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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 11:27 GMT
What is the commuter's scope for protest?
A Leeds woman has been fined after she opted for prosecution rather than pay an upgrade for a first class train ticket.

Lisa Muggeridge was fined 100 and ordered to pay 200 costs and the 6 upgrade price of her ticket for refusing to pay up when no second class seat was available to her.

Ms Muggeridge had regularly moved into the empty first-class area of the Arriva Trains Northern service when no seat was available in the packed second class section, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

However on this occasion when she refused to pay the upgrade after being ordered to do so by the train's conductor, she was prosecuted.

When does the commuter have a right to protest? How far would you take your grievance? Do you think Ms Muggeridge was right to take a stand?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your comments

There were absolutely no seats in standard class

Lisa Muggeridge, England
Just to clarify a few things. The guard was perfectly happy to let me sit in first class, until I questioned his aggressive behaviour to another passenger. There were absolutely no seats in standard class, and at the time the service to my area had been cut by almost half, due to engineering works. I don't believe I was childish, in acting as I did, I do believe that Arriva should provide better customer care training for their staff. I find most Arriva staff pleasant and courteous. However on this one occasion, the guard showed behaviour that was unacceptably aggressive.
Lisa Muggeridge, England

A classless society, what a laugh. Empty first class carriages whilst people are packed into second class like sardines. Well done, Lisa Muggeridge, you have guts to stand up for what is right, which is more than can be said for this government and the shambolic train companies. I hope many other commuters back this courageous lady all the way.
Simon I, Aylesbury, UK

Frankly, as a daily commuter, I see the first class section on trains as a bit of a joke. A few months ago, on a packed commuter train, we were practically hanging off the ceilings until someone noticed how empty first class was. So we went and stood, some sat, in there. When the guard came round, he said we shouldn't be in there but he wouldn't do anything about it if we all stood! After a heated exchange with a few of us, the jobsworth left. We sat back down talking about how pathetic the guard and his company were. Well done Ms Muggeridge, we need more people like you. Railway companies, get rid of first class, we should all have "first class" standards of travel!!
Rob Morris, UK

I use the same service as Lisa Muggeridge and perhaps I should explain exactly what Arriva "first class" means. It is one third of a carriage with electrical sockets at the tables and red cushions on the seats instead of blue. That is it. Why it should be more expensive is anyone's guess. No conductor has ever had the gall to ask me to pay a fee for this 'upgrade' and I have never seen it happen to anyone else either. Good on you Lisa. If I see you on the train I will shake your hand.
Tom, England

It is time the train companies treated us like real customers

Paul, UK
I think that it is time the train companies treated us like real customers, not animals. They - the train companies - should also take a leaf from the hospitality industry, where the customer is always right, no matter who is in the wrong.
Paul, UK

The seeming inability of the train operating companies and the unions to consider the needs of the travelling public is exemplified by the case of Lisa Muggeridge. If Arriva Trains devoted the same amount of energy to solving their trade dispute as they gave to pursuing their angry passenger through the courts, the dispute would have been resolved long ago. It is clear that, until the government, the train operating companies and the unions get their act together, no further large-scale investment in the railways is justified. Luddite unions and incompetent TOCs are forcing passengers off the railways. As for Mr Byers, he inspires no confidence whatever. He stands by and wrings his hands as the future of the railways goes down the tube.
Adrian Martin, England

I was actually told by a Central Trains conductor that my ticket entitles me to travel on the train and that it does not entitle me to a seat, when I complained about the overcrowding on our local train.
Allan, UK

People should protest about the poor state of the railways, but doing so by breaking contractual regulations that have no bearing on the service provided is simply childish

Simon Moore, UK
The rail companies have always operated under the system whereby a ticket permits you to travel but does not guarantee you a seat. Whether this is a good policy or not is a separate issue. The terms and conditions under which your ticket is purchased do not provide the right to a first class seat if there are no standard class seats available, and breaking these terms and conditions will result in a fine if you're caught. Therefore, by definition, it is correct that this lady should have been fined. Yes, I think people should protest about the poor state of the railways, but doing so by breaking contractual regulations that have no bearing on the state of the railways or the service provided is simply childish, as are most of the comments here.
Simon Moore, UK

