Northern Rail has bowed to pressure and abandoned its controversial practice of handing passengers “telling off” notices when they queue to buy tickets after getting off their trains.
But the operator, which was accused of “bullying” vulnerable passengers after a girl of 16 was pulled out of a queue by ticket inspectors, has said it will instead impose “penalty fares” of at least £20 on travellers who do not buy their tickets in advance.
An MP warned last night that its new policy could be a move “from frying pan to fire”.
The old policy saw passengers who were unable to buy a ticket before they boarded denied one at their destination and instead handed a notice demanding payment within 21 days. The company’s “stakeholder manager”, Pete Myers, acknowledged in a letter to Conservative MP Philip Davies, Northern’s policy had involved “pulling customers from the queue at Leeds Station”, and added: “I would not be telling the truth if I said that we hadn’t had complaints.”
But Northern will now fine passengers who do not buy a ticket before they board. Conductors will continue to sell tickets during journeys but these will now carry a warning about the railway byelaws.
The company confirmed last night: “We are launching a trial system so that people who travel without having purchased a ticket will be expected to pay a penalty fare.”
Mr Davies, MP for Shipley, said: “We will have to see if this change of policy isn’t moving out of the frying pan and into the fire. I have made it very clear to them that I will be watching them carefully and if I hear of any examples of them penalising anyone who is trying to pay, I will be taking the case to the Secretary of State.”
Meanwhile, new talks aimed at ending the long-running dispute over the role of guards on Northern are being held today.
Members of the RMT union are striking again next Wednesday, but Northern will run extra strike services from Leeds to Harrogate, Ilkley and Skipton on that day.