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Penalty fares

Your questions about penalty fares and revenue protection on Thameslink answered here…

What is a penalty fare?

A penalty fare is a fare charged at a higher rate than the normal price because a passenger didn't follow the normal rules for buying a ticket. It is not a fine.

The penalty fare will either be £20, or twice the full single fare from the station where you got on to the next station at which the train stops, whichever is the bigger amount. If you want to travel beyond the next station, you must also pay the relevant fare from that station to your final destination.

Penalty fares can be issued by authorised railway staff. These include:

  • guards
  • revenue protection officers (ticket inspectors)
  • station platform staff

When are penalty fares issued?

You may be given a penalty fare if you don't have a valid ticket (or permit to travel) for your journey.

If you travel on a train without a valid ticket, you will be have to pay the full single fare or full return fare or, if appropriate, a penalty fare for your journey.

Penalty fares can be issued, for example, if you:

  • travel without a valid ticket
  • can't produce an appropriate railcard on a discounted ticket
  • travel in first class with a standard ticket
  • travel on a child rate ticket when you are aged 16 or over
  • travel past the destination on your ticket

Find out more about penalty fares

What is a permit to travel?

If your station ticket office is closed and there is no ticket vending machine available, you should buy a permit to travel before you board a train.

If your station has only one ticket vending machine, there may also be a permit to travel machine. This is normally found near the station entrance / exit or beside the ticket vending machine. Permits are not a ticket but they allow you to start your journey. It is valid for 2 hours, during which time you should pay any difference in fare as soon as possible.

Put in coins to the value of your fare. If you have to pay more than your fare because you don’t have the right change, the difference will be refunded when you exchange the permit for a ticket.

If you don't have a valid ticket or a permit to travel then you may have to pay a penalty fare.

What happens if I forget my Season ticket or photocard?

If you lose or forget your season ticket/photocard you must buy a replacement ticket for your journey. Keep the tickets because you can claim a full refund at the ticket office where you purchased your season ticket.

Only two refund applications will be considered in a 12 month period and you may be charged an administration fee.

If you find that you don’t have your season ticket once you're on the train, you’ll be asked to give your details and to pay the standard single fare for your journey (which will be refunded on production of your valid season ticket). If you have no money then you will be given a 'nil paid' penalty fare.

You must then send a copy of your valid season ticket to the address shown on the penalty fare. If you don't do this within 21 days you will be asked to pay the full amount (which will be twice the standard day single or £20, whichever is the greater) for the journey undertaken.

What happens if I don't pay the penalty fare?

Firstly you will receive a reminder letter advising you of the money that you owe us.

If you travel on the railway intending not to pay the fare, then you may be prosecuted for fraud. The current maximum penalty upon conviction is £1000 fine and/or 3 months imprisonment.

You are required by law to provide your full name and address to the inspector even if you pay the penalty fare in full. They can check these details and will know if the details you give are not correct.

If the ticket office is closed do I still have to buy a ticket?

Yes, you must have a valid ticket or permit to travel before you start your journey.

Most stations have ticket vending machines, but if one isn't available you should buy a permit to travel from the permits machine.

You can check ticket office opening hours in our station information.

Don't forget, you can also buy tickets online or via our app before you travel.

Could I get a penalty fare if I sit in first class with a standard ticket?

Yes. Our revenue inspectors travel around our network and can issue penalty fares to passengers who do not hold valid tickets. This includes anyone in first class with a standard class ticket.

Could I get a penalty fare if I can't produce a Railcard for the ticket I have?

If you've bought a ticket using a railcard discount and do not have the card, you may be given a penalty fare. Your ticket is not valid without the railcard.

Can I pay at my destination if I am in a rush?

No, you must have a valid ticket or permit to travel before you start your journey.

We have to make sure you can buy your ticket at the station (either at the ticket office or from a vending machine) or buy a permit to travel in a reasonable time. However, it is your responsibility to leave enough time to buy your ticket.

If you get on a train without a ticket or permit you may have to pay a penalty fare.

How do I pay a penalty fare?

You should pay the penalty fare when it's issued. You can pay the inspector or the ticket office at your destination with:

  • cash
  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • American Express
  • Maestro
  • Delta cards

We don't accept Solo or Electron cards.

If you don't have the full amount, then you will be allowed to make a part payment of at least the single fare for your journey. You then have 21 days to pay the balance by;

  • Visiting a Thameslnk ticket office
  • Sending a cheque or postal order to the payment address on the notice (with the notice included). Please do not send cash through the post.
  • Paying online at www.penaltyfares.co.uk

Can I appeal against a penalty fare?

Yes. You can appeal against a penalty fare in writing or online within 21 days of the issue date.

Written appeals should be sent to the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS) at the address shown on the notice you were given.

You can also make your appeal online at www.penaltyfares.co.uk

IPFAS is an independent organisation governed by the Department for Transport. They will consider your appeal based on the facts of the case and rule on whether to uphold or cancel the penalty fare.

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