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Permit to Travel -or- the clever way to get a free train ride

The rail network in the UK was, until recently, notorious for being easy to fare-dodge on. With new policies and procedures on every independent operator, it has recently become much more likely that a conductor will check your ticket at least once during your journey, and that fare dodgers will be made to pay the £10 fine.

There is a way to avoid this.

In almost every train station in the United Kingdom is a machine dispensing 'permits to travel'. These are your friends. Ostensibly there in case the ticket machine is not working and there is no member of staff at the kiosk to sell you a ticket, these small slips of paper cost 90p, and are your easy way out of a fine.

The holder of a permit to travel is entitled to make a journey on a train until such time as he or she should see a conductor, when he is obliged to buy a ticket. In theory, the conductor should be sought out as soon as the train is boarded, but since your embarkation point is not printed on the permit to travel, there is no way to prove this has not been done. Also, this enables you to lie about where you came from and obtain a cheaper fare.

The mathematics are simple. Fare dodgers not carrying a permit to travel must buy a ticket and pay a £10 fine. Fare dodgers carrying a permit to travel can buy a ticket and not pay a fine. That's a net gain of £9.10 if you're 'caught', and a huge gain if you're not.

Tips for clever fare dodgers

  • Travel in the evening. This way, your claim that the ticket office was shut is more credible, and you are less likely to encounter a conductor - normally about half the time.
  • Lie about your embarkation point and destination. Remember, even if you have to buy a ticket, you still hold the permit to travel. Should you be checked again after your ticket has run out, just use the permit again.
  • If you see one, stand up and approach the conductor, pretending you have been looking for him. This way, he thinks you are totally honest in your purchase of a permit to travel. He will be so blown away by your honesty that he will be unlikely to ask questions.

Have fun on your new, significantly cheaper, transport method!


No dishonest (but perfectly legal*) activity was either suggested or endorsed by this writeup.

OK, it seems it's not perfectly legal, it's 'obtaining a financial advantage by deception'. (Thanks, Cyan de Funk.) But hey, that's too long for your average conductor to understand.

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