St Albans dad unexpectedly changes train journey to see seriously ill son in hospital - Govia Thameslink fine him

Atticus was seriously ill in hospital with suspected meningitis

Atticus was seriously ill in hospital with suspected meningitis - Credit: Archant

The mother of a 22 month old who was rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis has condemned the train company that fined her husband for an incorrect train ticket when he was on his way to see him.

Tony, Atticus and Lauren

Tony, Atticus and Lauren - Credit: Archant

Lauren Gow, of Churchill Road, St Albans, was having lunch last Wednesday (14) when her son Atticus had a seizure and was taken to QE2 hospital.

On her way to the hospital, she called her husband Tony Walters to let him know and he left work, buying a ticket from Kings Cross to Welwyn Garden City in the process.

Atticus suddenly took a turn for the worse; a rash developed on his stomach and he went ‘floppy’. Lauren said: “Anyone would know this is a sign of meningitis.”

They went straight to Lister Hospital and let Tony, who was already on the train to Welwyn, know. Lauren added: “It was all systems go, 999, paramedics, ambulance.”

Lauren, Atticus, and Tony

Lauren, Atticus, and Tony - Credit: Archant

Tony stayed on the train to Stevenage, and offered to pay the difference when he got off the train. Instead, he was greeted with a fine.

Lauren added: “He explained to the guard that he would pay the fare difference and that he was desperately trying to get to his son in hospital.”

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Tony was told that the fine still stood and he had to pay a £20 penalty fare. Lauren said: “He was very unsympathetic.

“We both have a £3,000-plus season ticket; we’re not rule breakers, there has to be exceptional circumstances.

“It’s the fact that he actually stopped to buy the ticket and it’s not his fault that the circumstances changed.”

After appealing the fine, the family received a second blow when it was rejected.

They were told that Tony should have got off the train at Welwyn, bought a ticket to Stevenage, and then waited for the next train.

Lauren added: “What kind of parent is going to do that?

“If something had happened in that time it could have been the difference of seeing and not seeing our son.”

A spokesman for Govia Thameslink said that the appeal system based its decision solely on whether National Rail conditions had been broken, and they were.

But he added: “However, we are surprised and saddened to hear that he was fined in the first place when he was going through such a traumatic experience as the sudden illness of his baby son.

“We would have expected our members of station staff to have exercised discretion and would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to both mum and dad. We will be speaking to the staff involved.”

The company are refunding the penalty fare, sending two complimentary first class tickets and have made a £100 donation to the East & North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity for the hospital where Atticus was treated.

Atticus was later diagnosed with a virus and is now recovering.