Commuters face prosecution over Great Northern first class carriage dispute

PUBLISHED: 10:21 21 June 2018

Passengers believed the first class carriages were declassified following conflicting social media messages, and the extent of the overcrowding due to an earlier cancelled train. Picture: Iain Murray

Passengers believed the first class carriages were declassified following conflicting social media messages, and the extent of the overcrowding due to an earlier cancelled train. Picture: Iain Murray

Archant

Two commuters from Letchworth and Baldock have been threatened with prosecution after confusion arose from the declassification of a first class train carriage.

Two commuters from Letchworth and Baldock have been threatened with prosecution after they sat in first class when they believed the carriage to be declassified.

Shortly after new trains had been introduced in March, Iain Murray and Jem McKenna-Percy were travelling to London during rush hour.

Following “several cancellations and severe overcrowding”, they both took a seat in the first class carriage at the front of the train, believing it to be declassified.

Jem from Letchworth said that a number of undercover ticket inspectors revealed themselves and asked to see passengers tickets.

“I showed them my valid standard class carnet ticket and explained that I thought the carriage had been declassified in rush hour, apologised, and offered to vacate my seat,” Jem said.

The inspector informed Jem that she couldn’t do that, and she would need to pay a £50 fine immediately, or provide her details.

“I declined to pay the fine at the time believing that the situation was extremely unjust,” she said.

Jem has now received a prosecution letter from Govia, which states that courts may impose a criminal record, a fine of up to £1,000, a prison sentence, a suspended sentence, community service, seizure of computer equipment or compensation.

“The letter from Govia has left me extremely distressed and with a feeling of great injustice,” she added.

Similarly, Iain Murray from Baldock – who was travelling in the same part of the train – has received his letter.

He said: “I’m not a fare dodger, I do not travel in first class when I shouldn’t, yet I am having serious threats made as a result of a failed service that left some passengers standing on the platform and others having nowhere to go except a first class section that had not been declassified.”

A Govia spokesman said: “Back in March, we had been asked, by passengers who pay a premium to travel first class, to carry out ticket checks. “If a passenger refuses to pay a subsequent fine then the only option available to our inspectors is to issue a notice that we intend to prosecute.

“We always invite people to explain the circumstances. In this case, the matter is still under review.

“We accept that passengers are experiencing significant difficulties today and apologise sincerely for that.”

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald said he has made representations to Govia on behalf of his two constituents and he hopes that Govia will be lenient given the circumstances.

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