Northern has issued 10% less penalty fares in the first month since the government increased the ‘fine’ to £100 compared to the same period last year.
3,831 people caught travelling without a valid ticket or ‘promise to pay’ notice were issued with a penalty fare, compared to 4,261 in the same period last year.
The train operator, which offers 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England, revealed adult passengers accounted for 81% of the penalty fares issued, with under 18s making up the remaining 19%.
Mark Powles, commercial and customer director at Northern, said: “A sudden 10% reduction in the number of penalty fares being issued would suggest the increase to £100 has been effective in terms of a deterrent. Of course, this is only the first month – but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
“Upwards of 95% of our customers do the right thing and buy a ticket before they travel – and having invested in the largest network of digital ticket infrastructure of any train operator in the country, Northern has made it easier than ever to buy a ticket via our app, website or one of more than 600 ticket machines across the network. There really is no excuse.”
The government’s new £100 penalty fare came into effect on 23 January. Since 2005, the penalty fare had been just £20 – but it was felt by the industry that that figure was too low and was no longer an effective deterrent to would-be fare evaders. As part of the government’s public consultation, 69% of respondents agreed that the £20 penalty fare was too low.
Money raised through penalty fares issued by Northern will, in-line with other revenue income streams, be re-invested in the rail industry to improve the service offered to all customers.
Industry body, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) estimates that every year around £240 million is lost through fare evasion on Great Britain’s railways.
The £100 penalty fare forms part of The Railways (Penalty Fares) (Amendment) Regulations 2022. Penalty fares are reduced to £50 if paid within 21 days.
The increase in the penalty fare for train operators in England brought it in-line with penalty fares charged across much of Western Europe and by Transport for London (TfL) and Manchester’s Metrolink tram network.