Unpaid Fare Notice not found in online system

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dutchtraveler

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Dear fellow travelers,

Having recently moved to the UK, I made my first trip by train a few days ago. I traveled from London to York with East Coast, for which I had booked an advance ticket.

At the station, a notice board mentioned one train to York, which I boarded. There I found out that I was on the wrong train. There were two trains to York, a fast one and a slow one. I had boarded the slow one which departed 8 minutes after the fast one. By then the fast train had already left. I ran out and asked the official standing on the platform what to do. He pointed to the front of the platform and said that I should ask someone (I didn't understand exactly who he meant) to let me on the train and then it would be alright. After runing in the direction he pointed, I saw some other officials and asked them. They pointed me towards another guy who after I showed my ticket said I should take the slow train that I had boarded earlier.

Later, when the ticket inspector checked my ticket, she said I had to buy another ticket, and that I shouldn't have asked platform staff for advice.

As I felt at least a bit mislead (correct train not on notice board, no-one mentioning that I had to find the ticket inspector or I would have to buy an extra ticket etc.), I decided to appeal. However, when I wanted to look up my UFN on the website of the RPSS (called "penaltyfares"), I got the following message:
"The notice details you have entered do not match any record on our system. Please call 0844 259 4786 for assistance or send your appeal in writing, by post, to the appeals address shown on the notice."

I checked the records for a different UFN number, and it did have a record for that, so it looks like I did enter the correct numbers. Now I'd like to gauge your opinion on the following:

1. Although, technically I have no leg to stand on, isn't there some responsibility of the train services to provide enough information for mistakes like this not to happen?
2. Has anyone ever had an UFN that didn't appear in the online system? And might it be best to let sleeping dogs lie, or is it most likely that I will be sent very scary letters or prosecuted even if it is not in the system? (FYI, I am not on the electoral roll, as I've only recently moved to the UK)

Thanks in advance!
 
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RJ

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Hi,

Sounds like an unfortunate incident. It's an easy enough mistake to make. The type of ticket you had was only valid on one train. Unfortunately, you were responsible for missing your booked train so you were liable to purchase a new ticket if boarding another.

Did the train operating company not provide enough information to prevent this kind of mistake? There are strategically placed departure boards on the platform and station concourse indicating which service will depart from that platform next. There are also audible announcements to the same effect. Fair play if neither of these were in operation.

The "guard" on East Coast, who inspects tickets, is in charge of the train. They have the authority to show discretion and allow you to board without a valid ticket. However, you must identify them and ask their permission first, before the train departs. This is not guaranteed - they have the right to say no and charge you for a new, full priced ticket. If you get on the train without asking and they find you without a valid ticket, they're much more likely to charge you for a new ticket. In this situation, you were liable to pay for a new ticket.

As for the Unpaid Fare Notice, don't ignore it. They have your name/address and so you will be on their records. If you ignore it, you will receive reminders, each of which will have an extra admin fee attached. Eventually, if they see that you didn't want to pay, they can initiate prosecution proceedings which could result in a criminal record. The best thing to do would be to write in to the address provided as soon as possible, as it's not possible to speak to anyone there.
 

DaveNewcastle

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To be fair to the passenger, although there is a fairly regular half-hourly service from York in each direction, there are rare times of day when there is the slow stopper from York the faster service both leaving within a few minutes (and indeed deliberately timed and platformed to enable connections between them). Its an easy mistake to make.

I see no reason why the passenger shouldn't write, with copies to both East Coast Customer Relations at York and to RPSS at the address on the Notice, appealling to be excused.
The story about the vague and inconsistent advice from platform staff is not entirely irrelevant and should be clearly and fully quoted in the letter.

I'd be surprised if the "Unpaid Fare" was still deemed to be payable.
 

RJ

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To be fair to the passenger, although there is a fairly regular half-hourly service from York in each direction, there are rare times of day when there is the slow stopper from York the faster service both leaving within a few minutes (and indeed deliberately timed and platformed to enable connections between them). Its an easy mistake to make.

I see no reason why the passenger shouldn't write, with copies to both East Coast Customer Relations at York and to RPSS at the address on the Notice, appealling to be excused.
The story about the vague and inconsistent advice from platform staff is not entirely irrelevant and should be clearly and fully quoted in the letter.

I'd be surprised if the "Unpaid Fare" was still deemed to be payable.
Technically it is payable, but as far as I understand it, it's up to the RPSS whether or not to uphold the appeal.

In my experience, when I've written into Customer Relations following being issued with an Unpaid Fare Notice, they were very sympathetic with my grounds for appeal (and ultimately provided monetary compensation) but said they could not do anything until I'd heard back from IRCAS/RPSS, whichever one it was. So based on that, I think it may be best to hold off contacting Customer Relations until the response from the RPSS has been received.

Yes, it is an easy mistake to make but what I'm getting at is that the TOC is less likely to be sympathetic if you try to blame them for not taking sufficient notice of the information they provided. Best to be honest and take responsibility if appealing on compassionate grounds like this. I wouldn't go looking to exploit technicalities with regards to not being on the electoral roll etc. either.

I definitely agree it's worth a go though and hopefully there'll be a positive outcome for "dutchtraveler."
 

Ferret

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I definitely agree it's worth a go though and hopefully there'll be a positive outcome for "dutchtraveler."
If ever there are legitimate grounds for appeal this is it. Sure - the UFN is correctly issued but given the circumstances I'm not sure I'd have gone ahead and written the damn thing out! I wonder if EC Customer Relations would assist with this one, if spoken to by phone.


