Thameslink passenger made to prove she was pregnant
PUBLISHED: 18:30 27 September 2012
A PREGNANT woman was forced to bare her bump when she was quizzed by a ticket inspector to prove why she was sitting in the first class carriage of a “rammed” train on Monday morning.
Samantha Robinson, of Heath Road, St Albans, has expressed her disgust at witnessing a mum-to-be having to lift up her top to expose her pregnant stomach to dodge being penalised for unlawfully sitting in first class because the train was so overcrowded.
The outraged commuter, who had also taken up an empty seat in first class, boarded the 9.02am First Capital Connect (FCC) train from St Albans when the guard came round and inspected passengers tickets.
While she said the woman, thought to be in her 30s, was eventually allowed to stay in first class after showing her bump, she claimed she was “treated like a criminal” and handed an on-the-spot fine.
Ms Robinson explained: “It was rammed and people were standing in the first class carriage. I was standing there wedged against the seat and I thought I would sit down. The guard came in and did a sweep of first class and no one had first class tickets.
“The first person he hit on looked like a student; she was really upset and said she didn’t know it was first class. But he would not have it so she got a caution.
“A couple of people paid the fine and a pregnant woman who was really obviously seven or eight months pregnant showed her ticket but it was not the right one. She said ‘Can I not stay here because I am pregnant?’ and he said ‘How do I know?’. She said ‘Because of my big fat belly’ and lifted up her top, which she should not have to do.
She continued: “It is ridiculous, he should not have asked her in the first place. It is not laughable, I was shocked, I sat there open-mouthed; they cannot treat people like this.
“The guard was not apologetic. I am sure he would have been very happy to turf her out if he could. I got the impression if she didn’t show him he would have fined her.”
Ms Robinson, who is an annual season ticket holder, had left the house without her purse that morning so when she was issued with the £35 fine for not having the right ticket to be in first class, she asked to settle it the next day.
But she was told that because she couldn’t pay it immediately, FCC would now decide whether to prosecute and she could face a fine of up to £1,000. She added: “I was treated like a criminal because I sat on a seat on a packed train. I did ask ‘Can I not pay it tomorrow?’ but there was no grace.”
Overcrowding on the Thamselink service between Bedford and Brighton is an ongoing issue that FCC has made efforts to address by introducing longer 12-carriage trains.
The train firm offers priority seating in standard class for mums-to-be and issues priority seating cards free of charge if a maternity certificate and doctor’s note is provided. For a limited time they are also giving a maternity upgrade to first class if those documents are shown.
A spokesman for FCC said: “Customers who have bought first class tickets complain that seats are taken by people who have not paid the correct fare and we have a duty to enforce this. On this train we have already declassified two of the four first class compartments to provide more standard class seating.
“The lady in question did not have either priority card or letter entitling her to an upgrade and so was not entitled to sit in first class. However, our colleague carrying out the ticket check of course exercised discretion once she showed him her NHS card and allowed her to remain seated.”