What can happen if I am on a train without a valid ticket?

If you do not have a valid ticket or valid reason for this (as defined in Can I board a train without a ticket?) and you board the train, the train company has a number of options:

The full fare can be charged for your journey

Under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage you could be charged the full fare for the journey.

Typical examples could be cases where you have a ticket but have forgotten  your railcard; or where you have an Off-peak ticket but travel in the peak or where have an Advance ticket but are  on the wrong train.

You can be issued with an Unpaid Fare Notice (UFN)

If on-train staff consider that your ticket is not valid and that a full fare should be charged you can pay immediately and then, if desired, complain to the train operating company to seek redress. If you do not have the means to pay immediately – or choose to complain/appeal before paying – the inspector can issue an Unpaid Fare Notice (UFN). This is not a fine or a penalty but an ‘invoice’ for the fare for the train you are on. However, as the full-price Anytime (peak) fare is charged, this can be a considerable amount of money.

You can be issued with a Penalty Fare

Penalty fares were originally introduced to tackle ticketless travel on suburban services whose frequent stops made effective on-train ticket examination impractical.  They have since been introduced on other, longer-distance services.  They require the passenger to provide a valid reason for not having a ticket. They do not exist on all train routes, and where they are in use clear signs at stations should  clarify this to passengers.

If you are in a designated Penalty Fares area and you are not able to produce a valid ticket for inspection you are liable to pay either twice the full Single fare to the next station at which the train is due to stop, or £20, whichever is the greater. Any travel beyond that next station will be charged at the full Single fare.

Prosecution for fare evasion.         

The Railway Byelaws make it an offence to travel without holding a valid ticket and being able to show it on request.  A breach of this byelaw is punishable in law and, if found guilty, you would be subject at present to a fine of up to £1000.  

An operator can also prosecute for ‘intent to avoid a rail fare’ under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, s.5 (3) and you may be fined or sentenced to imprisonment for up to three months.

If you are being prosecuted we recommend that you seek legal advice.