In a joint effort to recoup some of the millions lost to fare dodgers every year, Britain’s rail companies have announced a wholesale crackdown on people who avoid paying for their journeys, vowing to prosecute offenders through the courts.
One of the first victims of the clampdown was ex-Defence Secretary and railway enthusiast, Michael Portillo, who was arrested at his home yesterday for alleged non-payment of rail fares over a period of 7 years.
In his popular, long running show, Great British Railway Journeys, Portillo travels the length and breadth of the country by rail, never forgetting to take his copy of Bradshaw’s Victorian Railway Guide with him.
What he has been forgetting, however, is to pay for a ticket, and according to the rail companies, now owes just over a million pounds in unpaid fares, a matter which led to his arrest and detention yesterday at Ebury Bridge police station close to his home in Westminster.
Following his release on police bail, Portillo strongly denied any wrongdoing.
“I always assumed the BBC had paid for my ticket in advance so I just used to walk through the open section of the barrier that’s used by kids and people in wheelchairs.
“If I’d known I had to pay, I’d have applied for a discount railcard and used my over 60s Freedom Pass where possible. There’s no way I was deliberately trying to pull a fast one.
“In my defence, I’ve always paid for my own meals and drinks on board. Surely that must count for something, even if I did later claim the money back on expenses”
In other rail travel-related news, Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, yesterday reiterated his plans to nationalise the country’s railways, calling some of the rolling stock, “unfit for purpose”, after Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, got her arse jammed between the armrests of a seat on the Victoria to Gatwick Express on Monday afternoon.