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Railways (Penalty Fares) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Volume 826: debated on Wednesday 18 January 2023

Motion to Regret

Moved by

That this House regrets that the Railways (Penalty Fares) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/1094) increase penalty fares at a time of (1) substantial disruptions on many services, in particular those of Avanti West Coast, and (2) continuing customer confusion over complex and differing ticket pricing arrangements from different train companies, in a system described as “too fragmented, too complicated, and too expensive to run” by the Department for Transport and the Williams Rail Review in its report, Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail; and calls on His Majesty’s Government urgently to bring forward legislation as part of its promise to simplify ticketing arrangements.

Relevant document: 17th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

My Lords, nothing perhaps demonstrates better the Government’s tin ear towards the railway system in this country and the problems suffered by passengers on it than the instrument they have put down on penalty fares. To increase the penalty fare from £20 to £100 is somewhat draconian to say the least, and is the reason I have tabled this regret Motion. The Motion talks about substantial disruption to the railway system. Again, to introduce this measure from the Government Benches, given the current situation with the railway system, strikes me as a provocation too far.

Could the Minister define when the penalty fare will be invoked against a passenger? No one would condone people travelling on our railway without a ticket, but the notes on the penalty fare regulations refer to a “valid ticket”. The House will be aware of the concern I have raised previously about the number and variety of different tickets on our system. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether the penalty fare clause will be invoked if someone is bearing a ticket which is not valid on a particular service for any reason.

There are 2,576 stations on Network Rail; 45% of them are unstaffed and an equal proportion are partially staffed. Does the Minister appreciate the difficulty of actually buying a ticket at many of these stations? It will be said, of course, that someone who travels from an unstaffed station to an unstaffed station should purchase a ticket from the ticket machine, but there are 55 million different fares on our railway system; I do not think the machine has yet been invented that could cope with all of them. It is pretty difficult on occasions to get the right ticket from a machine, so I would like to know from the Minister whether the penalty clause will be invoked if someone inadvertently buys the wrong ticket.

I said that 45% of our railway stations are unstaffed. One imagines bucolic rural stations, which it would obviously be impractical to fully staff, but the list of unstaffed stations includes stations such as Barry Island, in Wales, where almost 1 million passengers boarded or alighted from trains in 2020—the latest year I could find figures for to use in this debate.

I live very close to Yardley Wood station, in the Birmingham suburbs. It is partially staffed and, for much of the week, the booking office is open only between 6.30 am to about 1 pm. Many of the other stations on the line to Stratford-upon-Avon, which is where services that go through Birmingham’s Yardley Wood terminate, are unstaffed. So if someone taking a train from Yardley Wood in the afternoon, towards either Stratford or Birmingham, finds that the ticket machine is broken or inadvertently purchases the wrong ticket, would he or she be subject to the penalty fare clause?

My regret Motion mentions substantial disruption to our railway system. The Minister is not the Rail Minister; I bet she thinks she is very lucky that she is not, given the current circumstances—she nods in assent. She should have been with me last night at Euston station—I keep inviting her to things, but she never comes—where, between 6 pm and 8 pm, I do not think a single Avanti train either entered or left. In fairness to Avanti—I like to be fair to it, as noble Lords will know —it was not its fault; there was a fatality at Wolverton at 3.30 pm. It is not strictly speaking relevant to my Motion, other than in relation to substantial disruption, but is it really necessary to close four tracks of railway for hours at a time when these fatalities unfortunately occur?

People have been killed on the railway since 1830. It was a Member of Parliament, Mr William Huskisson, who was unwise enough to step down from a train that long ago. If the present circumstances, with the railway closures we have at this time, appertained in 1830, Mr Huskisson would still be somewhere between Liverpool and Manchester, I fear, waiting for treatment. The railways are paralysed when these unfortunate tragedies occur, and the department has to look again at the time it takes to restore normal working.

