Rail Penalty Fares Reform Consultation

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P Binnersley

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The DfT has launched a consultation on reforming Penalty Fares, including increasing the value and how it is calculated.

The consultation is at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/rail-penalty-fare-value-reform and can be completed online. The closing date is 3rd June.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is consulting on the following proposals and inviting additional comments and suggestions to aid future policy formulation:
  • changes to the Penalty Fare value and formula (with the effect that the final value of the Penalty Fare can be varied in line with the circumstances associated with the issuing of the penalty)
  • considering whether the name of the ‘Penalty Fare’ remains appropriate
These proposals are still being developed. Your comments will be taken into consideration following the closure of the consultation
 
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swt_passenger

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I wonder if it will get buried like the last one?

It’s quite a few years ago they first proposed using the same amount as TfL, but it disappeared.

seems it was 2009 :D
 
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Mojo

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The online consultation doesn’t make any sense. I stopped at the second question: “In your opinion is the existing £20 minimum Penalty Fare value sufficient to act as an effective deterrent?”

Surely the deterrent is the risk of prosecution (either under the byelaws or Act of Parliament), not a Penalty fare?
 

furlong

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DfT still living in cloud cuckoo land. Another narrow consultation to garner support for some minor tinkering that fails to take into account the reality on the ground.
As mojo suggests, you have to review the situation as a whole if you want to find a better solution - not focus on a few little "easy" tweaks while pretending the regulations exist in a vacuum and are followed to the letter. When did you last hear of the civil recovery of a Penalty Fare? Stop pretending that's how the system works.
 

Bletchleyite

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The online consultation doesn’t make any sense. I stopped at the second question: “In your opinion is the existing £20 minimum Penalty Fare value sufficient to act as an effective deterrent?”

Surely the deterrent is the risk of prosecution (either under the byelaws or Act of Parliament), not a Penalty fare?

I shall be responding that the right to prosecute should be removed in return for a higher PF.
 

Ralph Ayres

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The way they have laid out the consultation is a good indication of why things are in such a mess. They seem to have a template they've followed to the extreme, resulting in most of the information being given more than once. I got halfway down and thought I'd accidentally gone back to the start. Did they really need to list all the questions twice as well as giving a link to the actual response form? I then clicked to start responding and found they had so little faith in how they'd labelled everything that they had to explain what all the buttons did.

Also disappointing that there's no option to leave contact details to be told of the outcome after it ends.
 
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furlong

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Many train companies have introduced their own unregulated "penalty fake" scheme of an "admin fee" of £80 or more plus the full standard fare. Why was one of the options in the consultation not to put the system train companies are increasingly actually using onto a regulated statutory basis? Or in other words, revert the dodgy byelaw 18 change that distorted the delicate balance, but accept that it's OK now for the back office to impose an extended range of regulated Penalty Fares (with time limit and appeal mechanism) when the officer on the ground has reason (list examples) to believe what happened was not a 'one off'. Recall that the stated purpose of Penalty Fares was to take low-level criminal behaviour - deliberate fare dodging - out of the court system but the mechanism to achieve that today needs some updating. It seems clear that any single formula (£20 or twice the single fare or any of the DfT's other suggestions) can never on its own be both sufficient and fair across the wide range of circumstances encountered, but equally the threat of criminal prosecution (under RORA) is an effective backstop for more serious or repeated offences.
 
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Bletchleyite

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Personally I think RoRA and Byelaw prosecutions should cease to be possible, replaced with a higher PF and with the use of a general fraud charge where there has been actual fraud (e.g. falsification of tickets). "Penalty Fakes", i.e. out of court settlements, should no longer be an option.

My view, which I'll be feeding back, is that the PF should be £80, reduced to £40 for a first offence in a calendar year and paid promptly, but increased to £120 if not paid promptly. This would be in addition to the walk-up fare that would have been sold if purchased before boarding. I'd also say that appealing should stop the clock, to bring it in line with parking offences, and that appeals should be considered not by a private company connected to the rail industry but a dedicated statutory body. If unpaid it should be pursued as a civil debt.

