Fines for dodging train ticket fares in England have increased to £100 under new rules.
The rule change, which came into effect on 1 January 2023, has seen the fee rise by £80 after originally costing just £20.
The new penalty fare will be reduced to £50 if it is paid within 21 days, plus the price of the ticket journey, the government has said.
Under previous rules, anyone travelling without a train ticket was fined either £20 or twice the cost of the ticket price to the next station the train calls at - whichever is greater.
The new steeper fare comes after the Department for Transport (DfT) said the original system, which had not been updated since 2005, was not enough of a deterrent for fare dodgers. The Rail Delivery Group estimates that fare evasion is costing the rail industry an estimated £240 million per year.
The new rules bring the National Rail penalty fare more in line with the £80 fine handed out by Transport for London, as well as the Manchester Metrolink which charges fare dodgers £100.
The DfT said the level of increase was based on public consultation into what will make an effective deterrent, and that the new fare would stop thousands of people “riding for free at the taxpayers’ expense”.
The increase will only impact travellers without valid tickets and not those passengers who do buy a ticket to travel on the railway. The new rules apply to rail services in England only.
A DfT spokesperson said: “Fare evasion is estimated to cost taxpayers around £240 million a year. We need penalty fares to act as a proper deterrent, and we are putting in place a modern system that will help create a more sustainable railway.”
Rail strikes continue to cause disruption
The change comes as rail bosses are grappling with strike action amid continuing industrial disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
Strikes or ballots for industrial action have become a regular occurrence as workers across the country join the growing campaign for pay rises to match soaring inflation during the cost-of-living crisis.
The “winter of discontent” comes amid worsening industrial relations and accusations by union officials that the government is doing little or nothing to help workers struggling with mounting bills.
Rail passengers face widespread travel disruption this week as tens of thousands of workers stage fresh strikes in bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 14 train operators will stage two 48-hour walkouts from Tuesday and Friday (3 and 6 January), while drivers in the Aslef union will strike on Thursday (5 January). Services may also be disrupted on Sunday (8 January) as striking workers return to their duties.
Passengers, including those returning to work after the festive break, are being warned to expect “significant disruption” as only a limited number of trains will run. On RMT strike days, around half of the network will shut down and only about 20% services will be running as normal.
Trains that do run will start later and finish much earlier than usual, with services typically operating between 7.30am and 6.30pm on the day of the strike. The advice is to only travel if absolutely necessary, allow extra time and check when first and last trains will depart.
RMT strikes will impact the rail network on the following dates this week:
- Tuesday 3 January
- Wednesday 4 January
- Thursday 5 January
- Friday 6 January
- Saturday 7 January
Due to unofficial work to rule action, rail services will also be disrupted across all operators until Monday 9 January. Passengers are strongly advised to check the status of their rail journey, both in advance and immediately before travel.
The Aslef train drivers strike on 5 January will affect 15 operators and will result in even fewer services running, with some companies operating “very significantly reduced” timetables. The companies affected include:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- Greater Anglia
- GTR Great Northern Thameslink
- London North Eastern Railway
- Northern Trains
- Southern/Gatwick Express
- South Western Railway (depot drivers only)
- SWR Island Line
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Trains