Again—this is relevant to these regulations and to my regret Motion—thousands of people must have been travelling on trains subsequently and not using the correct ticket as a result of this action. I am sure that common sense would have prevailed, but with my train there was no ticket check at the barrier at Euston, it was impossible for the conductor to get through the train because hundreds of people were on it, in some cases sitting on the luggage racks, and there was a similar situation when we got off at Birmingham. To introduce this fivefold increase in penalty fares given the state of our railway network at present strikes me as not particularly sensible.

The other station that I use regularly to travel to and from London is Birmingham International. Avanti does not just run trains; it is responsible for certain main railway stations, among them Birmingham International. I have to say that travelling to and from Birmingham International does Avanti no credit whatever. Again, if the Minister takes the trouble to travel from there to London, she will find that getting into the station is pretty difficult because the main lift to the concourse has been out of order for months and nothing has been done about it. If she travels after 10 o’clock at night, she will find it impossible to physically buy a ticket on the concourse because there are no staff rostered on the concourse at a main intercity station such as Birmingham International after 10 pm. There are over 20 trains to places such as Bournemouth and London, as well as local trains to Birmingham and Coventry, between 10 pm and the close of play at the end of the railway day, yet there are no staff on duty on the concourse of a major intercity station.

The booking office at Birmingham International has been closed for a couple of years. Far from the booking office staff being deployed, which is the usual ministerial response—“They are deployed out on the platform to assist passengers”—they have been made redundant. Therefore, there are not any staff there, and the only people who sell tickets during the day at Birmingham International—which is, I repeat, a major intercity station—are usually one person and occasionally two, with an iPad, who also deal with train inquiries. Getting a ticket at Birmingham International means getting to the station at least 15 minutes before your train—although, given the timetabling shambles that is Avanti, it is not always necessary to get there 15 minutes early; one could turn up 15 minutes late and the train will still be somewhere in the dim distance.

It is not a straightforward matter of just buying a ticket or not buying a ticket and, of course, many of the train operating companies do not particularly care whether you buy a ticket or not. Why should they? I used to discuss rail privatisation with one or two of my colleagues. I would say, “There are a couple of good things about it—there is a lot of money coming into the railway industry that the Treasury would never have allowed.” Franchisees under the former franchise system were heavily punished for not running trains. Now, in their own eyes, they are heavily punished if they run trains. If they do not run trains, the Government compensate them anyway and pay them a bonus under the current system for, in effect, not running trains. The present system is crazy and is ripping off the taxpayer.

Of course, the Government will say in support of the penalty fares clause that we cannot have people travelling on trains without a ticket, and they are quite right. But on many occasions the train operating companies make no attempt to actually sell tickets. I have a copy of the current issue of Private Eye, where there is a story headed “Signal Failures” about the difficulty of purchasing a ticket. It says:

“Even without the government’s planned ticket-office cull, buying tickets can be challenging. One Eye reader who travelled from Morecambe to London Euston one evening says the ticket offices at Morecambe and Lancaster were already closed; the ticket machine at Lancaster reverted to square one whenever he tried to pay; tickets weren’t checked … on the trains; and when he went to pay retrospectively he found the ticket office at Euston (one of Britain’s biggest stations) had closed early for the night.”

That is by no means a unique experience. It is an example of the failure of the train operating companies to even bother to charge their passengers, and of course it is the taxpayer who picks up the bill at the end of the day.

Another aspect of my regret Motion refers not only to the disruption but to the number and types of tickets that are on sale in our railway system. In the current issue of Modern Railways, there is a column headed “Blood and Custard” which is written about the railway industry generally. Under the sub-heading “Bonkers ticketing” Modern Railways said:

“Our lively conference session at Modern Railways EXPO on Wednesday 23 November about revenue, fares and ticketing highlighted some interesting anecdotes about our fares system. Alistair Lees of Independent Rail Retailers emphasised the sheer complexity as he called for a simpler system. He said there are currently 2,822 ticket types, 901 unique ticket names, 655 restriction codes and 1,288 route codes”—

it may even be more because the conference took place, as I say, in November. It continues:

“The number of ticket types has grown at least sevenfold since privatisation, and more than 300 ticket types have been introduced since the start of the pandemic.”