There should also be an automatic inflationary mechanism to increase it, but increasing in £10 steps only (on the discounted amount; to get the "standard" and "higher" levels just double or triple it - so the next step would be £50 discounted, £100 standard, £150 higher) to keep it simple.

Edit: I've attached my response. In essence, my view is that it should operate the same way as decriminalised local Council parking enforcement with similar appeals process and levels of penalties, because typically the sums involved are similar, but in addition to the relevant walk-up fare so the journey is still paid for.
 

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  • PF survey.pdf
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infobleep

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One thing I suggested and I don't know if it would work is for TOCs to be fined if they abandon a case before it goes to court. This is to try and stop them threatening to take people to court who have valid tickets

I also suggested changing by-law 18 and bringing all TOCs under the same regulation.

I suggested the name Penalty Fine but I don't know if legally it could be considered a fine or not.
 

Haywain

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I also suggested changing by-law 18 and bringing all TOCs under the same regulation
What do you mean by this? Other than Scotrail they are all under English law (for offences committed in England & Wales).
 

infobleep

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What do you mean by this? Other than Scotrail they are all under English law (for offences committed in England & Wales).
I mean the same penalty fare system, which currently is £20 rather than there own ones that aren't regulated in same way.
 

setdown

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Travelling from my local penalty fare station, if you don't have a ticket when boarding, the guard just sells you one on the train. Despite having the yellow posters all around the station. What's the point.
 

AlterEgo

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The online consultation doesn’t make any sense. I stopped at the second question: “In your opinion is the existing £20 minimum Penalty Fare value sufficient to act as an effective deterrent?”

Surely the deterrent is the risk of prosecution (either under the byelaws or Act of Parliament), not a Penalty fare?
The deterrent is the likelihood of getting caught rather than the amount. As we’ve seen with the COVID regulations.
 

Bald Rick

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The deterrent is the likelihood of getting caught rather than the amount. As we’ve seen with the COVID regulations.

Not for some people it isn’t. I often see people nonchalantly chucking £20 out when nabbed; they see to think it’s a price worth paying, occasionally, for never paying.

At, say £100, and double for a second offence, it quickly gets painful.
 

Haywain

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I mean the same penalty fare system, which currently is £20 rather than there own ones that aren't regulated in same way.
Anything that isn’t regulated isn’t a penalty fare scheme. Would you have all TOCs issuing penalty fares instead of some using Unpaid Fares Notices?
 

infobleep

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Anything that isn’t regulated isn’t a penalty fare scheme. Would you have all TOCs issuing penalty fares instead of some using Unpaid Fares Notices?
Well this is what Furlong said
Many train companies have introduced their own unregulated "penalty fake" scheme of an "admin fee" of £80 or more plus the full standard fare. Why was one of the options in the consultation not to put the system train companies are increasingly actually using onto a regulated statutory basis? Or in other words, revert the dodgy byelaw 18 change that distorted the delicate balance, but accept that it's OK now for the back office to impose an extended range of regulated Penalty Fares (with time limit and appeal mechanism) when the officer on the ground has reason (list examples) to believe what happened was not a 'one off'.
That is what I am agreeing with.
 

kieron

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The way they have laid out the consultation is a good indication of why things are in such a mess. They seem to have a template they've followed to the extreme, resulting in most of the information being given more than once.
I've only looked at the downloadable version, but that's not all that good either. It says:

3. In your opinion is the existing £20 minimum Penalty Fare value sufficient to act as an effective deterrent? *

Yes, I believe the current value is an effective deterrent should remain at the same amount
(Go to ‘Additional suggestions of change’)

I think I can guess what the second line in the quote is intended to mean, but shouldn't this have been proofread before it was published?
The third line effectively says that, if you don't think an individual penalty fare should be more costly, they don't want to know how you would like them to be calculated.

It also contains the following puzzling paragraph:
The minimum penalty of £20 also creates particular challenges in areas of the National Rail network where the average fare is low with some passengers deeming it to be more economical for them to pay the occasional £20 penalty fare than to regularly purchase tickets for their rail journeys.

