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Rail Fare Evasion

Volume 726: debated on Thursday 19 January 2023

From 23 January, the Government are increasing National Rail penalty fares for the first time since 2005. The penalty will change to £100, plus the price of the single fare to the intended destination, to act as a greater deterrent and to reduce fare evasion on the network.

There have been persistent problems on the Chase line with passengers dodging fares, so I welcome the increase in the penalty for those caught travelling without a valid ticket, but if the system is to be effective it is essential for there to be enough revenue protection officers to catch offenders. What are the Government doing to ensure that there are enough inspectors on lines such as the Chase line to check passengers’ tickets?

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising the important issue of ensuring that resource is available to check tickets on lines such as the Chase line. Ticketless travel is currently costing the network, and, indeed, the taxpayer nationally, an estimated £240 million per year. Back in December 2016, my right hon. Friend joined the then London Midland revenue protection team. She later told this House:

“The £20 penalty is insufficient to deter fare dodging.”—[Official Report, 12 January 2017; Vol. 447, c. 619.]

She went on to ask for a review of penalty fares so that they would become an effective deterrent. She has won that campaign, and I thank her for it.

There are nine new revenue protection security managers within the West Midlands Railway business. They are in training, ready to be deployed on the Chase line and throughout the midlands.

In Scotland, peak time rail fares on specific routes are being disbanded in 2023 to ease commuting costs and encourage use of services. Have Ministers discussed rolling out a similar scheme with operators in England, as increased affordability could reduce fare evasion?

I have a real passion for reducing fare evasion. It is important that we learn from all parts of the United Kingdom how we can do this. At a time when we are experiencing issues with financing, it is vital that we do everything we can to ensure that passengers pay their way, so I am happy to meet the hon. Lady to share those ideas. If they are good ideas, I would like to see them rolled out.