Southern Rail, the train operator with the second-worst punctuality record in the country and the dubious honour of running the “train of shame” has come under fire for fining passengers for standing in the first class carriages of overcrowded trains.
Frustrated commuter Peter Boyland wrote to MPs Crispin Blunt and Sam Gymiah to complain that he saw ticket inspectors fining passengers during a rush hour service in April.
"The train was so packed in fact that the 'revenue officers' were unable to pass through to me to check my ticket, despite my clear proximity to them,” he said in a letter to Gyimah, MP for East Surrey.
One of those fined tweeted his frustration at the time, only to be told by Southern that the move was the right one.
@kevinru54982210 If you are in First Class with a standard class ticket then you are right to be fined. ^Greg— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) April 22, 2015
But Gyimah has disagreed, saying Southern's overall performance was “extremely disappointing”, noting that fining passengers was “absolutely the wrong priority when it is clear that this is a sympton of a lack of capacity on peak services.”
He added: “Southern needs to work much harder to rebuild trust with commuters who feel badly let down over the last few months. That means giving confidence in the progress of its rail improvement plan through clear statistics in its published updates.”
Gyimah is now seeking compensation for passengers, and is in talks with both Southern Rail and the Department of Transport. “I believe this is absolutely justified,” he said.
He is not the only politician to condemn the train company.
Chucka Umunna, Labour's shadow business secretary, said today: “Why am I not surprised. Dreadful services.
Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, tweeted that Southern “needs to get its act together fast”.
However, a Southern Rail spokesperson defended the fines, telling the Surrey Mirror that passengers would have been fined either £20 or twice the price of a single fare – whatever was greater.