train was not operated by that company is disengenuous.

But even more serious for GTR is that this would appear to be an abuse of a dominant market position.
 

Kilopylae

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In addition to what Yorkie says above, even if the NRCoT did allow for tickets to be restricted by brand, the tickets in this instance were valid for Govia Thameslink Railway services. Govia Thameslink Railway is a TOC, not a brand; the brand is just Thameslink (or ThamesLink, or Thameslink Railway).

Had the tickets been valid for something like "Thameslink only" or "ThamesLink services" there might have been some ambiguity that required determining whether or not the NRCoT allowed for tickets to be restricted to given brands. However, as the tickets were restricted to "Govia Thameslink Railway", there was no possibility that they were not valid on Southern services. GTR is not the brand under which Thameslink services are operated.

It might seem like a pedantic distinction, but it's one that GTR make themselves. On the Thameslink website, it clearly states that "Thameslink Railway is a trading name of Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd."

In other words, whether or not the NRCoT allows for tickets to be restricted by the branding of trains is irrelevant. These tickets would have valid even if they did.
 

robbeech

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The issue here, as usual, is that in reality, the potential for this situation to unfold generally in favour of the passenger (the one who is in the right here) was spotted by all involved and the documents suddenly ‘went missing’ or they ‘failed to deliver’ them.
The passenger hasn’t ‘won’ in the sense that GTR will follow the law, they have ‘won’ their £20 back as GTR have essentially paid them off.
Harsh but certainly how it appears to me.
 

Hadders

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The annoying thing here is that the appeal against the Penalty Fare was not adjudicated because GTR failed to send in the paperwork, it was simply cancelled for this technicality.

The cynical side of me says GTR must have known they had no chance of and do not want appeals of this nature being judged.
 

yorkie

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The annoying thing here is that the appeal against the Penalty Fare was not adjudicated because GTR failed to send in the paperwork, it was simply cancelled for this technicality.

The cynical side of me says GTR must have known they had no chance of and do not want appeals of this nature being judged.
Indeed; if anyone has any examples of simlar cases, especially if they contain actual judgements, or any admissions by GTR, this would be excellent, please do contact me.
 
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I've definitely heard the argument from people that since "Gatwick Express" is merely a sub-brand or trading name of GTR (formerly Southern) that they should be able to use a "Southern only" tickets on the Gatwick Express. But I note that the wording is slightly different - "Not Gatwick Exp" on the Southern-only tickets, versus "Thameslink only" on the Thameslink tickets. If the TSA overrules this restriction, then surely the same rule applies to the Gatwick Express?
 

MotCO

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If, for argument's sake, Thameslink was operated by Arriva and Gatwick Express by Govia, then I can understand why the tickets would not be inter-changable. But since they are the same company, the tickets should be accepted on either, but I fear it will require a test case in the Courts, and Govia has backed down whenever this has previousy been threatened.
 

packermac

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NRE seems to imply Southern and Thameslink have different fares from both Hassocks and Brighton to London. So would that make it Thameslink only?
 

Hadders

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NRE seems to imply Southern and Thameslink have different fares from both Hassocks and Brighton to London. So would that make it Thameslink only?
NRE can imply all it likes but contractually tickets cannot be restricted by brand, only by Train Operating Company or by geographic restriction.
 
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NRE can imply all it likes but contractually tickets cannot be restricted by brand, only by Train Operating Company or by geographic restriction.
I've had revenue staff on board GatEx saying that Thameslink is a different route to Gatwick Express by geographic restriction, referencing the part after East Croydon where they diverge. Funnily enough, I was on a Travelcard meaning that would've made no difference to my validity regardless as the Thameslink Only restriction applies to the fare zones at Coulsdon South (before East Croydon) yet they still pushed towards excess and penalty fares.
 

thedbdiboy

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The irony about all of this is that the DfT ultimately has the power to amend the TSA (it is not a statutory document in law) and to specify the franchises and their attendant obligations; yet it has neither the skill nor capability to ensure that the regulations support the contracts. Given that state of affairs I'm glad at least some people have the determination to pursue cases like this.
 

800002

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Pie in the sky thinking here, but please stay with me. It may need me pointing in tbe right direction though...