That is the complex nature of travelling by train. Early in my railway career I was a booking clerk; I could not cope with the present system. It was fairly straightforward in those days. Somebody came, paid their money, and you gave them a cardboard ticket—it was known as the Edmondson system. Imagine how it is these days.

The Minister will revert, as I am sure the brief will tell her to, to the fact that ticket machines are provided at many stations. I revert to Birmingham International. I cannot work the ticket machines there, they are so complex, and many of the staff cannot get the right ticket out of the machines for the same reason. A few Thursdays ago, every one of the ticket machines was marked “Out of order”. As I have indicated, after 10 pm, when no staff are on duty on the concourse, how are people supposed to buy a ticket to travel to London, Bournemouth, Coventry or Birmingham? The answer is that they cannot. Instead of allowing the train operating companies to get away with the nonsense that they do, the Minister and her fellow Ministers should be insisting that they provide a proper service, which they do not do at the present time. I can only foresee things getting worse.

We were told that all this was going to change. As long ago as 2018, whoever was the Transport Secretary at the time—it is probably half a dozen Transport Secretaries ago—promised a simplification of the ticket system, which is as complicated as I have just outlined. Mr Grant Shapps, ever modest, during his spell as Secretary of State for Transport added his name to somebody else’s report to show how keen he was to simplify the ticketing arrangements on our railway system. He has been airbrushed out, a bit like the photo he published recently where the Prime Minister had been airbrushed out. He has had more jobs since than he has had aliases over the years. The fact is that since 2018, when his promises were made, nothing has been done to simplify the railway system and there are no signs of anything being done to simplify it in the future. We are committing fraud on the travelling public and fraud on the taxpayer with the current system. I beg to move.

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow my noble friend Lord Snape. His speech was very interesting but I am afraid that everything he said about the problem with getting tickets is true. It is very tempting to refer to Spain, where I believe they have just announced that they will offer free travel to everyone on the trains. That would solve all the problems except those of the Treasury, so it is probably not worth even talking about. It comes down to the failure of the TOCs. They have no incentive because all the income revenue goes to the Treasury. That is where we are at the moment, and we have to find a solution. It must be a way of encouraging more people to use the trains and it must also, I hope, increase the revenue to the Treasury and to the operators in a way which does not put people off. My noble friend’s comments about Birmingham International and everything else were frightening.

We also look forward to hearing from the Minister on where the legislation is; it is part of the SI. She will probably be able to tell us that when she comes to respond.

I have been talking to one or two experts on the ticketing issue. I understand that a year ago, in January 2022, a ticketing system for the whole country was ready to be put in legislation. It is called CORS—the consolidated online retail system. The Department for Transport approved it. It is basically an online system that would allow anyone to buy a ticket between, to and from any station on the network remotely on their iPad. It is guaranteed to give you the cheapest ticket. It means that, with a little bit of checking, it would reduce the need for a large number of ticket inspectors and booking clerks. Obviously, there must be facilities for people who cannot use it—I accept that—but such a system has the great advantage of guaranteeing people the best deal for whatever journey they want to take, and they would be able to check it.

What this system needs, I am told, is for the Department for Transport to put it out to tender. Apparently, it does not need legislation, so why are we bothering to wait for the legislation and other things to come in? If it went out to tender, quite a few companies would want to run it and to make sure that the information they provided was 100% reliable and available to all the different ticket retailers—there are several hundred of them, I think—in this country. One can see that this system would also give people continuous information on their journey, which would certainly help people on Avanti routes, so that they knew what was going on.

