Help with £155 out of court settlement for sitting in First Class

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by Jascortool, 21 Dec 2019.

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  1. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    I need your advice on something that is making my blood boil!! We all know how awful the train services are, particularly in and out of London into Greater London and Home Counties. I am a big believer in fighting corporations who only care about ripping off their own customers, which most of these train companies do as standard, day in and day out.

    On the 21st November, I boarded a 7:08 train to London. The train was full and I had a suitcase with me, so I sat in first class along with several others and we all assumed the train was declassified as it had been every day that week. I shouldn’t have done it knowing how much they go out of their ways to catch you out in first class, more than to try to catch you without a ticket apparently!

    A very aggressive train inspector came through JUST first class moments after we sat down and issued everyone with penalty fees. It annoyed me how she spoke to everyone and how she behaved, I couldn’t believe that was okay. I also didn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to just pay for an upgrade or move. I personally would have paid the upgrade. I didn’t think the train would be full, otherwise I would have just bought a first class ticket as I wanted a seat.

    She threatened me as she wrote me a caution, saying that I would regret this, I’m making a huge mistake, I’ll be fined £100, then later saying £500.

    I specifically asked about my payment options and she said I had to pay now or take the caution. It is stated on their own rules and regulations that I should be allowed 21 days to pay.

    I received a letter giving me the “chance to explain my side” or something along those lines. Nothing was written down officially, she wrote her notes on a plain notepad and she didn’t give me any details or confirmation.

    It all looked very questionable.

    I wrote a 3 page response explaining how I felt her behaviour was out of line and aggressive, and that the train was full and there was no where to sit, I said I took the earlier train in order to get a seat and then assumed it was declassified.
    They responded having clearly not read my letter. It was a generic response and they simply said they would charge me £154.70 to settle. £150 for their costs, and £4.70 for my fare! I mean, where are they getting the figure of £150 for them sending me two generic letters! It’s completely and utterly unfair and I don’t understand how they can get away with penalising their paying customers a standard £20 fine whether they have a ticket or not! They literally don’t care about anything but money and it’s disgusting.

    Please can you all share your thoughts? This seems so ridiculous - like a pay up or shut up approach! You have no right to protest against their fines or explain yourself.
     
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  3. yorkie

    yorkie Forum Staff Staff Member Administrator

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    Your choices are either:

    1) Pay the out of court settlement fee, and the issue will go away

    or

    2) Approach a solicitor and see if it is worth defending the matter in court, but if you lose then you will end up with a fine and criminal record.

    I recommend Penman Sedgwick based purely on the experience of other forum members. I have no connection with this company and have not met them personally.

    Do you have any evidence that the train was declassified on previous days?
    Do you have any evidence that the entire train was "full"? If there was standing space in any part of the train, the company could reasonably state that there was no requirement for them to declassify first class.

    If you do not have good evidence, then you really are best off paying now and not incurring any solicitors fees or risking a criminal record
     
    Last edited: 21 Dec 2019
  4. RunawayTrain

    RunawayTrain Member

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    You don't say, but presumably if you elect not to pay the proposed settlement they will prosecute - in which case you do have a right to protest and explain yourself in court.
     
  5. LMS 4F

    LMS 4F Member

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    I have never been in your situation on or anything similar but the one area that concerns me is what could happen further down the track, as it were.
    If these type of incidents are to end up in a criminal court then the whole thing will have to be covered by the rules of evidence and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The person from the company should caution the alleged offender and should have a working knowledge of the Law and keep some form of record which could be produc d at court.
    It seems to me from following this forum that the actual interview if that is what it can be called is wide open to being challenged.
    No wonder the Companies want people to settle by way of penalties.
     
  6. Failed Unit

    Failed Unit Established Member

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    Where was it between? Was it on a route where some trains don’t have 1st but are operated by stock with first. (Such as Thameslink between St Albans and London)
     
    Last edited: 21 Dec 2019
  7. yorkie

    yorkie Forum Staff Staff Member Administrator

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    This is true. But I would not consider this without appointing a solicitor, which aint gonna be cheap.

    As for the part about wanting to fight train companies over the way they behave, there are ways to do this but this isn't it. As for complaining about the attitude, you could make a complaint about staff conduct but that is an entirely separate matter to the allegations of failing to pay for a valid ticket, which in this case is a criminal matter.

    As the origin station has not been divulged to us, we are presumably safe to assume that ticket facilities were available at this station and that the company requires tickets to be purchased before boarding the train.
     
  8. Starmill

    Starmill Veteran Member Associate Staff Events Co-ordinator

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    I understand that the train companies expect you to stand in Standard if there are no seats available, and not move into First. If there was no room even for that then you may be expected to wait for the next service (although they'd have to pay delay compensation where relevant if that happens).
     
  9. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    To build on what others have said, based on what you've said to us, and without commenting on the rights or wrongs of this situation:

    It is, under railway Byelaw 19, illegal to sit in first class without a first class ticket. It is also illegal, under the Regulation of the Railways Act, to deliberately evade your fare. The former is illegal regardless of intention; in the case of the latter, they would need to prove intent.

