Penalty Fares: Northern promises discretion

Fine bank holiday at Sowerby Bridge station. People heading up the valley. Todmorden for Stoodley Pike, Smithy Bridge for Hollingworth Lake. A group of retired people, habitual car users but keen to use public transport, have spotted the signs about the impending imposition of penalty fares. “Have you paid?” “We’d love to but where is the machine?” Under new penalty fares rules even at unstaffed stations you must get a ticket or “promise to pay” chitty (the machines at unstaffed stations only take cards) before boarding the train. But if travelling west at Sowerby Bridge the machine is on the opposite platform, 3 minutes just to walk there and back. We timed it. At Mytholmroyd it’s a good 5 minutes.

HADRAG has raised a list of concerns.

Where’s there’s no booking office the machines only offer tickets from that station. So what if you want to save money by “split-ticketing”, need an add-on to a travelcard or just change your plans en route? How long are you expected to wait if there’s a queue? The notices say you must have a ticket for your whole journey. Who wants to pay a £20 fine? Northern have assured us that discretion will be applied, but the big yellow warning notices don’t seem to cover these situations, leaving questions unanswered. Our fear is that good people will be frightened off travelling.