Ms Muggeridge was unlucky. It is rare to see a conductor on Arriva or South West Trains these days as they spend most of their time on strike. However, it is time that the railways provided us with what we have paid for - a seat. It is time that commuters started to protest more by not showing tickets - they can't arrest an entire trainload.
Chris Klein, UK

We should all sit in first class and see if they can take all of us to court

Roy, UK
I cannot understand why so many first class carriages are available - they are usually empty. The economic argument by the train companies to segment the train into differently priced areas does not make sense when the customer requirement is to have a comfortable journey to and from work. We have to move away from this first class - second class nonsense! In my view the train companies provide an essential service to the economic well being of the country. However because they are private and therefore maximise profit, they will always be in conflict with what is in the best interest of their customers. We should set a date and all sit in first class and see if they can take all of us to court.
Roy, UK

I paid for an annual first class ticket to London on SWT for a number of years because of the unreliability of getting a seat out of Waterloo in the evenings. I have now dumped the train because of poor service and saved myself 4,000. Good luck to those like Lisa, why should the rail companies be allowed to provide a cattle truck service.
John, Hampshire, UK

Couldn't this sort of farce be avoided if railway staff were allowed to exercise a little flexibility

Times change. I was once coming back from London on a stinking hot Friday before a Bank Holiday. There was standing room only in second class so I went and sat in first, intending to pay the upgrade. When the ticket collector came round and I told him that I would pay the extra, he replied "that's alright sir - it's absolute chaos up the other end". Couldn't this sort of farce be avoided if railway staff were allowed to exercise a little flexibility and use their own judgement under such circumstances? A ticket should guarantee a seat.

As a commuter who has sat on his case in a corridor for the last 20 odd years I congratulate Lisa for her stand against this crazy system that we operate. I can only assume the Magistrate concerned had never travelled on a train and seen how overcrowded, dirty and generally disgusting they are. My 35 miles twice a day are truly the most horrible times of my day and despite 6 unanswered messages to Connex, they are likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. It was wrong for this lady to be fined - the train operator should have been instead for not providing adequate rolling stock and failing to provide a level of service to a standard that befits the cost of a ticket.
Dave, Kent, UK

It is simple then, all the people that are standing should take the train company to court for not providing a seat, and claim back a rebate - play them at their own game.
Martin, UK

Railways should operate on the same basis as airlines and only sell tickets for the number of seats available. Apart from the safety issue of additional injury risks in the event of an accident, why should a passenger be expected to stand for hours when he/she has bought a ticket, or is the ticket just for being transported and should those lucky enough to get a seat pay extra?
Brian W, UK

Under British Rail you had a right to sit in an empty first class seat

Roy, UK
Under British Rail, if standard class was full you had a right to sit in an empty first class seat. Yet another improvement brought to us by rail privatisation.
Roy, UK

If she'd been doing this on a regular basis then she should've known better. Did she even ask to sit in first class due to a lack of seats in second? I have only ever sat in first with a second class ticket once. It was during the petrol crisis and the train was so full people we're stood everywhere but first and premiere class. All it takes is to ask a member of staff and I'm sure they'll gladly help.
Matt, UK

Full marks to Lisa for her brave stand. When will railways have a statutory obligation to provide a seat for every passenger who wants one? If the rail companies lose revenue because second class passengers are sitting in first class, this should act as an incentive to improve second class, not to punish the unfortunate passenger.
Andy Millward, UK

Suppose everyone did what Ms Muggeridge had done. Then there would be no seats for those first class passengers who had paid more for the privilege of extra room. No sympathy here, it serves her right.
Alex Banks, UK

Alex Banks, how can you have no sympathy? Lisa may not have paid for a first class seat but she paid good money for a standard ticket. If the rail companies can't provide the seats for people paying good money for one then that's there own problem.
Adam, UK

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