Angry rail commuter faces prosecution in first-class compartment row

PUBLISHED: 08:54 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:54 06 May 2010

ANGRY commuter Denise Rayner has had a notice of prosecution after refusing to pay to sit in a first-class compartment on a packed Thameslink train last year. Denise, aged 53, of St John s Court, St Albans, made a stand over the issue after sitting in an

ANGRY commuter Denise Rayner has had a notice of prosecution after refusing to pay to sit in a first-class compartment on a packed Thameslink train last year.

Denise, aged 53, of St John's Court, St Albans, made a stand over the issue after sitting in an empty first-class seat because she had hurt her neck badly in an incident with a lift door and no other seats were available.

When an inspector came into the carriage and accused her of sitting there unlawfully and told her she would have to pay, Denise refused because the rest of the First Capital Connect (FCC) London-bound commuter train was so overcrowded.

She was marched off the train at St Pancras by the inspector who left her standing on the platform there while he took her season ticket, photocard, Oyster card and a credit card to put them in a notice of prosecution.

Even though Denise subsequently wrote to FCC MD Elaine Holt about the situation she found herself in last September, she has now been served with a summons to appear in court in March.

The summons, which she has only just received, was dated October 22 - six days after FCC's prosecution department had contacted her giving her seven days to respond to their letter.

Denise is furious that she has never been given the chance to pay the outstanding fare, pointing out that even when you are given a speeding fine you are given the chance to pay before being taken to court.

And she feels that FCC's reaction is way over the top for a small fare and questions the train company's claim that it has empathy with its customers.

To add insult to injury, when she renewed her season ticket in December, she received two complimentary tickets from FCC for being a "valued" annual season ticket holder.

Denise added: "By my calculations I have spent between £25,000 and £30,000 on that train service over the years and if I spent that in a supermarket I would be showered with loyalty points."

She said that anyone travelling on a fast train into London from St Albans between 7.30am and 9am on weekdays would be, "very, very lucky to get a seat" although they might be able to on a slow or semi-slow train.

She added: "The way they treat their customers is outrageous. If cattle were treated that way, there would be people outside demonstrating. But I never expected it to go this far or wait so long for a summons."

A spokesperson for FCC said that anyone using first class with a standard ticket who didn't have the means to pay or refused to pay the penalty fare would be cautioned and prosecution would inevitably follow.

He pointed out that if a penalty fare was issued and paid, a passenger had the right to appeal but not if they refused.

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