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Train operators are permitted to use penalty fare schemes to deter fare evasion, while allowing inspectors to apply discretion when dealing with passengers. In December 2016, the Department announced planned improvements to the penalty fares regime by including a new third stage independent appeals panel. This and all existing appeals bodies will be independent of train operators and owning groups.
I thank the Minister for that response. Does he agree that train operating companies should not be putting their staff under undue pressure to issue penalty fares? Will he commit to look at the rules to ensure that discretion is always an option where appropriate?
I understand the point that my hon. Friend seeks to make. Although revenue protection is very important on our railways, so, too, is proportionality and discretion, hence the changes that I have made not just to the appeals regime, but to the fares and ticketing action plan that I announced last month. For example, those who forget their railcards now have more option to ensure that they are not unfairly penalised. I am more than happy to meet him to discuss his concerns further.
Ticketless travel and fare dodging is one of many issues on the Chase line. I experienced it at first hand when I joined the London Midland revenue protection team last month. The £20 penalty is insufficient to deter fare dodging. Will my hon. Friend agree to review penalty fares, so that they do become an effective deterrent?
I am more than aware of the sterling work that my hon. Friend has done to further the cause of revenue protection by checking tickets on the Chase line, for which I congratulate her. She is quite right that there are concerns within the industry that the penalty fares are set too low. At the moment, I am focusing on reviewing the appeals system to make sure that it is fair and proportionate, and discretion has a role to play. I will keep penalty fares under review.