Right, well first a bit of background. I have been a daily South West Trains customer for over three years now. The cost of me getting to and from Guildford and London Waterloo for work amounts to just over £3000 a year – so not entirely cheap. The ticket itself allowed me to alight at any London terminal. My views on the service (or lack thereof) of South West Trains and its staff are well documented on the archive of the great Twitter.

My brother recently moved to Twickenham. It’s a lovely place and, as I do enjoy banter with my younger sibling I visit regularly – this weekend I was cat-sitting for his gorgeous two kittehs. Normally the season ticket gets me from London Waterloo to Clapham Junction, so at Waterloo/Twickenham I tend to purchase tickets that cover the remainder of the journey.

Yesterday I travelled from Twickenham to Vauxhall to see the lovely Sophie for drinks on the awesome boat pub. I went to Twickenham station and purchased a ticket to Clapham Junction like I normally do, with my season ticket covering the very short (one stop) journey from CJ to Vauxhall. By the time I got to Vauxhall, I had an “oh bugger” moment. I entirely forgot that my season ticket had expired the day before.

No matter, I thought. I’m not a fare jumper and I wouldn’t attempt to get by the guard at the barrier without asking to pay for a single ticket from Clapham Junction to Vauxhall. After all, it was my error.

I’d like to stress at this point that I’m not a fare jumper. Even when I’ve known I could get away with it, even though the service I believe we all get from SWT is frankly appalling, I have never engaged in the dishonesty of not buying a ticket. I wish to also point out that it would be very odd to fare jump one stop when you’ve paid for the remaining 95% of the journey already.


Turns out that my ticket from Twickenham to Clapham Junction costs £3.60. How much do you reckon a ticket from Twickenham to Vauxhall is? That’s right. £3.60. So I was fined for fare dodging when there was absolutely no fare to dodge.


The gentleman I approached was your typical SWT “customer service” staffer in that the default response to any question was to give you a facial expression as if you just asked to shit in his hat. I explained my situation and asked if it would be possible to purchase a single ticket.

His response: £20 penalty fare.

I protested. He said SWT policy means I get an automatic penalty fare. I told him that that was not true – I’ve seen plenty of people less interested in paying for a ticket than I was get one from the comfort of their own train seat from a commercial guard. He refused to acknowledge that. At this point I asked if I could have my tickets back (he was holding on to all three – the single from Twickenham, the return I was to use later and my receipt) and he “informed” me that the tickets always remain the property of SWT and can be withdrawn at any time.

He then proceeded to grab a black notebook from his pocket and asked me to put my name, my address and my date of birth on a blank page. The conversation then went something like this:

Me: What happens to that data?

Him: What data?

Me: You’re asking me to put down my personal data in your notebook including my date of birth, I’m asking you as a representative of this company bound by data protection laws what will happen to my personal data?

Him: It’s not just your data, it’s our data.

Me: I think you’ll find my date of birth, my name and my address is my personal data.

I took issue with him asking me to write them down in a notebook. Was it an SWT notebook? Was it his personal one? Either way, Sophie was waiting for me outside the station so I just did it – I had little appetite or time right then to kick up a stink that probably would have ended up involving the BTP. Nevertheless, SWT will get a data protection act request on this and I’ll pursue it formally. I did ask him if I had a choice as to whether I provided that data or not. He said no.

He then phoned somebody up, of whom I can only assume are the people who authorise penalty fares. He did not relay my story whatsoever, he simply said “He had a ticket from Twickenham to Clapham Junction and he’s got off here at Vauxhall”.

So long story short, he told me that I didn’t have to pay anything today (I didn’t thank him) and that I had the right to appeal. He filled in a slip, made me sign it, and I have 21 days to make up my mind on the matter. He gave me my tickets back. I then had lots of wine with Sophie.

There will be people who says this serves me right and I *would* accept the penalty fare if:

  1. There were grounds for reasonable doubt that I had made an honest mistake. Paying 95% of the fare (and displaying my expired season ticket) is rarely done by those dodging.
  2. I had tried being dishonest and hadn’t approached him by my own volition to request that I pay for the entire journey.
  3. The “service” I and many others have to endure on SWT daily makes a penalty fare for somebody who has been a customer for three years on what many consider to be an extortionate amount to spend to get to work makes this a slap in the face.

