After being given permission from the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in October to file a £93million claim against SWR and Southeastern, a group of passengers is now attempting to bring a similar lawsuit for £73million against the UK’s largest train operator, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
GTR runs its trains under the Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express brands, providing most of the National Rail services to boroughs such as Croydon, Sutton, Merton, Barnet, Camden and Haringey.
The passengers claim that just like SWR and Southeastern in their other ongoing case, GTR is in breach of competition laws because their ‘boundary fare’ tickets cannot be purchased at ticket machines or on its website/app. Instead, only if you know about the ticket are you able to ask for it at a manned station counter. Therefore, 3.2million passengers may have been overcharged according to the passengers.
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Boundary fares allow passengers who have Travelcards, special passes or season tickets up to a certain zone to travel beyond that zone without having to leave the train at the last station in the zone (i.e. boundary), buy a newer, more expensive ticket and continue their journey.
For example, someone with a Travelcard up to Zone 4 wants to make a one-off journey to St Albans City, outside of the numbered fare zones.
The fastest Thameslink trains to St Albans City do not stop in Zone 4, meaning the cheapest and most efficient way for someone to get there would be to buy a single ticket from ‘Boundary Zone 4’ to St Albans City and use their Travelcard up to the boundary.
The ‘problem’ is that unless the passenger knows to go to a manned ticket office counter and ask for that specific ticket, they would be unable to find that out. Instead, they would simply take a slower train to the last station in Zone 4 (Mill Hill Broadway) and then get a usually more expensive ticket to St Albans City from there.
The passengers are represented by Justin Gutmann, who used to work for London Underground and then for Citizens Advice.
He said: “This claim is the latest step in my campaign to stamp out routine overcharging of millions of passengers by some of Britain’s top rail operators. The failure of these companies to make Boundary Fares more freely available is scandalous and has been going on for years. It’s a practice that needs to stop – and passengers who have overpaid deserve compensation.”
As this is a class action lawsuit, should it be successful, anyone who can prove they have also been affected by this overcharging would be entitled to a share of the £73million, which is decided by the court and not by the passengers themselves. The court will take several months or potentially years to come to a decision as it took two years for Mr Gutmann and fellow passengers just to get permission to sue SWR and Southeastern.
The two now concurrent cases could now see passengers claim back a total of £166million if the court agrees with the estimations and that competition law was breached, specifically s.18 of the Competition Act 1998 and the 2015 Consumer Rights Act.
A Govia Thameslink Railway spokesperson said: “We are aware of this proposed claim. Should the claim progress, we will make our submissions to the tribunal in due course.”
Anyone who believes they could be entitled to some of the compensation should the claim be successful should go to boundaryfares.com, a website set up by Mr Gutmann and fellow passengers, to register an interest.
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