In theory, if say 15 - 20 people were all minded to travel the same route, as outlined above, with the same fare being paid and ticket in hand, with the sole aim of being penalty fared on board by the 'Southern staff' and paid the (what would be relatively low sum* of £20 per head, arranged for in advance - they would know what they were getting into) and then as, a class action type of thing, invite the press to ask questions upon either, the successful appeal or the subsequent fact that GTR decided to drop all 15-20 cases and not pursue any of them?

I think it would only take a small group of interested parties to get the ball rolling.

They would all be submitting the same evidence, would practically be word for word in fact, and in the same relative time frame as they would have been done at the same time.

Or would the on board staff just smell a rat and 'use their discretion' I wonder.

*and I i know it is not trivial for some and I am not advocating that it is... But think of the potential gain from having the whole situated clarified in law (or major news publication)
 

yorkie

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If anyone else has had a Penalty Fare, excess fare, supplement or whole new ticket charged in similar circumstances, please do contact me as the information could be extremely useful. Sorry I can't go into detail as to why it would be useful on here, though if anyone is in a position to help, I will contact you directly and we can discuss it further.

I would be extremely grateful for any information anyone can provide!
 

RJ

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I think if a business wants to brand their services separately and charge different prices for each brand, it should be able to. It's not an unreasonable concept. But it seems on the railways there is no official provision for this and there's a reliance on the goodwill of customers being willing to take the restrictions at face value. Those who don't shouldn't be reprimanded for it.

The railways shouldn't and haven't cut their nose off to spite their face - withdrawing the cheaper fares would result in a net loss of revenue, which the government don't want.

But I think the more noise passengers make protesting the branding, the more likely something is to be done about the regulations which would result in the fares going up. I'm just wondering why it is taking the railways so long to act on this.

The only problem with this fight is it's pretty niche, because the majority of customers will take the branding at face value. And niche means limited public support.
 
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Hadders

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If they want to introduce brand restrictions on tickets then the TOCs will need to make sure that branded rolling stock is used correctly. For example what is a passenger holding a 'Not Gatwick Express' ticket supposed to do when the 'Southern' service they want to catch between Victoria and Brighton is operated by Gatwick Express branded rolling stock?
 

some bloke

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Given the unimpressive journey times compared to "Southern" services, might the phrase "Gatwick Express" be of interest to Trading Standards?
 

swt_passenger

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Given the unimpressive journey times compared to "Southern" services, might the phrase "Gatwick Express" be of interest to Trading Standards?
It has been, and successfully IIRC, in that they were told to stop advertising it’s speed as Victoria in 30 mins. They were also told to stop advertising a 15 min service frequency, as it wasn’t 7/7...
 

Tetchytyke

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I think if a business wants to brand their services separately and charge different prices for each brand, it should be able to.
I don't disagree, but then you run the risk of a TOC branding all it's most popular trains as a different brand, using that to restrict fares or charge more. Or to shut down competition on multi-operator flows. Or, as Stagecoach tried with Megatrain, to argue the NRCoT doesn't apply to the sub-brand.

Unintended consequences and all that.

The issue here is that the simple solution is an expensive one, both for passengers and, by extension, politically as much of the BML is prime marginal constituency territory. Anything else could play havoc with the TSA.

But as you say, if everyone cottons on to the defence it'll change. And probably not for the better.
 

SECR263

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Seeking Clarification please.

Pre Covid I had to go to Brighton (BTN) to see a friend in hospital on a number of occasions. On the way back I caught a GatEx branded train from BTN to VIC which stopped at various stations to Gatwick (GTW). We were then turfed off at GTW unless we had a "GatEx ticket".

Is this correct?

Similarly at VIC I saw a train going to BTN on the destination panel from VIC on the GatEx plat. I was told by GatEx staff I could not go to BTN on this train. Luckily my friend is now OK and I am spared the Journey. Thanks.
 
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yorkie

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Seeking Clarification please.

Pre Covid I had to go to Brighton (BTN) to see a friend in hospital on a number of occasions. On the way back I caught a GatEx branded train from BTN to VIC which stopped at various stations to Gatwick (GTW). We were then turfed off at GTW unless we had a "GatEx ticket".

Is this correct?

Similarly at VIC I saw a train going to BTN on the destination panel from VIC on the GatEx plat. I was told by GatEx staff I could not go to BTN on this train. Luckily my friend is now OK and I am spared the Journey. Thanks.
This is not correct; if it happens again, pay any excess/penalty/additional fare requested, and appeal/request a refund of the charge. I am happy to help with your appeal.
 

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