If you don’t have a valid ticket for your journey, you could be charged a penalty fare. This is a fare set at a higher rate than the normal fare and you must pay it on the spot. If you don't pay it, your details may be taken and you may be taken to court.
This page tells you more about how you can appeal against a penalty fare if you don't think you should have to pay it.
If you've received an unpaid fare notice, see our other page for information on what you should do.
Unpaid fares are different to penalty fares. A train company may issue either.
What's the time limit for making an appeal?
If you don’t pay a penalty fare on the spot, when asked to by a revenue protection officer, you will be told you have 21 days to pay or appeal. You should be given the paperwork for how to do this when you're issued with the penalty fare.
Remember, even if you're making an appeal, if you don’t pay the penalty fare within 21 days you may get extra charges and risk having your details passed on to a debt collection agency, who will then try to collect the money as a debt. This is because the penalty fare and the appeal processes are separate from one another. You can claim a refund later if your appeal is successful.
For what reasons can I appeal against a penalty fare?
You can appeal for one of these reasons:
- you didn’t realise you would have to pay the penalty fare. This could be because the signs weren’t clear enough, English isn’t your first language or you couldn’t read the notices because of a sight impairment
- you didn’t get a chance to buy a ticket or permit to travel. This could be because there was a long queue and no ticket machine available, or you couldn’t use the machine because of a disability.
- there was a notice at the station where you started your journey which said that you were allowed to travel without a ticket
- a station employee told you that you were allowed to travel either without a ticket or with the ticket you had
- there was no clear notice at the station where you started your journey to warn you about penalty fares.
Each train company has their own penalty fares scheme. All the schemes are approved by the Department for Transport.
Making an appeal
Appeals are handled by the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS).
You can either make the appeal in writing or use the on-line service.
If you appeal on-line, it's not possible to attach documents. If you have items, such as tickets or railcards to support your claim, make copies of them and send them by post. Make sure you keep the original documents. Send them recorded delivery or get a Certificate of Posting to prove that you sent them.
Appeals usually take about two weeks to investigate if you've sent all the relevant information. The Appeals body should write to you with the outcome. If you don't hear, you should contact them directly.
You can get advice on what to do from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or contact the independent watchdog, Passenger Focus, who can also help you.
What happens if I don’t pay the penalty fare and I've lost an appeal?
If you lose your appeal you’ll be asked to pay the penalty fare within a set time, usually about 14 days. After the deadline passes, extra charges will be added to what you owe. If you don’t pay, the fine could be passed to a debt collection agency. This could affect your ability to get credit in the future.
If you refuse to pay the penalty fare, the train company also has the right to switch from dealing with the Penalty Fare through the civil courts to prosecuting you for a breach of byelaws in the Regulation of Railways Act 1889. If you're convicted, you'll get a criminal record.
If you think you might be prosecuted, get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or the independent watchdog, Passenger Focus.
If you're unhappy with the outcome of an appeal
Outside London, contact Passenger Focus. In London, you can complain to Transport for London, and if you’re still unhappy to London Travelwatch.
Other useful information
Transport for London
Appeal against a penalty fare
For London overground and tram services, and some train companies outside London:
Independent Revenue Collection and Support (IRCAS)
PO Box 212
For most other train companies:
Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS)
PO Box 30
169 Union Street
Tel: 020 3176 2999
PO Box 5594
Southend On Sea
Passenger Helpline: 0300 123 2350 (Mon-Fri 8.00am-8.00pm; Sat-Sun 8.00am-4.00pm)
Fax: 0845 850 1392
National Rail Enquiries
For details on train fares, and not complaints, you can contact National Rail Enquiries at:
National Rail Enquiries
Phone: 08457 48 49 50
Text phone: 0845 60 50 600