During the train strike a week or so ago, I had to come to London from Cornwall, so I caught the National Express bus. The IT system for it was actually rather good. It is probably better than for many of the rail systems that we have because not only does it give you a map of where the bus stop is, saying whether there is a shelter and things like that, but it gives a progress report on where you are going and where you can get off. It was generally very customer-friendly. I believe that something like that, or even better, could be available on CORS. It would also help with something that my noble friend Lord Snape did not mention: if you want to go from, say, Plymouth to Glasgow, it is often much cheaper to buy several tickets for the different sections rather than one complete ticket. There are ways round that if you know them but, again, a computer would in effect do it for you.

There is a solution to this, which would require the Government to get on and put this CORS thing out to tender before the legislation we have all been promised for a long time comes into effect or is even discussed. It needs looking at as a way of not only protecting revenue but doing the most important thing, which is getting passengers back on the train. It is now a year since the system was apparently approved; although the legislation is delayed, there is no reason why this scheme should be delayed. I hope that the Minister will encourage her colleagues to put it out to tender, get on with it and tell us all about it, because I think that it is a really exciting system.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Snape, for giving us an opportunity to debate this issue.

In principle, I fully accept the need to update penalty fares in line with inflation. However, if you look at the £20 fine that was fixed in legislation in 2005, the rates of inflation have been very low in the intervening years since 2005. It is highly unlikely that overall prices have multiplied by a factor of five in the past 18 years. Such a swingeing increase in the level of the fine or penalty fare is tone-deaf in a period of such massive disruption; for example, through strikes on the railway and, leaving the strikes aside, a very poor service from several train operating companies—including TransPennine and Avanti, to name but two. I fear that customers are totally fed up with the service they are getting in some parts of the country. Faced with fines of this size, they are likely to lose their temper with staff; I am not happy with the risks that that might pose.

This is apparently to be called not a “fine” but a “penalty fare”. That invites the question of whether the penalty fare should relate to the size of the fare that you should have paid; surely it should. You might have been going to pay a fare of as low as £5 to go from one stop to the next, or you might have been due to pay a fare of much nearer to £50 or £100. So the £100 fine—let us call it a fine because that is what it is—becomes totally disproportionate if you were due to pay only £5, whereas it is very reasonable if you were due to pay £50.

My belief—it echoes the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Snape and Lord Berkeley—is that the promised reform and simplification of fares must come first. I am frustrated by the delays to government plans. The reform of fares has been promised to us year after year. At the moment, it is only too easy to get the wrong fare by mistake. For example, I believe that there are three different definitions of “peak time” for trains going through Birmingham; Birmingham is featuring largely in our debate this evening.

I draw the Minister’s attention to the principles of punishment. When he was about to set up the police force, Sir Robert Peel coined the concept that it is not the severity of the punishment that deters criminals but the certainty of it. He said that at a time when we were deporting people to the other side of the world for minor theft. The police force was supposed to increase the certainty of being caught; indeed, it did so by a considerable amount. The problem on the railways now is the lack of certainty of being caught and the lack of inspectors on trains. Also, in many stations, gates are left open because there are no staff to supervise them; this happens often late in the evening or early in the morning. There is also a lack of staff to ensure that ticket machines are working. I urge the Minister to ensure that the Government incentivise train operating companies to employ additional staff and enforce ticketing rather than imposing what is clearly a haphazard fine regime.

Finally, I want to refer to the complexity of devolution. The Explanatory Memorandum refers to it; however, I have read and reread it, but I do not understand it, so I want to ask the Minister about it. It states:

“If a passenger is travelling on a train in England but is travelling to Wales … then the penalty fare of £100 … can be issued and an authority to travel for the section of the journey within England only. Penalty fares issued within … Wales are a matter for those devolved administrations to determine.”

It goes on to say that:

“Where a penalty fare is issued within England and the passenger wishes to travel to the next station which the train calls at and this is within Scotland or Wales, they should be issued with the penalty fare of £100 reduced to £50 if paid within 21 days but not an authority to travel as part of the penalty fare.”

