MP slams ‘unfair’ Stansted Airport train fare penalties
Lifestyle / Wed 7th Feb 2024 at 09:36am
AN Essex MP has slammed an ‘unfair’ £100 fine facing travellers arriving at Stansted Airport train station from London due to being unable to ‘tap out’ from the Transport for London (TfL) network with Oyster or contactless bank cards reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
A spokesperson for Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said that the MP for Saffron Walden, whose constituency covers the Stansted area, would be “making enquiries directly to Greater Anglia and the Department for Transport regarding contactless card readers at Stansted Airport Station”.
All customers travelling from London to Stansted Airport are currently unable to use contactless bank or Oyster cards to tap out of the TfL network upon arrival, but are able to do so at Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale stations, giving ticket inspectors time to penalise those without a valid ticket.
Around 9.7 million people used London Stansted Airport train station last year, with the majority of passengers travelling from London. Penalty fares are £100 plus the cost of the applicable ticket. An “anytime” ticket to Stansted from London Liverpool Street is £21.40, meaning each passenger who mistakenly uses a contactless card to travel to the airport is made to pay £121.40 in total.
Data collected by independent transport watchdog London TravelWatch in 2019 revealed that over 16,000 people were handed penalty fines once they had arrived at Stansted. Chief executive Michael Roberts said: “It’s plainly wrong that passengers continue to be unfairly penalised for not knowing that contactless payment isn’t accepted at London Stansted Airport.
“With ‘London’ in its name, people quite reasonably assume that they’ll be able to tap out using a contactless card, especially when they were allowed to tap in using one at the start of their journey.”
Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath and the party’s transport spokesperson, said: “What are train companies doing trying to catch out their own customers?
“Passengers shouldn’t be heavily penalised simply for making an honest mistake. Ministers and the rail company need to sort out this mess and ensure contactless travel is rolled out to this route.”
Greater Anglia has not disclosed the number of fines the company has handed to customers arriving at Stansted Airport in the years since 2019, nor how much revenue has been generated from the penalty fares.
A spokesperson for the train company previously blamed the government for contactless cards not being valid for use at Stansted Airport, saying that such a step is dependent on funding supplied by the Department for Transport. However, the Department’s response made clear that it is “the responsibility of Greater Anglia to inform its customers how to pay its fares, and we advise passengers to always check before they travel”.
In a statement provided to LDRS, when asked if there were any plans to improve or increase signage warning customers of being unable to use contactless cards upon exiting at Stansted Airport a representative from Greater Anglia said the following:
“Given that rail journeys to Stansted Airport are not currently covered by contactless options, and there is no date currently for when or if that might happen, Greater Anglia has deployed a number of significant actions, including extra signage, extra staff, extra announcements and extra information at London Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale, to reinforce the fact that Oyster is not valid to Stansted Airport and that there is currently no contactless option available.
“These steps have already reduced the number of cases of passengers travelling without the correct ticketing. To further raise awareness, additional on-train announcements are also being introduced.
“We’re keen to see the extension of contactless ticketing to Stansted Airport, as that would simplify the position and be more convenient for customers, but such a step is dependent on receipt of the necessary funding and approvals from the Department for Transport.”
Greater Anglia is the only train company in Britain that makes a financial surplus, requiring no government subsidy.
Solution is simple. Do not use the trains.
You're the bloody government. If you want TfL services to go as far out as Stansted (and IMO, it absolutely should - and equivalent distances in the other Home Counties) then get doing and stop talking.
As a newly retired partially sighted and partially deaf person who has to go through London to reach Stansted (for the first time soon) and loves contactless - GET THIS SORTED NOW. Foreign travellers beware!! Smacks of profiteering.
This explains why passengers off trains arriving at Stanstead Airport from London are faced with queues to get through the 'ticket barrier' and several prominent signs warning about action for abusing the staff. Without then knowing the background, I felt as if subject to a deliberate form of unpleasantness whilst shuffling forward for some minutes to present my (valid) ticket.
It's the passengers responsibility to check if there designation is valid with tap in so there's nothing wrong with that Greater Anglia are doing. Its a railway station not a train station.