If I expected to meet an authorised collector once a month on average, and to be offered a penalty fare every time i do, wouldn't fare evasion be more lucrative if the fare for my journey was £10 rather than £2?

If they actually have a particular part of the country in mind here, and only talk about areas "where the average fare is low" because they don't want to name it, perhaps they should look at having more revenue staff there instead of using a local problem to justify a national change.

Another thing I noticed was that the web page says that the DfT want to "ensure the system remains ... the primary method by which the majority of TOCs manage fare evasion across their networks", but the consultation document doesn't mention this desire at all.

To be fair, though, the consultation Labour did in 2009 was no better. The link in the original thread is dead now, but the documents are all here. All the consultation document asked was, effectively, "We want to make these changes. Is there anything you would like us to do differently?"
 

Bletchleyite

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If I expected to meet an authorised collector once a month on average, and to be offered a penalty fare every time i do, wouldn't fare evasion be more lucrative if the fare for my journey was £10 rather than £2?

Indeed, a fare of precisely £10 single is the "best" point for doing that if you're going to.

Another thing I noticed was that the web page says that the DfT want to "ensure the system remains ... the primary method by which the majority of TOCs manage fare evasion across their networks", but the consultation document doesn't mention this desire at all.

I'd go much further. The railway seriously abuses RoRA and the Byelaws for this, and so I would like to see full decriminalisation, to be replaced with a higher PF with a statutory appeals body independent from the railway.

The issue is very similar to local authority car parking, so should basically work the same way with the same sort of magnitude of penalties (plus the fare evaded).
 

packermac

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One thing I suggested and I don't know if it would work is for TOCs to be fined if they abandon a case before it goes to court. This is to try and stop them threatening to take people to court who have valid tickets

I also suggested changing by-law 18 and bringing all TOCs under the same regulation.

I suggested the name Penalty Fine but I don't know if legally it could be considered a fine or not.
Whilst I tend to agree, any company can withdraw from a pending case at any time if they want to in any industry, so that would need to be applied across the board. Do not see that happening some how, as much as I would like to see TIL get their just deserves.
 

Bletchleyite

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Whilst I tend to agree, any company can withdraw from a pending case at any time if they want to in any industry, so that would need to be applied across the board. Do not see that happening some how, as much as I would like to see TIL get their just deserves.

Fully decriminalise, then TIL are out of a job, and good riddance that would be too.
 

Pugwash

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Increasing the cost of the penalty fare if not paid promptly feels like a tax on the poor.

Just awful.
 

Pugwash

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Why? Is it only the poor who don't buy train tickets?

Lots of people get penalty fares, there should not be a discount for those that can afford to pay early, I believe in some Scandinavian Countries Speeding fines are a percentage of your income. This would punish all more equally and make those very wealthy think again.
 

tarq

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Increasing the cost of the penalty fare if not paid promptly feels like a tax on the poor.

Just awful

The Penalty Fare needs to offer a serious deterrent to the casual evasion of fares.

The cost of administering the Penalty Fare increases with the time it takes to collect it. The more chasing that has to be done, the more the cost increases, and it quickly ends up costing more to levy the charge, than the charge itself.

People should get a 50% discount for immediate on the spot payment to avoid the need to send letters, chase and collect payment.
 

Bletchleyite

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The Penalty Fare needs to offer a serious deterrent to the casual evasion of fares.

The cost of administering the Penalty Fare increases with the time it takes to collect it. The more chasing that has to be done, the more the cost increases, and it quickly ends up costing more to levy the charge, than the charge itself.

People should get a 50% discount for immediate on the spot payment to avoid the need to send letters, chase and collect payment.

I'd include if they pay it within a couple of weeks online without prompting, the cost doesn't really differ much there.
 

kieron

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The Penalty Fare needs to offer a serious deterrent to the casual evasion of fares.
...
People should get a 50% discount for immediate on the spot payment to avoid the need to send letters, chase and collect payment.
If you slash the cost just because someone hands over a credit card, then you need the official penalty to be twice as much as is needed to be a "serious deterrent". Far better to have one penalty level for everyone, as you have with lower level speeding offences.
 
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