We purchase a ticket which is an authority to travel between selected stations or within an area based on the terms and conditions of the issued ticket.
I am aware that terms and conditions can be complex and sometimes people fall foul of some rule or complication. Rules tend to get relaxed a bit when there is disruption as all Train Operating Companies have an agreed system in place to accept each others permits to travel as announced to help each to get to the destination the customer has paid for. However there are general National Carriage rules that apply irrespective of which train operating company you use. Full terms of conditions can be downloaded here if you are interested
The problem is I think that customers don’t always explain fully their travel needs to the ticket seller or mis-advice is given as the staff member isn't fully aware of the conditions themselves. Many customers now purchase their tickets online but don't read the terms and conditions before purchase so find themselves out of pocket when they have to purchase a new ticket from the train manager. Now is this the fault of the customer or the ticket seller? Of course it depends on how clear things are at the point of sale.
I was amused on my recent visit to Edinburgh via the East Coast Mainline on Cross Country Trains from Birmingham New Street when a group of passengers wanted to upgrade their tickets purchased online from a company to first class under a special offer so they could get first class hospitality. They had brought the cheapest tickets possible online which didn't allow them to be able to upgrade as they wasn't standard tickets but they still claimed that the train manager was being unfair. I think the train manager would have been unfair if he had turned a blind eye to the ticket they held and sold them an upgrade when First Class passengers had paid either the upgrade for purchased standard tickets or the full price.
Now we can all moan if a train is late or cancelled as it can be a big inconvenience to us or others who rely on us as the train operating company has not met our expectation of service. Sometimes its within their control and in many cases its down to the Railway infrastructure, whether it be signalling, track, overhead wires etc. which is all managed by Network Rail. Or it could be other factors like vandalism through cable theft or trespassers on the line. However the bottom line as I understand it is that train operating companies have to get you to where it states on your ticket by any means possible and that's it apart from under National Rules the onus is on you to make a compensation claim under “Delay Repay” rules. Not everyone bothers to do this as it seems complicated to them but its important that they do.
The above relates to people who do actually purchase but then there are people I do not have any sympathy for. These are the ones who aren't really customers because they board trains without having any intention of paying for the journey they are undertaking. These people do not have an authority to travel so they are in effect trespassing on the railway as well as committing an offence of theft of service. The consequences of “Rail Fare Evasion” can be read on this Solicitors site at
Back in September 2011 the mail Online highlighted the Top ten answers given to revenue protection inspectors (RPI) when asking into why the person didn't have a ticket or in many cases means to pay and therefore a clear intention of fare evasion.
It’s always good to see ticket checks being made on a train and the look on some peoples faces when then become aware of ticket inspections. Some move coincidently to the opposite end of the train and alight at the very next station or pretend to be asleep. I’m sure the RPIs have heard them all before and the ones I’ve seen working for London Midland are polite, listen to the passenger (as they haven't paid they are not customers) to determine whether a genuine reason for not having an authority to travel and the what the persons intentions are. Where they do issue a penalty notice having gone through a few identity procedure checks explain fully why and what that person has to do. The RPI’s know their patch and can spot regular offenders even before the offenders themselves are aware.
Remember the onus is on the traveller to prove they have attempted to purchase a ticket for their journey at the earliest opportunity not at their destination so buying one online, at the booking office (if open or machine if available) or from the conductor on the train or follow their advice if they cant sell you one for any reason.
We may not agree with the fares, the charging structure, the regular increases but we pay so why should the fare evaders get away with it and deprive the Train Operating Companies of the revenue which in turn can affect our level of service and the companies re-investment.