I am moving to London soon, so I will never have to pay any more of my money to that sorry company again, but yesterday really riled me up. Because of their effective monopoly on trains, their service is appalling and their staff often convince me they have qualifications in being unhelpful and rude. The train guards are all too quick to forget that we’re not school children in his own personal moving classroom, we are paying customers.

We do not get automatic refunds from our £3k season tickets every time the rail network goes into chaos and we miss important meetings or are unable to get to work. I have experienced far too many of those situations which makes a penalty fare for a small journey where I solicited to pay for a ticket to cover it double unpalatable.

I don’t think I can say this any clearer. South West Trains, you know exactly where you can shove that penalty fare. I won’t pay it. I will not subject myself to your appeals process. You’ll have to take me to court, but I will spend many of my spare hours over the next few months making sure the fragmented moans on Twitter of your customers are harnessed and listened to by your sorry company.

Categories: Uncategorized

17 thoughts on “Penalty Fare: The final straw with South West Trains”

Brent · June 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I understand your frustration – there has been a lot of coverage of this kind of thing in the press lately and the regulator is looking at requiring the operators to have a more flexible approach. The do seem to be over zealous.

Having said that – I would highly recommend though that you DO take up the appeal process. It may take just one letter and you will save the hassle and time of going to court. Like the traffic appeals adjudicator, its free, and independent of the trai operating company. They will probably just cancel the penalty notice.

Also, if it does go to court, a District Judge may well ask (quite rightly!) why you didn’t appeal in the first instance and thereby possibly avoid “wasting the courts time”. I work in the magistrates courts several times a week and I can tell you – all you need is a grumpy District Judge and you’ll end up with a criminal conviction for fare evasion. Is that what you want?

Heres the info for the adjudicator:


If you wish to appeal against a penalty fare, you must do so within 21 days of the issue date. You can appeal online at ircas.co.uk, or by writing to:

Independent Appeals Service
PO BOX 212
GU32 9BQ

This appeals service is independent of South West Trains and your appeal will be considered based on the facts concerning the case.


So – as a lawyer and a friendly follower – I strongly suggest you try it!

Best of luck


(PS if you want tips on writing a good appeal letter, do let me know)

Jack Holroyde · June 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

They took me to court after the ticket machines at Hampton were out completely, office was closed. Tried to buy a ticket at Waterloo, was told I should have walked to Teddington and bought a ticket there. Refused to pay. Refused to follow their appeals process.
Put the whole thing in writing to them and the court.
Magistrate dismissed the case, and they paid £2000 in court costs.

I still have the letter from the court. Epicaricacy defined.

    David Hoggard · February 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Jack;

    I have a similar argument over a penalty fare from Oxshott to Vauxhall. I want to put my case to a magistrate in open court, as you did.

    Question 1 – how did you deal with them in order to get it to court instead of debt collectors?

    Question 2 – did you find a solicitor who was experienced in dealing with these bastards?




Brent · June 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Oh – just so you know – the fare from Twickenham to Clapham Junction (£3.60) is EXACTLY the same as the fare from Twickenham to Vauxhall (also £3.60).

So SWT aren’t out of pocket one penny.

PFAS · June 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Just a few things. The appeals service is not truly independent of the railways as it is owned by SouthEastern trains (but as a seperate division etc).
The appeal we can help on, and also if the notice or paperwork was incorrectly processed we can again advise on. Certain rules need to have also been followed ie travelled from PF station? Facilities to purchase the ticket you wanted (not what the train company wants you to buy), wearing his authorised collectors badge, etc etc

    David Hoggard · February 27, 2014 at 1:29 pm


    I need some help in getting a fair hearing. Can you suggest anything?

    If you contact me on dwh@dwhoggard.com, I’ll explain the situation.



Peter Minnis · October 10, 2012 at 1:12 am

got ‘caught’ today by some of those little plastic officers they have on trains and bottom line is, got charged the full amount of destination as well as a ‘penalty fare’ which is the remainder of the £20 that is still outstanding, and I have until the end of the month to pay or there could all be kinds of trouble apparently, even a court case I read, if I refuse to pay, and all this for travelling two stops on a miserable train that had arrived and I didn’t have time to get a ticket around the other side of the station, and most likely wasn’t even operational. They said I can appeal, but what’s the damn use, won’t get anywhere with it, and I don’t really have a story that holds up in that I didn’t have time to get a ticket, just rushed on and thought nothing more of it, until of course a group of those useless individuals masquerading as rail enforcement officers or whatever they see themselves as, come striding along and asking for fares and you have to give out personal details. Didn’t feel like complaining, not going to give these people any more satisfaction, will just pay the fine and move on.

