GTR operates three train brands on the London-Brighton mainline, namely: Thameslink, Southern, and Gatwick Express. GTR’s ticketing practice is to issue fares that restrict travel to:
(i) just Thameslink-branded trains (‘Thameslink Only’ tickets)
(ii) just Southern-branded trains (‘Southern Only’ tickets), or either Thameslink or Southern-branded trains (‘Not Gatwick Express’ tickets). Mr Boyle claims that the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement and National Rail Conditions of Travel do not permit GTR to issue brand-restricted fares, and that each ticket should allow travel on each brand.
The same principle applies to contactless payments where rail passengers “tap in or out” at London Victoria platforms 13 or 14 as compared with tapping in or out at other platforms at London Victoria. The Gatwick Express brand are usually served by platforms 13 or 14 and those ticket barriers are programmed to charge higher prices, to reflect the higher price of the Gatwick Express. Passengers should not be charged higher prices for using Gatwick Express trains. Finally, as GTR should not be charging different process for the brand of train, Mr Boyle says that GTR is violating competition laws by imposing excess or penalty fares on rail passengers caught travelling on the ‘wrong’ brand.
Mr Boyle says that GTR’s practices violate UK competition rules. A rule of thumb is that ‘Any Permitted’ fares are the most expensive, followed by Not Gatwick Express fares. The Southern Only or Thameslink Only fares are the cheapest. Thus, those that paid more for a given ticket, or paid penalty fares, have overpaid and are entitled to damages.
GTR and its parent companies strenuously objected to Mr Boyle application for class certification, but the Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”) unanimously found in favour of the majority of Mr Boyle’s arguments. The Department for Transport has also asked for permission to join the claim.
This is not the end of the matter, now that the CAT has approved Mr Boyle and GTR has not appealed, the case can proceed to trial. If the case is won at trial, or a settlement is reached with GTR, the millions of passengers will receive compensation.
If you are an affected passenger and live in the UK you are automatically included in the claim, although you can ‘opt-out’ of the claim if you wish. If you are an affected passenger who does not live in the UK you are not automatically included, although you will be eligible to be included by completing the simple form available at https://www.gtrclaim.co.uk/Home/portalid/0?portalid=0 in due course.