Minister steps in to protect rail travellers handed penalty fines

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The Government will today unveil a scheme to protect rail passengers handed penalty fares as the result of honest mistakes.

The announcement comes just three days after the region’s biggest train operator extended its controversial fines policy to include many services between Leeds, Sheffield, York and Harrogate.

Northern Rail said passengers found without a ticket would face a £20 penalty from next month.

But the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, will say today that those with a genuine reason for not having a ticket will now be able to challenge their fine by appealing to an independent committee, not connected to the company. An appeal would “stop the clock” on the 21-day penalty deadline.

Mr Johnson said: “If you make an honest mistake, you should feel confident that the appeals system will recognise this and treat you fairly.”

Alex Hayman, of the consumer group Which? said the new rules would protect passengers who had left their season ticket at home, or paid the wrong fare because of the “complex and confusing ticketing system”.

Northern introduced its policy of fining passengers last year in response to widespread accusations that staff had “bullied” vulnerable passengers and handing them “telling off” notices for failing to buy a ticket before boarding. Its extension to its fines policy this week came on one of the worst days for delays, with cancellations to Ilkley and Harrogate.

New timetables: Page 4.