Former journalist Andrew Vaux, 54, of Scholes, Cleckheaton, was caught without a ticket at Leeds Station almost a year ago, while he was changing trains on a journey from Low Moor to Wakefield Westgate.
He denied evasion, claiming that the ticket machine at Low Moor had not been operational, and contested Northern’s request for payment of the £100 penalty fare – reduced to £50 if paid within 21 days.
The case ended up at Doncaster Magistrates Court in August, and Mr Vaux pleaded not guilty to the offence despite being told by Northern’s legal team that they could provide evidence the machine had been working normally at the time he had boarded his train.
The hearing was adjourned for trial, with Mr Vaux facing a maximum sentence of three months in prison and a £1,000 fine if convicted.
However, at the trial at the same court on September 28, he changed his plea to guilty and was ordered by magistrates to pay Northern £5 in compensation for the fare and cover their legal costs of £300. He must also pay a £192 surcharge.
An on-the-day, off-peak return ticket for travel between Low Moor and Wakefield costs just £7 if purchased online before the journey.
A spokesperson for Northern said: “We are pleased with the outcome of this case and the court’s decision to order Mr Vaux to pay compensation and costs. Everyone has a duty to buy a ticket before they travel – it’s the law.”
Pre-Covid, Northern were prosecuting between 400 and 500 fare evaders every month, but since 2020, that number has risen to 1,200. Very few of these cases end up in court, and most that do are because the defendant either contested the penalty notice or ignored the summons.
Passengers must, under law, purchase a ticket before boarding a service where stations exist for them to do so. Conductors can use discretion in cases where a customer is vulnerable and staff have access to real-time data on whether machines are working.