RAIL passengers travelling without a ticket on two routes in the Bradford district could be hit with on-the-spot fines in a fresh crackdown on fare dodgers, a rail company has announced.

A team of 'authorised collectors' will be positioned at stations along the Airedale and Wharfedale lines to issue £20 'penalty fares' to ticketless travellers.

Train operator Northern is bringing in the changes as part of a campaign to get all its passengers to buy their tickets before they get onboard .

The penalty fares system – already used by other train operators in different parts of the country – will start in the Bradford district on December 6.

It means passengers travelling without a ticket on a Northern train from that date anywhere between Leeds and Bradford Forster Square, Leeds/Bradford and Ilkley, or Leeds/Bradford and Skipton, could be penalised on the spot.

Other stations on those routes include Frizinghall, Shipley, Keighley, Baildon and Guiseley.

Northern says it has invested in new state-of-the-art ticket machines at all stations on the two lines. Posters are going up at stations, while leaflets will be handed out to rail passengers to explain all about it.

Tim Calow, chairman of the Aire Valley Rail User’s Group said that, in principle, it was important to stop people travelling without paying, but more ticket machines were needed at stations first.

“There are some stations such as Silsden and Steeton where there is only one machine – a five minute walk from other platforms, and in Cononley people from the village wanting to go to Skipton will have to cross the level crossing twice to get a ticket first.

“I’ve had emails from Northern saying they plan to put in more machines but I doubt it will happen before December 6.”

Paul Barnfield, regional director for Northern, said: “The penalty fares are a natural extension of the Buy Before You Board Campaign we launched last year.

"Sadly there is still a minority who believe they have a right to travel without buying a ticket.

“Their actions reduce the overall income of the rail industry and, as a result, reduces the money available to invest in further improvements to the railway.

“Everyone who travels by train should have a valid ticket or pass, or must be able to demonstrate they have made every effort to buy a ticket before they boarded.

“If they are unable to do either of these then, from December 6, our authorised collectors will be on hand at stations along the routes to either issue £20 fines or ask customers to pay double the cost of a single ticket to their destination.”

Mr Barnfield spoke of the measures that have been introduced to prevent well-intentioned passengers falling foul of the new crackdown.

He said: "We have invested in new state-of-the-art ticket machines at all stations on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines.

"These machines offer a full range of fares – including discounts.

“With online and mobile ticketing, as well as ticket offices at our staffed stations, there is really no reason for anyone to board a train without a valid ticket.

“For customers who want to pay by cash, our ticket machines will issue Promise to Pay notices which can be exchanged (along with a cash payment) for a ticket when on board the service or at the next available ticket office.”

Penalty fares have been used by a number of train operators across the country for more than 20 years.

The scheme works to a national set of rules which include signs and warning notices at stations. There is also a clear appeals process which has been tried and tested by the industry.

The new scheme seems set to replace a previous 'failure to purchase' system, which had prompted complaints from passengers.

Go to northernrailway.co.uk/penalty-fares to find out more about the new scheme.