An angry mum has blasted rail bosses who are prosecuting her for fare evasion despite her claims that she paid the correct amount.
Claire Long is being taken to court after refusing to pay the £85 fine for purchasing an incorrect ticket, despite it being the same price as the longer journey she had actually made.
And to make matters worse, she is the only one out of several friends who were also stopped, to have been given a fine.
The incident in question took place in February, when the 40-year-old boarded a train to Manchester Victoria from Orrell, a station which has no ticket purchasing facilities.
Claire said: “We knew there would be no trains back to Orrell by the time we were coming back home, so we asked for returns to Wigan Wallgate.”
Despite Orrell station being one stop further away from Manchester than Wigan, a return ticket at that time would have cost exactly the same as one from Wallgate, at £5.40.
But as Claire and her friends were going through the barriers at Victoria, they were stopped by an inspector who questioned their purchase.
Claire said: “I explained everything to her but she said we were trying to defraud the train company. I have travelled that route so many times and I’ve never had this problem.”
Four out of the eleven-strong group which Claire was travelling with were stopped for the same reason, and they all received letters in the post shortly afterwards.
“One of my friends got a formal warning, but I got a fixed penalty notice of £85, which I disputed because I had a valid ticket, as far as I’m concerned.”
Having not heard back from Northern Rail for several months, Claire assumed the matter had been dropped, until just last week when she received a court summons over the unpaid fine.
A frustrated Claire said: “It’s ridiculous, it’s pathetic. I’m a single mum and this is just too costly.
“If I wanted to avoid a fare, I would have asked for a ticket from somewhere much closer and saved myself a lot of money.
“You just wonder what the criteria is to be fined, especially with me being the only one getting prosecuted when there were four of us stopped at the exact same time.”
She added: “I just feel they have too much power. It just seems like another way to make money.
“Fair enough, they might actually find some real fare dodgers, but proceeding with this when I haven’t done anything wrong is ridiculous.”
On its website, the rail firm states: “Northern Rail does not issue any fines instantaneously.
“Typically an ‘unpaid fares notice’ or a ‘fail to purchase notice’ will be issued granting the customer 21 days to remedy the payment of the fare only.
“In some instances an incident report will be created and further information will be requested before a final decision is made as to the outcome.
It is estimated that fare evasion costs the rail industry over £200m a year.
Northern Rail were approached for comment but had not responded by the time of publication.