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.