What irritates me though, is that 99 per cent of the time, these miserable people are never seen or heard of, guess I just got caught out on the 1 per cent chance, and as for actual rail staff themselves, more often than not, they never appear and after buying a ticket, which is getting quite extortionate now for prices, you have simply wasted your money.

I’ll be more cautious next time, but it seems you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

I hope I provided some miserable little men with the highlight of their day though..

Phill · January 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Crime does not pay. You really should know better.

    admin · January 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    It wasn’t crime. This was acknowledged by IRCAS after they dropped the charges.

Sandra · March 9, 2013 at 11:45 am

Ok, so I took the train once and remember I had just started my full time job as I just finished college and took a gap year. I was currently living with my friend and was travelling in for work with the train from my mom’s house. I work in Kingston and anyone that’s travelled to Kingston knows perfectly well that the barriers are always down and a guard is always there (so it’s hard to fare dodge for a normal person) , so I got there, started looking for my ticked and I couldn’t find it. I went over to the guard and told him this exactly and asked whether I could just pay for it. I’m from Norway and in Norway we usally buy our tickets on the train and if you’ve lost it you can buy it from the guard, they are usually friendly and helpful there. So the guard gave me this look and told me that I had to pay a fine… He took down my details and as I was living at my friends atm I had to check my phone for her address and he thought I was trying to trick him, to prove him otherwise he told me to give my driving licence number to him, I’m only 18 I don’t know much about the law here so I just gave it to him and he gave me the fine. I paid the fine off, thinking it’s not worth the struggle going against anyone I was the one to blame as stupidly enough I lost my ticket.

Months passed by, I was planning on moving back home and was on the train one morning when the lady came to check tickets. I was looking for my wallet as that’s where I keep my ticket, but i couldn’t find my wallet, I had a little clutch and told the lady (whilst crying as she was scaring me to death) that she could check my little bag /clutch and she wouldn’t find it I had lost everything. She said that that’s not her issue, so she would fine me again, I said ok, so she goes off calls someone, and comes back saying:

Her: you’ve been fined before, haven’t you?

Me: yes? (explained the story)

Her: you might have to go to court as you are now considered a regular fare dodger.

I started asking her why? I always pay for my bus and train journeys etc and plus I’m off to uni in September so I wouldn’t be stupid enough to do something like not paying a few pounds here and there and risk my career for it.

She didn’t care, she passed the details on the phone, and she had both addresses. I didn’t hear anything from them since. I haven’t received any fines or what so ever to my mom’s house and me and my friend moved back home. So I don’t know about that address but om my license they have my mom’s address so that should be fine as she even said that that was ok. I tried emailing south west trains about just sending me a fine or a court letter at least as it’s been 4/5 months and I haven’t heard anything, I get stressed easily and I hate being looked as a criminal as I’m actually not. And I just got a reply on my email saying: south west trains dont deal with those cases. I asked then If they could give me a number to call or email or anything and they still haven’t answered me. I was told by the lady that I might lose my university place for not having the ticked twice. I’ve googled that and it’s not true but I don’t understand why she would want to say something horrible like that just to scare me etc…

Katie · June 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Sorry to hear that happened.
I’ve had so much trouble with south west it’s outrageous, I bought a ticket with my student fare card (not the same at the 16-25 railcard but still entitles me to a 3rd off the price aslong as its a weekend at any time or a weekday after 4pm). Got on the train with my ticket, ticket man comes along checks my ticket and my fare card and claims to not ‘recognize’ the fare card, bearing in mind that the fare card has clearly been issued by South West and i’ve been using it for years, so i proceed to tell the man thats his fault for not understanding/knowing his own rules, and he goes ahead and fines me for, get this, not supplying ‘supporting documentation’, i ended up being late for work with a £20 quid fine, run home to my mum in tears and we send an angry letter in, no reponses and i get another letter through saying because I haven’t paid the fine it’s escalated to £50, I rang south west trains today and my mum took over the phone and raged and basically the customer service lot are completely useless and unhelpful and I hate them all

Danielle Woolner · July 8, 2014 at 9:31 am

I am currently in a situation where I receive a letter through the post from the courts stating that I owe the £520. when I called them to find out what it was for they said it was for jumping a train about 1 year ago and not paying the fine. (at this stay I would like to state I never remember jumping a train I have always paid for my ticket, also I never receive anything for south west trains stating that I had a fine to pay) I was informed that my 2 choices where to either pay it or take it to court and prove I a innocent, if I went to court and it all got dropped I was informed that south west trains could prosecution again. I have tried to get in contact with south west trains regarding this situation however there customer relation team have said that they can give no comment on it and gave me a number to call for the prosecution team (02380728022) I have call this number everyday for the past 2 weeks and not had any luck getting through, 1 day I event called them none stop for 2 hours. there is no was to leave a message or even join a queue until someone is available to speak to you. I have contacted there customer relation team to explain this and there answer was that they is nothing they can do all I can do it to keep on calling this number.