Can the Minister please explain exactly what that means in practice for the member of staff who has to issue the penalty fare? Also, what is the difference in practice between a penalty fare for travelling between Swindon and Bristol Parkway and one issued between Bristol Parkway and Newport? More importantly for me, as someone travelling from Wales—I am interested because this is what people will ask me about—what about people travelling from Newport to Bristol Parkway? Will the penalty fares be issued only when people get through the Severn tunnel on the English side? I can see the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower, being interested in this as well. He knows as well as I do that the rail line between Cardiff and, say, Birmingham, goes up the border and threads in and out of Wales—will staff be standing there waiting to decide which country to issue the penalty fare in? To make a serious point about this, what discussions have been had with the Welsh Government about liaising in a way that ensures that life is sensible and bearable for the staff working on trains going between Wales and England?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Snape, for introducing this very interesting debate.

Under this Government, fares are rising and the promised investment is not being delivered. For Ministers to decide that this should be a priority, rather than the introduction of a Great British Railways Bill, therefore beggars belief. This instrument adds further complexity to the ticketing system. I therefore begin by asking: how have the Government communicated these changes to passengers?

The department has said that it seeks to increase penalties to deter fare evasion more efficiently. Can the Minister confirm whether there has been an assessment of the unintended consequences that this could have on individuals who have been unable, rather than unwilling, to purchase a ticket? Given that this has been introduced to address concerns of operators, can she confirm whether the department has also engaged with trade unions to ask their thoughts on the changes?

The noble Lord, Lord Snape, raises a series of points which I echo. I specifically support his criticism of Avanti West Coast. The Government’s decision to extend that contract was seen by the public as a reward for abject failure, and I still cannot understand why the Government chose to hand over millions more in taxpayers’ cash to an operator that has so clearly failed.

I share the noble Lord’s concerns regarding ticketing too. All this is evidence of the broader problem with the Government’s rail policy—a lack of direction. Short-term decision-making has held back long-term planning on the rail network, whereas modernisation, simpler ticketing and guaranteed universal accessibility is clearly not a focus for Ministers. The noble Lord is right to draw attention to the delays in implementing the Williams-Shapps review and the promised legislation. Can the Minister confirm whether a railway Bill will be introduced in this Parliament?

The Government must be far more ambitious about our railways and, rather than tinkering with minor changes to penalties, should bring forward the changes that they have promised.

I deeply apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Snape, for getting his name wrong.

This is a great opportunity to be back once again in front of your Lordships’ House to discuss trains, train fares, train ticketing and, of course, train services. I very much appreciate all noble Lords’ contributions this evening.

The regret Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Snape, is linked to a statutory instrument relating to changes to penalty fares. This was laid in your Lordships’ House in October 2022 and comes into force on 23 January 2023. I will provide a little bit more context to ensure that noble Lords are aware of what this SI does. From 23 January 2023, the new penalty fare on the rail network in England will be £100 plus the price of a single fare to the passenger’s intended destination on that train. It is not the £100 alone; there is an additional amount, which will take into account the journey travelled. Another thing to understand is that the £100 penalty is reduced to £50 plus the price of the single fare if it is paid within 21 days. I hope that people will take advantage of that opportunity.

As noted, the penalty fare is currently either £20 or twice the full applicable single fare to the next station that the train calls at, whichever is greater. That sounds a bit more complicated than what we will now have, which offers great clarity to passengers. As noted, the value of the penalty fare has not changed since 2005, which is nearly 20 years ago. It was in response to growing concerns about the impact of this real-term decline in the value of the penalty fare that the Government consulted on these changes to penalty fares in March 2021. The consultation indicated that the £20 value of the penalty fare was just too low to be an effective deterrent and that it should be increased.

