Condition 2, and it’s application, is a difficult and often controversial area, particularly where penalty fares are concerned! I thought a post detailing the differences between Guards, Commercial Guards and Revenue Protection would help to clear some of the differences up, as well as some of the thinking that goes into the application of Condition 2 and ticketless travel.
Please note, this post is not intended as a commentary on the value of fares, season tickets or otherwise; it is aimed solely as an explanation of Condition 2 and how things work. As ever, I am happy to answer on-topic questions.
So Who’s Who?
- Guard: Trained in the safe operation of trains. They are trained in basic ticket checks (e.g. basic validity checks – date, stations, class of accommodation), but not in issuing tickets.
- Commercial Guard: Trained in the safe operation of trains and in ticketing matters. Qualified in full ticket checks (routing etc) as well as application of Conditions of Carriage and issuing tickets via Avantix or Unpaid Fare Notices.
- Revenue Protection Assistant/Inspector: Qualified in full ticket checks only – no safety critical roles. They are also able to check routing matters, application of Conditions of Carriage, and issue of tickets via Avantix. They are also Authorised Collectors for South West Trains, meaning they can issue Penalty Fares and, where the RPA/RPI is PACE-trained, MG11 forms (witness statements collected under caution, and are submittable as evidence to a court).
What is a ticket?
A ticket is a contract, specifically a contract between you and the train companies for your travel from A to B as specified on your ticket, by the route and on the day and class of travel specified on your ticket. The type of ticket specifies whether you can break your journey or not, and whether your ticket allows you to catch a specific train, or a range of trains.
Note that your ticket does not specify the mode of transport (i.e. whether a bus or train or taxi or helicopter), nor does it say that the operator must run a to-the-minute timetable. There are conditions in place in the NRCoC regarding compensation and in operators’ Passenger Charter and Delay Repay schemes, available from any ticket office.
Condition 2 of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage
Condition 2 is a very important condition in the NRCoC, covering when you should purchase a ticket. Paraphrased, it effectively states that you must have a ticket before you step on the train, where you are able to get one. If you are not able to purchase a ticket, you must use the Permit to Travel (PERTIS) machine where one is available. If there are no facilities to purchase a ticket, then and only then can you buy when on board or at the end of your journey (if you are not approached during your journey).
Do note, that a valid ticket also means one for which you are carrying any applicable valid railcards – and tickets are only valid if accompanied by said railcard – not a photo, not a receipt, but the railcard itself. Photocards, too, in the case of season tickets should always accompany the season
If you do not fulfil the requirement of Condition 2 (barring the exception), then the second half of Condition 2 applies – which states which tickets you are eligible for – that is, the full “walk up” fare – Anytime and Anytime Day Singles and Returns – and no entitlement to discount them.
If you are travelling in a Penalty Fare area (which is the entire network area of South West Trains, as well as Southern, First Capital Connect, South Eastern, and parts of the First Great Western networks and others) you will also be liable for a Penalty Fare if you are approached without a ticket under Condition 2.
If nothing is working at the station (no TVMs, PERTIS or Ticket Office) – take photos! If you’re stopped by Revenue Protection, it’s always handy to have proof in your hands. They can and do call the control centre to confirm working TVMs and open ticket offices, and things do break down, but it’s always an excellent idea to ensure you are covered at every angle.
Penalty Fare is just a fine, right?
Technically speaking, no. A fine is something that can only be issued by the courts. A Penalty Fare is just that – a Fare. It is a ticket to the next station, whereupon you can buy a new (valid) ticket for the rest of your journey. As a passenger, it is your responsibility to ensure you have a valid ticket for your journey, but we can appreciate it isn’t always that easy.
So what can I do if I don’t know what’s valid, or can’t find the right ticket on the machine?
Well, there are options available to you. Most TOCs offer telesales teams, who are trained much the same as ticket office clerks in making sure you get the correct ticket for your journey, to be picked up at the machine on your arrival at the station.
Tickets can be bought in advance from the ticket office, and do not need to be for a journey starting at that station. You can also buy tickets in advance from your Guard on board the train – we’re always happy to issue tickets for future travel. We unfortunately cannot, due to limitations of our equipment, issue Advanced tickets as these require reservations which the Avantix machine cannot deal with.
You can also buy a ticket for part of your journey (ensuring that it is still valid, for example by buying a single for two or three stations on your journey) then approaching the Guard at the first opportunity – you will then be able to purchase a full ticket, paying the difference. Naturally, for those in Driver Only Operation (DOO(P)) areas, this presents an issue – as well as for those in areas where the Guard has no revenue duties – so it’s not a method I recommend unless you’re particularly struggling and all other options have been exhausted.
What if the queue is too long?
Unfortunately, the queue being “too long” is not normally a valid reason to avoid buying a ticket at the station. In many cases, however, the control centre is informed, and will send out an email to Guards and Revenue Protection, to let us know of issues at stations and to use discretion. This is also so that Revenue Protection can make their way to a station to aid ticket office staff by “queue busting”.
If you are informed that you may buy a ticket on board by station staff (once they have contacted control), find the Guard once you board the train as soon as possible – this ensures you’re not waiting at Waterloo for a ticket if we aren’t able to get round to seeing you (unfortunately highly likely on a peak-time train, when guards may have over 1000 tickets to inspect!). We as Guards are being further instructed not to sell tickets on arrival at London Waterloo, which means you will have to queue to purchase your ticket from Revenue Protection at the station.
The DfT agrees suggested queuing times at stations with the TOC through Section 17 Ticketing and Settlement Agreements, but these are ultimately suggestions rather than actual limits. If you feel that queues at your station are regularly too long, then Customer Services, Passenger Focus or London Travelwatch are the best to contact on the matter and can suggest alternatives or make representations to the TOC concerned.
So what happens if I get a Penalty Fare?
Be co-operative. Rest assured, there is such a thing called the attitude test! How you respond greatly affects how the situation is dealt with – Revenue Protection keep records of all their dealings with passengers as a matter of course, including your behaviour and language – so please don’t lie, and certainly don’t abuse or threaten staff. They will often fill out the Penalty Fare on board the train, but they are entitled to ask you to alight to continue the process. They will ask you the whys and wherefores – be as truthful as you can.
It is worth mentioning at this juncture that failure to provide your name and address to any member of railway staff for the purposes of an Unpaid Fare Notice or a Penalty Fare is a byelaw offence, and one which the BTP are routinely called for. There are appeals processes detailed on any forms you fill in, which you should follow – save the arguments for that process.
Commercial Guards cannot issue Penalty Fares. They are the reserve of Revenue Protection, as they require additional training and take time to complete properly. Commercial Guards can issue tickets in accordance with Condition 2, or Unpaid Fare Notices. These differ between TOCs, but in the South West Trains area, they are for a full-price single ticket, valid only on South West Trains services. These act as tickets, but your name and details will be required as you are expected to pay within 21 days. We use an agency to confirm name and address to ensure you are telling us the truth!
If you are an annual season ticket holder, you may receive one if you forget your ticket – you can use a photocopy of your ticket, enclosing you Unpaid Fare Notice, as your appeal to have your UFN annulled if it is your first or second time forgetting your ticket! This is added to your GoldStar record, to prevent fraudulent use of season tickets. Revenue Protection staff will follow a similar procedures and issue an Authority to Travel, for which you should follow the same process.
If you have any other ticket type, please contact on board staff as soon as you realise it’s missing! Guards have tools to deal with your situation (to an extent) and your life (and ours) is made much earlier if we can a) help you find it and b) take appropriate action. The situation is always made worse by doing nothing! A little pro-activeness can result in the difference between a stern word and an expensive letter home.