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Police Law 12th Edition

26. Railways

Chapter 26


Generally, all offences related to tickets will be dealt with by a railway employee or by British Transport Police officers, but there may be occasions upon which a police officer from a local force may be called to a dispute centred upon whether or not a person has committed a ticket offence. It is therefore helpful to have some understanding of the legal position of those who may be involved in such a dispute.

Travelling without a ticket

In the first instance, the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, s 5(1) provides that every passenger on a railway, on request by an officer or agent or servant of the railway company, must either produce, and if requested deliver up, a ticket showing that his fare is paid, or pay his fare from the place where his journey started, or give his name and address. In default of doing so, the passenger commits an offence. Put in everyday language, a railway passenger must at the request of a railway employee or British Transport Police officer, show, and if required surrender, his ticket. If he does not for any reason, he must pay the fare for his journey; if he is unable to do this he must give his true name and address so that the fare may be recovered from him by civil process, if necessary.

Travelling with intent to avoid paying fare

On occasions a constable may be called to a dispute centred upon an allegation that some person is travelling, or attempting to travel, without having previously paid his fare and with intent to avoid payment. One of two offences may be involved here. Both are provided by the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, s 5(3).

Section 5(3) of the 1889 Act provides, first, that if any person travels, or attempts to travel, on a railway without having previously paid his fare, and with intent to avoid payment thereof, he commits an offence. The intention to avoid payment may be proved by showing that the passenger has ignored opportunities to pay his fare or has taken measures to avoid a ticket inspector. A person who leaves a train without paying his fare when there has been an opportunity to do so indicates such an intention. In addition, a person who travels on a ticket issued to another person, which is not transferable, clearly indicates an intention to avoid payment. It is not essential to prove knowledge on the part of the accused that the ticket was not transferable. A person, therefore, who produces a concessionary ticket issued to a young person or a senior citizen to which he is not entitled, clearly shows an intention to avoid payment of his true fare. In this respect the term ‘fare’ means the correct fare for the particular journey and the class of carriage by which the person travels. A person who travels in a first-class carriage with a standard-class ticket may be convicted of travelling without having previously paid his fare, if an intention to avoid payment of the correct fare is indicated by his refusal to pay the excess. It is usual in such circumstances for a ticket collector, if one is carried, to ask such a person to move if he alleges that he has made a mistake, but if the journey has almost been completed it is probable that the ticket collector will demand the excess fare and a refusal to pay indicates an intention to avoid payment.

Second, it is also an offence under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, s 5(3) knowingly and wilfully to proceed by train beyond the distance for which a fare has been paid. Opportunities exist on all trains to obtain an additional ticket for the excess journey and if opportunities to do so are ignored on the journey, this may be taken to indicate a knowing and wilful act. It would be different if the passenger fell asleep and was accidentally taken beyond the destination for which he has paid as he could not be said to have proceeded knowingly and wilfully beyond that point.

Penalty fares

The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 1994 made under the Railways Act 1993, make provision for the charging of penalty fares for failure to produce, when required to do so, a ticket or other authority authorising a person to travel by train or to be present in a compulsory ticket area at a station. The Regulations apply to all train operators.

By reg 3, subject to the provisions of the regulations, and to any rules made under them:

  1. any person travelling by, present on or leaving a train must, if required by or on behalf of the train operator, produce a ticket or other authority authorising his travelling by or his being present on that train, as the case may be; and
  2. any person present in or leaving a compulsory ticket area must, if so required, produce a ticket or other authority authorising him to be present in or leave that area.

Failure to produce a ticket or other authority when so required renders the person liable to be charged a penalty fare by the train operator or someone acting on its behalf. A person is not liable to pay a penalty fare in a case covered by (a) if, when he boarded the train (or a preceding train on his journey, which was operated by the same operator):

  1. there were no ticket etc facilities available for the journey in question;
  2. there was no notice in a prescribed form indicating the penalty fare scheme;
  3. at the station where and when he commenced his journey, a notice was displayed indicating that it was permissible to travel without having such ticket or authority; or
  4. a person in authority (or apparently in authority) at the originating station gave permission to travel without a ticket etc.

These exemptions do not exempt a person who had the opportunity to obtain a fare ticket while on the train (or one of them used on the journey).

There are similar exemptions from liability to pay a fixed penalty fare in respect of a person in a compulsory ticket area.

A person who fails to pay a penalty fare at once must provide his name and address on being required to do so by an authorised person.

In an action to recover a penalty fare, which is a civil action, a defendant may provide the claimant with a 'relevant statement' explaining his failure to produce a ticket etc and including particulars of his journey, which must be submitted within twenty-one days. Where this has been done it will be for the claimant to show that the facts of the case do not fall within the exemptions provided by the Act. In any other case it is for the defendant to show that the facts of the case fall within those exemptions.

If a person has been charged a penalty fare in respect of his failure to produce a ticket or other authority when required and he is then prosecuted under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, s 5(3) (see above) or for breach of a railway byelaw in respect of the lack of a ticket etc, he ceases to be liable to pay the penalty fare. If he has already paid it, it must be refunded.

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