Penalty Fares on National Rail


What are Penalty Fares?

The Penalty Fares System is designed to protect the majority of customers from the minority of people who travel without a valid ticket for the journey they are making.

Train operators can reduce the number of people who travel without a ticket in a number of ways, depending on their network. On long-distance trains, it is often possible for the on-board staff to check passenger's ticket. On rural routes, trains stop more often but as they usually have fewer coaches and carry a smaller number of passengers, on-board ticket checks can also be effective.

However, on urban and suburban routes, where station stops are frequent and the trains are often busy, it is not always possible to check every passenger's ticket between every station.

In the past, tickets have been inspected by staff at ticket barriers but it is very expensive to provide staff at every ticket barrier and also inconvenient for passengers. An alternative is to operate a 'Penalty Fares' scheme.#

How do Penalty Fares work?

Where Penalty Fares apply, rail passengers must buy their tickets before they start their journey wherever there are facilities such as an open ticket office or working self-service ticket machines, that enables them to do so. If you board a train without a ticket at a station where ticket facilities were available, you may be given a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN) and have to pay a Penalty Fare by a ticket inspector who has been appointed as a 'Penalty Fares Collector'.

When can Penalty Fares be issued?

Penalty Fare Notices may be issued if you,

  • travel without a valid ticket;
  • are unable to produce an appropriate Railcard on a discounted ticket;
  • travel in First Class accommodation with a Standard class ticket;
  • are aged 16 or over, travelling on a child rate ticket;
  • travel beyond the destination on your ticket.

How much does a Penalty Fare cost?

The penalty is £20.00* or TWICE the appropriate single fare from the station where you started your journey to either the next station at which the train stops, or the station you leave the train**, whichever is the greater amount.

If you want to travel further than the next station, you must also pay the relevant fare from that station to your destination.

*excluding London Overground and Elizabeth line issued Penalty Fares. See below for details.

**This may be when a train has already stopped at a station and you have time to leave the train if asked to do so by a Penalty Fares Collector. This may not necessarily be the end of your journey.


Where do Penalty Fares apply?

Penalty Fares apply if you are travelling from a 'Penalty Fare station', or are in a 'Compulsory Ticket Area (CTA)'.

Penalty Fare stations and Compulsory Ticket Areas should be clearly indicated as such by means of yellow 'WARNING' posters (example above) at the entry points. Your local train company will also be able to advise.

Stations where Penalty Fares apply can also be found on our station page at You can find a station  by searching by its name and checking the 'Ticket Buying and Collection' panel.


Penalty Fares on National Rail

Penalty Fares apply to the following National Rail Train Operating Companies:

  • c2c
  • Chiltern Railways
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Gatwick Express
  • Greater Northern
  • Greater Anglia
  • GWR
  • London Northwestern Railway
  • Merseyrail
  • Northern
  • ​​​​​​​South Western Railway
  • Southeastern
  • Southern
  • Stansted Express
  • Thameslink
  • TransPennine Express
  • Transport for Wales
  • West Midlands Railway

Transport for London

Penalty Fares issued by TfL managed operators, London Underground, London Overground, London Buses, London Trams, DLR and Elizabeth line, are in accordance with different Regulations. More information can be found at


How do I avoid a Penalty Fare?

1. To avoid being issued a Penalty Fare, you must purchase a valid ticket to your destination for the class of travel you wish to use before starting your journey.

2. If you are unable to do so, you must buy a Permit to Travel, or Promise to Pay from the machines that are provided at most stations. This permit must be exchanged for a valid ticket at the first opportunity.

3. If you are unable to purchase a Permit to Travel or Promise to Pay, you should obtain a ticket from the conductor or guard on the train, or at the first opportunity.


Penalty Fares on National Rail and the Law

To read The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 2018 see (opens on

Rail Delivery Group has also authored a guide to the Regulations. These guidelines are non-statutory, but are a useful interpretation of the Regulation and can be downloaded here


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Last updated:   11 August 2022