    In terms of evidence: obviously we were not there and don't know what was written, but collecting the evidence for these offences is the bread and butter of railway revenue protection inspectors. It would be very surprising if the woman who spoke to you didn't succesfully collect this evidence.

    There is no obligation to offer you a Penalty Fare; and refusal to pay one could be contributory evidence to a case against you in court.

    Hopefully you can that what I'm trying to say is that the odds are stacked against you, and that the likely result of you refusing to pay is them taking you to court and then succesfully prosecuting you. The only plauisble defence would be if first was poorly signed or indicated, or if the service was one that was not advertised as having first class available (hence Failed Unit's question above).

    FWIW, I agree that the severity of the potential punishment is very high, and out of propotion to the act. But that doesn't change the facts.
     
  10. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    Thank you so much, I will check it out but for the sake of my sanity, I am probably going to pay the damn fine rather than continue to feel anxiety about it.

    From here on out though, if my train is ever delayed or cancelled, I will be claiming my right to a total or partial refund. I’m sure I will make my £150 back very quickly given how terrible the service is! They have the audacity to charge a £10 admin fee for that too! But I’m sure it’s no longer allowed - any idea?
     
  11. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    The problem then is the amount it will cost me personally and the hardline the court is likely to take, which is that I was ultimately in first class with a standard class ticket. No one cares about anything but the money.
     
  12. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    I had a ticket, it just wasn’t for first class, but had I known the train was going to be full, I would have bought a first class ticket. It isn’t really fair to not give people that option when they are on board the train. They should fine you if you are sitting there and you refuse to pay for the upgrade. But obviously we know that fining people with standard class for being in the “first class” section is in it of itself a lucrative revenue stream. It is laughable that they even call it first class...
     
  13. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    Thanks, yes I think you are right, the odds are stacked against me and every other train customer. It’s appalling to have no choice but to continue to use their services despite how the bleed you dry at every chance. Would any other service be allowed to do this? No.
     
  14. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    I have contacted the rail ombudsman about the amount they are claiming I now need to pay them. Not sure if this will amount to anything but I think it’s worth a try.

    I will pay the fine because the ombudsman can’t respond until 13th Jan and the fine is due within 14 days - also unreasonable.
     
  15. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    At the end of the day first class is a service provided, and part of that service is that the designated areas aren’t simply a free-for-all. Rightly or wrongly, those who have paid a premium expect first class to be enforced, which the industry does just as it does with enforcing all manner of ticket restrictions and conditions.

    There is of course a debate about whether first class should be provided on services where standard class is oversubscribed, but that’s another matter entirely. The long and short of it is you made (what appears to be an innocent) mistake, and unless there’s anything else amiss it’s probably one to chalk up to experience.
     
  16. Bertie the bus

    Bertie the bus Established Member

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    Personally I think you would have a better case if you were travelling any distance. It could be considered unreasonable for somebody to have to stand from London - Birmingham when there are empty seats in 1st Class and if somebody decides they don't want to stand to provide an option to upgrade. However, you state your fare was £4.70. That can't have been more than a 5 or 10 minute journey.
     
  17. Hadders

    Hadders Fares Advisor

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    It would be helpful to know details of where your journey was from and to, the time you travelled and the exact type of ticket held.

    The problem of allowing people to upgrade to 1st class on board as is that it becomes ‘pay when challenged’. If it’s a short distance or very busy then there is less chance of a ticket check.
     
  18. Adam Williams

    Adam Williams Member

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  19. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    It sounds to me like the Ticket Inspector was only prepared to issue a Penalty Fare if it was paid there and then on the spot. Surely this is totally wrong as one has 21 days in which to pay a Penalty Fare. This is concerning as she might still be going around the network only issuing penalty fares on this basis.
     
  20. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    Is there a source of information for finding this out afterwards?
    If so, could it be worth writing to the company after paying?
     
  21. Hadders

    Hadders Fares Advisor

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    Given that the OP has Hertfordshire as their location I suspect travel on a class 700 might be involved, 1st class being permanently declassified at the rear but not at the front. Perhaps they travelled in the wrong 1st class compartment leading to the confusion over whether it was declassified on other days.

    There are some class 700 services that are permanently declassified at both ends so we really need to know details of the exact journey the OP made to advise properly.
     
  22. Jascortool

    Jascortool Member

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    It was a morning peak time train from Kings Langley to Euston. I only know it had been declassified every day that week because I asked someone who also went to sit in first and they assumed it would be okay for that reason. To me, it’s clear they wanted people to make that assumption so they could fine them. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about making money off their customers. Full stop.
     
  23. yorkie

    yorkie Forum Staff Staff Member Administrator

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    This seems to be a contradiction
    There is nothing more we can add.

    Your choice is either to appoint a solicitor to help you fight it (if you win, you can go to the media and put pressure on the company if you like) or alternatively to settle the matter out of court and be sure of avoiding a criminal record.

    If you have concerns about a lack of capacity on the line, you could:
    • contact your MP
    • take earlier or later trains (if possible)
    • go to the local media and see if they will run with a story.

    When you have heard back from the train company please contact us so we can unlock the thread to enable you to post an update.
     
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