It is in the news that a Metropolitan Police officer is being investigated after a mother was wrongfully arrested for bus fare evasion. However it is not clear, to me at least, exactly what the legal situation was regarding her detention.

Police were at the scene to support Transport for London (TfL) ticket inspectors as part of a "pre-planned operation" to tackle fare dodging.

The Metropolitan Police later said that the woman did have a valid ticket and acknowledged the incident had been distressing for her and her child.

They also said the woman "did not" provide her ticket as she got off the bus and when spoken to by a TfL inspector, a police community support officer (PCSO) and lastly by a police officer "she continued to walk away and did not provide her ticket for inspection".

It is not clear what '"did not" provide her ticket as she got off the bus' means, but for this question interpret it as "She was within the bus when the ticket inspector started talking and outside of the bus and had taken a handful of steps by the time they finished talking and she had an opportunity to respond".

If we concern ourselves only with the initial encounter between the woman and the TfL Revenue Inspector from this answer their powers are defined by the Regulation of Railways Act (1889) which state:

(1) Every passenger by a railway shall, on request by an officer or servant of a railway company, either produce, and if so requested deliver up, a ticket showing that his fare is paid, or pay his fare from the place whence he started, or give the officer or servant his name and address; and in case of default shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

The answer also says "the 'railway' (which includes TfL buses in London, yes it's weird)". I guess the question is are you "by a railway" while standing next to a bus you have just alighted from? What about once it has driven off? What if you have walked a few steps? Is that the same as "do you need to show a TfL Revenue Inspector your ticket" in the same situations?

  • Anedoctally, other parts of the world did away with the ticket by using this invention called turnstile. It fits inside a bus, can be placed at the entrance of an enclosed bus stop or station, and makes it clear who paid the fare and who didn't. Oct 24, 2023 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


I believe the linked answer is inaccurate as to the legislation applicable to buses, since the TfL Revenue Enforcement and Prosecutions Policy (at section 2.2 on page 3) says

Fare evasion on London Buses is contrary to section 67 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 and paragraph 7 of The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990.

It distinguishes this from the legislation used for railways. The actual rules are similar in spirit, however, but much more detailed than the quaint language in the 1889 Act.

The Regulations are made under powers granted in the Act of 1981, as cited in its section 25. There are various cases in paragraph 7 concerning different ways that people can get tickets, passes, etc. Simplifying considerably, you need to have a ticket of some sort, and officials can ask to see it. Not complying with the regulations is an offence.

It is clear that if somebody completed their entire bus journey without having a ticket (pass, etc.), then they would have contravened the regulations. That is so whether or not they also failed to comply with an inspector's request to see their ticket.

But there is an additional layer of regulation here, because as an alternative to this regime, TfL can charge a "penalty fare". The police statement quoted in the news report says:

Anyone without a valid ticket is required to provide their details to a TfL inspector so a penalty fare can be issued. This is not a policing matter. Officers only become involved where details are not provided or where someone tries to leave when challenged.

Penalty fares are provided for in Schedule 17 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. In relation to buses,

If a person travelling on a ticket bus service who has had a reasonable opportunity to obtain a fare ticket for a journey on that service fails to produce a fare ticket or a general travel authority on being required to do so by an authorised person, he shall be liable to pay a penalty fare if required to do so by an authorised person.

(and similarly for a "non-ticket bus service"). Once this has happened, the person cannot be prosecuted under the 1981 Act; see 8(3)(c) in Schedule 17. This particular set of rules does not require the penalty fare notice to be given while on the bus. Equally, for trains, it most normally happens at the station exit barriers rather than on the train itself.

What's described in the Met statement is a consequence of section 7(1) and (2) of Schedule 17. These say that a person is guilty of an offence if they do not give their name and address to an inspector trying to charge them a penalty fare. The police were present because even if someone is guilty of an offence, a ticket inspector isn't equipped to take matters any further.

There is a remaining question about the application of the 1990 Regulations to people who are not "passengers" any longer, having stepped off the bus. The text talks about a passenger having to

produce during his journey any travel mandate which authorises him to take that journey for inspection by the driver, inspector or conductor on being requested to do so by the driver, inspector or conductor;

but is not explicit about when "during his journey" ends. Given that other clauses mention a journey "which he intends to take, is taking, or has taken", it feels like "during his journey" should only refer to the middle part when he "is taking" it. Someone who was fare-dodging would be liable for the fare-dodging itself, whether or not he also broke this rule, so it may not come into play very much.

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