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Regulation of Railways Act 1889 – criminalising people travelling without a train ticket

4 Comments 19th March 2015

Train operating companies (TOCs) use an ancient piece of legislation, the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, to bring train fare "evaders" to court, resulting in the person receiving a criminal record and taking up the courts' valuable time. This piece of legislation is draconian, unnecessary and unfair and it should be repealed. 

Why does this matter?

The Regulation of the Railways Act 1889 is draconian. TOCs employ ‘revenue protection officers’ to catch out people travelling without a ticket. Many of these inspectors are poorly trained and fail to use common sense discretion – fining people who boarded the train and then realised they’d forgotten their wallet, or who jumped on the train because they were in a rush at the station and had every intention of paying the fare at the other end. Whilst a system of penalty fares exists, people can eventually be hauled to the magistrates court to face trial under the Regulation of the Railways Act 1889. This results in a criminal record and heavy fine. How is this proportionate to their original ‘crime’?

The law is unnecessary. In every other situation of a customer using a service without paying, the company can take the customer to the county court (a non-criminal court) if they refuse to pay. Why should TOCs have preferential treatment and be able to take customers to a criminal magistrates court, when perfectly good alternatives exist? No doubt the TOCs will argue that the law is an essential tool in the fight against train fare evaders – this is simply not the case.

The law is unfair. Why should people get a criminal record for not paying for one service (train rides), whereas with other more serious non-payments would not show up on their criminal record? Why should the train companies be able to block-book the magistrates court for the day to hear all their cases, pushing other serious cases to the back of the line? This law shows how the government supports the concerns of big business over concerns of the man on the street, and should be scrapped.

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4 Responses to Regulation of Railways Act 1889 – criminalising people travelling without a train ticket

  1. Cassie says:

    I agree Victor, I think this ancient railway act law of 1889 should be repealed, yes expect to pay a hefty fine in a county court but don’t take them to criminal court to receive a criminal record which will ruin their lives forever. Maybe if they did it again then yes take it to the criminal courts but for a first offence I think its pretty heartless.

  2. ian says:

    couldnt agree more – this law is ancient, inapprpriate and needs to be changed

    it must be criminalising half the popuation!

  3. Sigurd says:

    It is fair the have penalty fare if someone traveling without a ticket, but getting a criminal record for losing/forgetting a £5 ticket seems to be over the top. It is a good idea to change this law to make it fairer

  4. Rich says:

    I completely agree. In some cases this law causes first time offenders to receive criminal records, which are classified as fraud, when some have never even received a Fixed Penalty Notice before. This could affect career prospects and result in admissibility to countries like the USA. This law is also not known to the majority of the passengers either, I personally think the carriers are taking advantage of this law and using to make more money. There are several stations in London they could easily put barriers in place, but instead they would rather squeeze from the public and hand them a criminal conviction.

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