Travelling to Peterborough yesterday I opted for the cheapest option – a second class Govia ThameLink SuperSaver fare (excluding LNER). As I was working, I asked the guard on Kings Cross platform 6 whether I could do a weekend upgrade.
“No need!” said the guard, “first-class on the new 700 12 carriage trains is de-classified, but you have to go right to the back”.
This was where I made my mistake. As we were standing at the back of the train – I thought he meant go to the other end, which I did.
I sat in the first class carriage at the front of the train!
Outside Sandy, I was given a £118 pound penalty fare for travelling in the wrong first class compartment. This was commuted to a £40 pound fine which I was told I could appeal as I had clearly misunderstood (and the first class at the back was empty!).
The ticket inspector was very polite and did all he could in the circumstances. I have no complaints with inspecting tickets but I wonder how many people are – like me – coming close to committing criminal acts by simply misunderstanding the rules. There is nothing written down about declassification – though I have now had it confirmed that the new 700 12 carriage trains are all declassified “at the back” and that this declassification has been in force since the arrival of these new trains. I have no idea why this is.
I will appeal and I hope to get my £40 back, but what was more frightening was that I was surrounded by policemen, I realised that I was pretty well a criminal and could have been arrested. I am not the kind of person who needs to worry about a fine, but others do and I saw a young lady of African descent who may well have been arrested for having the wrong ticket.
The incident made me realise just how close we all are to imminent disaster. Arrested, prosecuted – reputations in tatters. No public information – misunderstandings and the law of the land.
And – here’s the rub – I was let off most of my penalty fare, the young lady who protested wasn’t. Her penalty fine was a lot more meaningful to her.
I travelled back from Peterborough in the first class at the back (not the front) of the train. And – spookily – I sat in the same carriage as I’d travelled out on. Luckily the other person in my carriage was a Govia Train Driver – who comforted me that this time I had got it right!
We really have to think long and hard about ticketing on our rail services and how we enforce errors that all of us can make.