I have now had the bailiff come to my door demanding a payment of £675 of witch I have had to pay.

Can anyone give me advice or a different way to contact south west trains.

Monica · November 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I purchased a 1 month season ticket from Chichester then walked onto the station as the barriers were down tucking what I thought was the ticket into my season ticket wallet and caught the train home to Barnham. Next morning (Barham to Chi) I had a look at my ticket on the train and realised it was only a receipt with no actual ticket. I explained this to the guard when I got to Chi and she kinda shrugged her shoulders in a well there’s nothing that can be done’ way but let me through to ask at the kiosk if my ticket was still there. The cashier was quite pleasant but couldn’t find my ticket and advised me I could pay £20 and apply for a new one which would take 4 weeks. I explained my ticket would be run out by then anyway. I continued to travel home that evening unchecked and then back again to Chi in the morning. When I got to Chi the next morning I explained again to a different guard who could clearly see from from £63.00 receipt purchased on 4/11/2014 that I had (have) paid to travel for 4 weeks. Using his common sense and sense of fairness he wrote me what he called a replacement ticket. When I went home that evening I showed my receipt, season ticket photo and new replacement ticket to a guard aged around 30 years younger than me. Once I was bored of arguing the toss with him about whether my replacement ticket was acceptable to him or not I walked onto the station with him shouting after me that I wasn’t listening. Generaly the guards are letting me through with this ID now but I still have to put up with being treated like a criminal and being told I am lucky to be let through because normally you have to pay all over again if you lose your ticket. How can Southern Rail get away with extorting money from it’s customers like this and being so incredibly rude disrespectful and unhelpful towards it it’s customers? Why does it not use the (Millions?) of pounds it must have now made in unfair fares to provide an up to date electronic ticketing system like the oyster card or similar? Surely with the ticket having a number that is linked to the holders photo they should easily be able to print off a new one with no fear of fraud if the guards are checking properly? Confused, frustrated, not going to pay twice – am going to travel until 2nd December 2014 which I have paid for.

    john smith · November 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    You keep saying the guard let you into the station they are barrier staff guards only work on the trains on southern they are called conductors on southwest trains they are called commercial guards I find it strange that you managed to lose a season ticket on the day you bought it

kyle · July 6, 2015 at 9:46 am

Exactly the same thing happened to me and I went through the appeals process only for them to insist I’m in the wrong.I will not be paying this fine either. They’re an absolute joke!

Taylor · July 20, 2015 at 5:09 am

Familiar story!! I had an issue when after getting behind the barrier at Clapham junction after staying with a friend rather than my usual trip from Epsom to waterloo ( weekly travel card so I was more than covered) I managed to drop my paper ticket onto the tracks. I was told I could get a replacement at Wateroo when I got off only to be met by THE rudest staff I’ve ever met. Kept talking about sumonsing me and my friend to court to swear where I had come from- taking info on their little pads and £20 later, a fine. All because I had a few old cards from Epsom, so he’d refused to believe I’d come from Clapham, then started to question why an American was in the country at all- I’m sorry, are you immigration now as well?

Like you, I too am moving into London soon and refuse to give them any money after that. I was treated like a criminal when all I’d really had was a hectic morning with too much stuff in my hands.

Tiny · January 8, 2016 at 1:18 am

Advice on what to do.?
My brother has jumped train fares a few times resoulting in being fined.! Now this is the part I need advice with as he always sends them to my address and there’s only so many times you can tel him not to do it (he never listens) I called the train company that fined him and explained he doesn’t live here and I want a notice put on the system if he tried to use my address again but he couldn’t do that.! The problem is now I have received a court summons in his name but at my address.! How do I get it all out of my address because talking to him about just falls on deaf ears.! I don’t want bailiffs turning up and taking my things because his stupid enough not to pay a ticket fare. What do I do now.???

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