The change was put into place to ensure a more effective deterrent. This should reduce the cost of fare evasion from passengers travelling without a valid ticket while ensuring that honest, fare-paying passengers are not unfairly penalised. An estimated £240 million is lost annually due to fare evasion on GB railways. This change aims to reduce the burden on the taxpayer while ensuring that it is fair on the travelling public as well.

Staff who issue penalty fares are trained and authorised in the procedure and are allowed to use their discretion on whether to issue a penalty fare. This helps to mitigate the impact on those passengers whose intention was not to avoid paying but, for whatever reason, have a ticket that does not match their intended journey. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, came up with many examples where this sort of discretion would absolutely be used. Therefore, we do have the flexibility under the new penalty regime as it was under the old penalty regime. In that regard, not much has changed. We will have to put Peel to one side in this case, because it is not an absolute certainty that if one is on a train with a ticket that does not match your intended journey, you will get a penalty fare. There may be reasons why it would not be appropriate. That is fair on passengers and provides the best experience to the travelling public.

However, should a passenger receive a penalty fare and feel that it is really not appropriate, there is a robust appeals process, which was introduced in 2018. That provides a further level of protection for passengers who feel that they have been treated unfairly. This appeals process has three different levels, and the third appeal is considered by an independent panel of three members, none of whom was involved in the handling of the previous two appeals.

It is for train operating companies to manage fare evasion on their services and there are a number of measures that they can use to do this, including penalty fares and unpaid fare notices. Avanti West Coast, for example—a favourite of the noble Lord, Lord Snape—chooses not to issue penalty fares, but it has alternatives. A passenger on an Avanti West Coast service who is unable to produce a valid ticket while travelling may need to purchase a full-price anytime ticket with no discount. As an alternative, they may be issued with an unpaid fare notice requiring them to pay the fare within 21 days. We are trying to set out here how a bit of flexibility is necessary and that a one-size-fits-all process for every service across England will not work.

There is a bit of flexibility to tailor overall revenue protection activity and adjust the action taken to a single passenger, dependent on that passenger’s circumstances. It is not in anyone’s interest for a TOC to operate a universally heavy-handed approach to all passengers travelling with an incorrect ticket. However, TOCs have a right and justifiable obligation to target those passengers who knowingly travel without a valid ticket. In those circumstances, it is right that the passenger without a ticket is appropriately penalised. This acts, among other things, as a deterrent.

The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Snape, raised the issue of the incentives on TOCs to collect revenue. After all, it is not their revenue in the end. The department works with TOCs to ensure that ticketless travel surveys take place biannually to allow revenue protection teams to target known areas of fare evasion to have the maximum effect. Part of the payments made to operators is based on the outcome of those surveys.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked me some questions about Wales. While I have some information about that, I would rather write a letter with a fuller explanation, if that is okay. I will try to include what Wales is doing and any discussions with the Welsh Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, raised the issue of communication, and I agree with him that it is really important that passengers know about these changes and so do rail staff. That is already well in hand. The Rail Delivery Group is leading work with the train operating companies on communications materials, which will include posters, signage, leaflets at stations and websites. The Rail Delivery Group will update its guidelines to reflect the new penalty fares regulations.

The noble Lord highlighted the complexity of ticketing, as set out in Modern Railways magazine—not a magazine with which I am hugely familiar. But tickets in England are hugely complicated and, sometimes, when one is booking online, one may not get the best option. I will make sure that officials look at the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about systems that were considered in the past and how we might roll them out.

The Government remain committed to radically reforming and improving the passenger experience of fares, ticketing and retailing on the railways. We want to simplify the current mass of complicated fares and tickets, while protecting affordable turn-up-and-go tickets and season tickets. There is much work in this area and there will be a real transformation in the way rail travel is bought, paid for and experienced. Removing complexity in ticketing systems will allow all related systems to be simplified to help reduce cost.