 

calc7

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Easy to make these sorts of mistakes now, especially for passengers new to the new station.
Given the departure boards are perpendicular to the length of the platforms, I can see how a customer could end up on the wrong platform, merely because the direction of approach has shifted by 90deg from what it was previously.
I myself had to double check I was on the correct platform last week. Though knowing the Harrogate train is HST-operated helps. ;)
 

aformeruser

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I'm sure I heard Christian Wolmar describing an incident where he confused foreign tourists being given penalty fares, much to his dis-satisfaction.
 

DaveNewcastle

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Technically it is payable, but as far as I understand it, it's up to the RPSS whether or not to uphold the appeal.

In my experience, when I've written into Customer Relations following being issued with an Unpaid Fare Notice, they were very sympathetic with my grounds for appeal (and ultimately provided monetary compensation) but said they could not do anything until I'd heard back from IRCAS/RPSS, whichever one it was. So based on that, I think it may be best to hold off contacting Customer Relations until the response from the RPSS has been received.
while I'm sure that was exactly your experience, and is often repeated, EastCoast can cancel the debt.
And to repeat, I'd be surprised if they didn't.
 
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AlterEgo

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To the OP - when did you try and check online? UFNs can take a good day or two to appear online, as the necessary admin and paperwork needs to be completed. Other posters will probably be able to tell you more about your chances of success with East Coast's customer relations team. The UFN was issued correctly and is enforceable though, as others have said.
 

yorkie

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while I'm sure that was exactly your experience, and is often repeated, EastCoast can cancel the debt.
And to repeat, I'd be surprised if they didn't.
They certainly can. I know as I have experience in this regard (not with a UPFN myself but assisting others who have posted on this forum).

I am aware other TOCs who RJ have had dealings with have tried to deny this and perhaps work in different (worse) way, but lets face it, what will the debt collection company do if they do not get the money? The answer is: refer it back to the TOC! But of course you do not want it to get to that stage (unless technically in the right - not the case here) because the fees they add in the intervening time, will mount up.

I would write to both EC and the debt collection company immediately, and after a few days I'd give EC a ring and enquire whether the letter was received and if there is any update.
 

Solent&Wessex

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From the RPSS website (I have cut and pasted various relevant bits):

RPSS said:
Whilst you were not issued with a penalty fare, you have been issued with an unpaid fare notice when you travelled because you were unable to produce a valid ticket for inspection when requested. This has nothing to do with any intention you may have had and is not a fine. It is merely a notice to pay the amount due for the journey that you actually made when you could not present a valid ticket in accordance with The Regulation of Railways Act 1889 para 5.1. (see document library for details) The NRCOC explains the validities of tickets and the passenger's rights with regard to refunds on any unused or invalid tickets.

Unpaid fares notices (UFN) are very different from penalty fares notices and make no extra charge, penalty or fine in the first instance. The amount outstanding shown on the UFN is only the correct fare for the actual journey that has been made. Simply, the passenger has completed their journey and now has a bill to pay because a valid ticket was not available for inspection when they travelled.

There are always mitigating circumstances for not having a valid ticket and while these may be compelling, they tend to be irrelevant to the facts of a UFN strict liabilty matter. Any appeal would therefore need to prove that the ticket shown when travelling was actually valid for the exact journey which was made. Even producing a valid ticket or railcard later does not negate liabilty to pay the UFN bill for not producing a valid ticket when requested at the time of travel.

The National Rail Conditions of Carriage set out the conditions for judging any appeal and you will find a link on the Library page.

Please be aware that making an appeal does not mean that payment of any amount outstanding is suspended. Debt recovery action is separate from any appeal and administration fees may be incurred if full payment is not made within the time specified.

You may also choose to use the link below to make payment on line by any credit or debit card. Please note that this cannot be used until we have received a copy of the notice from the Train Company and entered this into our database. This may take up to 14 days after the travel date.
The UPFN will (or should) appear on the database once it is received from the TOC. This means it has to get from the Guard to a collection point at their depot, then probably sent to a central office somewhere for recording by EC, then sending off to RPSS for them.
 

dutchtraveler

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Thanks everyone for taking such an active interest. I'm learning a lot about the UK railway system in a short time ^_^

To the OP - when did you try and check online? UFNs can take a good day or two to appear online, as the necessary admin and paperwork needs to be completed. Other posters will probably be able to tell you more about your chances of success with East Coast's customer relations team. The UFN was issued correctly and is enforceable though, as others have said.
I checked immediately, and have just checked again. Still nothing. If it can really take up to 14 days to be entered in the online database as seems to be the case from the information kwvr45 provided, I suppose it's a bit risky to wait for that to make an appeal online.
 

RJ

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They certainly can. I know as I have experience in this regard (not with a UPFN myself but assisting others who have posted on this forum).

I am aware other TOCs who RJ have had dealings with have tried to deny this and perhaps work in different (worse) way, but lets face it, what will the debt collection company do if they do not get the money? The answer is: refer it back to the TOC! But of course you do not want it to get to that stage (unless technically in the right - not the case here) because the fees they add in the intervening time, will mount up.

I would write to both EC and the debt collection company immediately, and after a few days I'd give EC a ring and enquire whether the letter was received and if there is any update.
I stand corrected then!
 
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