Validity of pre-court settlement offer

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serenity7001

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Hi everyone,

I purchased a ticket on 17th March to travel from Slough to London Underground Zone 1. This was purchased with a railway discount, making the ticket price £8.85. Unknowingly, my railcard had expired a few months prior to this. The inspector on the train asked for my railcard, to which I could only present my expired one. I understood that I was in the wrong in this situation and was hoping he would offer me the opportunity to buy a new ticket for full price. He didn't offer this opportunity however, and instead, printed me with a paper ticket (for free) to use for the rest of my journey.

The inspector told me that I would hear back via letter. Fast forward two months, I had the pleasure today of receiving a pre-court settlement offer from GWR. They are charging me a £94.55 fine - £4.55 for the outstanding far and the remainder for 'costs of recovering what you owe'. I have until 25/05/2021 to respond.

I have seen advice on older posts stating to pay the fine and chalk it up to experience. I was wondering whether there is anything I could do, as £94.55 is a hefty amount for a recent graduate with no employment as of right now.

The fine seems ridiculously high considering how small the outstanding amount was. Is this normal? Is it also valid for the inspector to not present me with an option to buy the ticket there and then? I would appreciate any advice you could provide!
 
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221129

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I was wondering whether there is anything I could do, as £94.55 is a hefty amount for a recent graduate with no employment as of right now.
You can not pay it and go to court and probably end up paying alot more.

Is it also valid for the inspector to not present me with an option to buy the ticket there and then?
Yes. You committed a criminal offence, they don't even need to offer you a pre court settlement.
 

Darandio

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This is blunt and probably not what you want to hear. Bear in mind that other people have received similar settlement requests for railcards only a few days out of validity, although it's a fairly large amount to you it probably isn't that unreasonable for a railcard several months out of date.

In their eyes you had no railcard and therefore no valid ticket, they can deal with you as they feel appropriate. There is no right for you to be simply offered the option to buy a new ticket.

Your current financial/employment situation is of no interest to them and it really is a case of chalking it up to experience by paying it before things escalate further. From what you have written above, they hold all of the cards here and would undoubtedly be successful in a prosecution so you are being offered a way out.
 

Fawkes Cat

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Just to add that our experience here is that the railways don't negotiate over the amount of an out of court settlement - so there's no point in asking if they would agree to a smaller settlement. Your only choices are to (1) pay £94.55 or (2) go to court - and on the facts that you have provided you would lose at court. You might want to have a look at the 'Big day in court for GWR' thread where quite a number of people were convicted of a (different) offence against GWR and fined quite a lot more than the £94.55 you have been offered - and with costs that are more than £94.55.

As people have advised above, your best option is to somehow find the £94.55 and pay it.
 

Watershed

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I was wondering whether there is anything I could do
Your options are pretty much:
  1. Pay it, and hear nothing more of the matter.
  2. Write to GWR, saying you refuse the settlement. They'll probably prosecute you, and you'll likely be found guilty, and ordered to pay £100+ in costs, plus a fine of 75-150% of a week's income (or assumed weekly income), plus the victim surcharge and the outstanding fare
  3. Write to GWR, asking them not to take the matter further, giving reasons as to why there wasn't an irregularity/offence or why you should be let off. This is unlikely to work in your circumstances as you didn't have a valid Railcard and were caught 'bang to rights'.
  4. Ignore it, and be taken to Court and found guilty in your absence, then as per 2 (possibly with a higher fine or greater costs).
The fine seems ridiculously high considering how small the outstanding amount was.
It's not a fine - they are offering you an out of Court settlement to avoid being taken to Court and likely being found guilty and fined. Obviously, it might well feel like a fine!

Is this normal?
For the rail industry, yes. There are draconian laws criminalising fares offences, and unlike a shop for example, they have the processes in place to bring a private prosecution for cases that the police and CPS aren't interested in (i.e. most of them).

Is it also valid for the inspector to not present me with an option to buy the ticket there and then?
Yes. You are liable to pay for a new ticket under the National Rail Conditions of Travel, but criminal law sits 'above' that and entitles the railway to prosecute you for travelling without a valid ticket (on top of, or instead of, simply buying a new ticket).

It was simply unlucky that you encountered a Revenue Protection Inspector rather than a Train Manager, for example, as it is quite possible that the latter would have let you off with buying a new ticket. That said, having a Railcard that is expired by several months may be taken as intent to avoid the fare, as opposed to a mere mistake (as might be assumed from a Railcard that had only just expired a few days or weeks ago).
 

serenity7001

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Thank you for your replies. It seems the best option is to just pay the fine and no longer think about it, which is fair considering I purchased the wrong ticket.

A hefty hit but regardless, thank you all for the advice!
 

Watershed

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Thank you for your replies. It seems the best option is to just pay the fine and no longer think about it, which is fair considering I purchased the wrong ticket.

A hefty hit but regardless, thank you all for the advice!
No problem. It certainly hasn't helped that most people haven't travelled much on the trains recently and that RDG have stopped sending Railcard renewal emails. But ultimately it's everyone's personal responsibility to ensure their Railcard is in date!
 

Hadders

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Welcome to the forum!

As others have said I think your best option is to pay the settlement to keep the matter out of court and chalk it up to experience.

On a general point we have had lots of similar threads over the last few weeks and there is clearly an issue here. It is a passenger's responsibility to make sure their railcard is in date before using it to purchase discounted tickets, but that said railcard holders usually get a reminder sent by email to say the railcard is about to expire. The fact that these reminders aren't being sent is becoming an issue (I assume this is because the Government has told the rail industry that they cannot do anything that is seen to be encouraging people to travel by train)

The rail industry needs to be more customer focused and reinstate the reminder emails.
 

Hadders

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Do we know for a fact that all of these Railcards were bought online ? Do station bought Railcards get reminder emails? I know not everyone fills in an email on the application form.
We don't know where the railcards were purchased but a number of threads have mentioned the absence of the reminder. Station bought railcards normally get a reminder if the form is fully completed with an email address. A couple of years ago I even had a postal reminder for a station purchased railcard!

What we do know is that we have seen a number of similar threads in the last few weeks coinciding with guidance on rail travel changing. I'm sure there will be passengers who have knowingly 'taken a chance' with an expired railcard but there will be a number that have been genuinely caught out.

It wouldn't be hard for a reminder to be sent to railcard holders, it might even yield some additional income in renewals. Failing that stick a general reminder on the general emails about travelling safely or upcoming engineering works or on social media feeds.
 

Mag_seven

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Can I ask that we keep discussion in this thread to assisting the OP with their particular issue.

On a more general note, @Fawkes Cat has started a thread to discuss the issue of penalties after railcards expire that can be found here.

thanks
 

furlong

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Generally, pay up what they ask to cut your losses and stop this progressing any further. Then write - politely - to customer services and see if you can persuade them to refund part of what you paid as a gesture of goodwill. Another option is to split the payment into 2 or 3 cheques and write to them with a cover letter giving your mitigation and inviting them to accept a lower settlement by not cashing them all.
 
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