Rail operator Northern Railways has fired a warning to persistent fare dodgers to expect to be prosecuted for historic cases.

Where there is a "proven pattern of behaviour", the company's Debt Recovery and Prosecutions Unit (DRPU) will build a case for the courts that outlines the full scale of the perpetrator’s deception over many years.

With 70 per cent of tickets for Northern services now bought via online platforms, the Digital Fraud Investigations Team within the DRPU can scrutinise the circumstances of suspected fare evasion incidents in much more detail.

Mark Powles, commercial and customer director at Northern, said: “Fare evasion hasn’t been as simple as people just not buying a ticket for quite some time.

“There are people who try to outsmart the system through a complex process of fraudulent refund requests, delay repay claims and a process known as ‘short faring’.

“What those people might not realise is that, as with any electronic transaction, our systems are able to identify suspicious activity and bring it to the attention of our specialist investigators.” 

Northern created its Digital Fraud Investigations Team in 2021 in response to the surge in digital ticketing post-pandemic.

They have contributed to the DRPU’s investigations into 108,681 reports of attempted fare evasion in the 2022-23 financial year.

The team’s in-house prosecutors attended 301 court sittings during the same period, helping to secure 14,072 convictions and recoup £2.9m (£2,851,883) of lost revenue for the taxpayer.

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