UK: Penalty fares in England and Wales have been increased to a £100 surcharge plus the price of a full single fare for the passenger’s journey on that train.

The penalty is reduced to £50 if paid within 21 days. People who fail to pay the penalty fare could be taken to court, risking much steeper fines.

The change, which came into effect on January 23, is a significant increase on the previous penalty fare introduced in 2005 of £20 or twice the full single fare to the next station, whichever was greater.

Consultation by the Department for Transport found that 69% of respondents felt this was too low to be an effective deterrent.

Penalty fares apply if passengers travel without a valid ticket, cannot show an appropriate railcard for a discounted ticket, travel in first class with a standard ticket, travel on a child ticket but are 16 or over, or travel beyond the destination on their ticket.

Commenting on the change, Annamaria Izzard, Head of Revenue Protection at West Midlands Railway, said ’every year around £240m of revenue nationally is lost to the railway through fare evasion, taking money away from vital improvements to the network and ultimately costing the taxpayer’.

Tyne & Wear Metro operator Nexus said fare evasion costs it £1m a year. ‘Nexus was among those keen to see an increase’, said Customer Services Director Huw Lewis. ‘Our customers tell us they want tougher penalties for those who decide not to pay their fare.’

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said ’it’s right that train companies catch and deter those who evade paying for their ticket. Penalty Fares must act as an effective deterrent, otherwise fare dodgers end up being subsidised by the vast majority of honest passengers.

‘As the penalty is increasing, it is more important than ever that train companies ensure passengers are treated fairly and their staff use discretion when it is clearly an innocent mistake.’