I reassure noble Lords that no passenger will be left behind. We will make sure that we serve those who use cash or those who do not have access to a smartphone or the internet. We need to make sure that they too can buy a ticket or access help to buy a ticket at the train station. We are working very closely with the Great British Railways transition team and the sector to build this better ticketing system and a better railway. We will take that further in due course.

Noble Lords will have heard me speak before about the reasons for the challenges that Avanti West Coast has experienced, but I reassure noble Lords that my officials meet its senior management weekly. Since December 2022, in line with its recovery plan, Avanti has been operating an improved 264 daily train services on weekdays. This is a significant step-up from the 180 daily services running prior to the December timetable change. I recognise that there are sometimes disruptions—obviously, industrial action is causing disruption at the moment—and there will sometimes be things outside of the train operating company’s control. But we are seeing green shoots of recovery from Avanti trains and I am very keen that they continue. My officials will certainly make sure that the senior management at Avanti is well aware of your Lordships’ concerns.

I recognise the point that the noble Lord, Lord Snape, made about fatalities. When a fatality occurs on the railways, or on the roads, one always wants to get the system up and running again, but the police often advise, because the circumstances of the fatality may not be known, that they need to take their time to ensure that they have the evidence that they need so that, if there is any injustice, it is properly investigated.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. She has given us a very interesting response to many of the questions that noble Lords have raised but, so far, has not mentioned what has happened to the Bill that was promised and mentioned in my noble friend’s Motion, which we are debating. Can the Minister give me some indication of why the Department for Transport has had this proposal to simplify ticketing, by using IT and everything else, for a year? It would save a great deal of money and give people a lot of confidence. According to some people I have talked to, this does not need legislation. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, has also said that parts of the Bill do not need legislation, so why can we not do that? I appreciate that the Bill is late—we could have a long debate about that—but what is holding this up, if it does not need legislation? I am told it is opposition from the train operating companies, but who is in charge? Minister, you are in charge.

Oh, good! I take the noble Lord’s point. I was going to spell out a number of things that do not require legislation. We want to legislate and we must do it when parliamentary time allows, but there are many things that we can do without legislation. I will take back the specific point about the ticketing system and maybe write to the noble Lord and all who spoke in the debate to see if I can find a little more clarity on that.

While I am on a roll on this, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, mentioned long-term planning, which is one of the things that we do not need legislation for and which we have been thinking about. We are developing for publication the first draft of a long-term strategy for rail. I am sure noble Lords will appreciate the opportunity to debate that when it is published, because it sets out a long-term vision for our rail system over the coming decades.

To conclude, the vast majority of passengers who travel on our railways have the right ticket. If they do not, there are understandable circumstances. We accept that there is flexibility in the services that the train operating companies offer. However, we believe that the increase in the penalty fare is a sensible measure to discourage travel without a valid ticket, because it is simply not fair on other passengers or the taxpayer.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Snape, for the debate today. I have no doubt that I will be back at this Dispatch Box to discuss the railway system again, and I look forward to it.

My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who participated in the debate. My noble friend Lord Berkeley reminded me of my failure to mention split ticketing. I could have said how desirable it is to stop that particular practice, although it is understandable that those in the know know how to do it. The magazine to which I referred set out a case of a passenger who was in the know, who used split ticketing to get from London to Edinburgh and back, but he needed 18 different tickets to do it. Such a system is nonsensical.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on these matters, was right to point out the disparity between the rate of inflation in 2005 and the fivefold increase in penalty fares, to £100, that the Government propose. The Office for National Statistics informs me through my mobile phone that £20 in 2005 was worth £34.52 at the end of 2022. That is a hell of a difference between £20 and £100, plus the cost of the single fare on top of the penalty, as we were reminded. So it is a pretty indiscriminate increase, presumably plucked out of the air. The Minister did say in conclusion that people had been consulted since 2021 about this increase: she did not tell us who had been consulted, and I just wonder whether Mr Anthony Smith from Transport Focus had been, because I do not think that most passengers would approve.

I am grateful again to my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe from the Front Bench, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.