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Explained: Is it ok to buy a ticket on the train or will you get fined?

Explained: Is it ok to buy a ticket on the train or will you get fined?
Sep 23, 2016 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This post was first published on The Croydon Advertiser on 12/09/2016

Explained: Is it ok to buy a ticket on the train or will you get fined?

Have you ever run for the train and forgot to buy a ticket or tap your oyster? We have asked Southern whether you can buy tickets on the train without risking

The main points are:

  • The only time you can buy a ticket is before starting your journey.
  • The only time this rule does not apply is if the ticket machine wasn’t working and the ticket office was closed – something that can be checked, so no fibbing!
  • Being late, or not having enough time, is not an excuse for not having a ticket.

Southern Rail

“The biggest misconception is that you can buy tickets on board our trains,” said a spokesman for Southern Rail.

“That’s simply not true. Anyone boarding one of our trains must have a valid ticket for the journey they are taking and must also travel in the correct class of accommodation.”

Exceptions can be made, however, but be warned – the company can check if your story is true.

“There may be cases where a passenger was unable to buy a ticket at the station they started their journey from,” the spokesman said.

“Reasons for this could be that the ticket office was closed and ticket machines were not working.

“This combination is quite rare, but sometimes does happen, and in these circumstances a ticket can be purchased on board the train.

“However, people must be made aware that conductors and revenue protection staff have the ability to check this – including whether ticket machines were working or not – and will take the necessary action if the person in front of them was actually able to buy their ticket before boarding.”

Not having enough time to buy a ticket before boarding a train is “not an acceptable reason” for not being in possession of a valid ticket, added the spokesman.

“The onus is on the customer to ensure that he or she allows plenty of time to buy the ticket before boarding the train.”

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If someone does not have a valid ticket to travel, they may be liable to a penalty fare.

The penalty fare scheme works on the same principle as a ‘pay and display’ car park, where motorists may have to pay a penalty if they do not buy a ticket when they park.

Southern advised buying a ticket “simply in good time before the journey is taken”.

To make life easier – and to not get caught without a ticket – “say goodbye” to paper tickets and use Southern’s smartcard, ‘the key’ which is similar to an Oyster card.

With this, you buy your ‘ticket’ well in advance and touch in and out of station ticket barriers, just like any other travel smartcard. Doing it this way means there is no queuing to buy your ticket.

The key is free and will be sent by post in three to five working days. Once you’ve received it, it’s ready to use.

For more information visit

Penalty fares can be issued if a passenger:

  • Travels without a valid ticket
  • Is unable to produce an appropriate railcard on a discounted ticket
  • Travels in first class accommodation with a standard ticket
  • Is aged 16 or over, travelling on a child rate ticket
  • Travels beyond the destination on their ticket

The penalty is £20, or twice the full single fare from the station where the passenger got on the train to the next station at which the train stops – whichever is the greater.

If the passenger wants to travel beyond the next station, they must also pay the relevant fare from that station to their final destination.