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The BBC's Graham Satchell
"Downing street has tried to play down the embarrassment"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 12:33 GMT
That's the ticket, Cherie

...And here's one she bought earlier


A smiling prime minister's wife started on the right track for her second day as a court recorder as she arrived at Luton railway station brandishing a valid rail ticket.

Cherie Blair paid a 10 penalty fare on Monday after travelling on a Thameslink train in London to Luton in Beds without having paid the 9.70 fare.

But after her brush with transport law made headlines in the newspapers, she arrived for her journey on Tuesday proudly displaying her ticket to waiting reporters.

As she was escorted through the station by staff she was asked if she had a ticket and replied defiantly: "Yes, I have."

There was a brief panic when Mrs Blair arrived on the delayed 9.18 train at 9.25 with no sign of her escort in sight.

But within minutes Thameslink area business manager Ian McEvoy arrived on the scene to accompany her on the 15-minute walk to Luton Crown Court, where she was due to resume hearing a criminal case.

Embarrassment

Mrs Blair admitted being embarrassed after being fined for failing to buy a train ticket on her way to work as a judge.

She had just returned from holiday with her husband in Portugal, only had Portuguese currency with her at the time.

She was unable to use her credit card at the ticket machine at the station in London as it only took cash, Downing Street said.

But when Mrs Blair arrived at Luton station she told the ticket collector she had not bought the ticket and subsequently paid the 9.70 return fare and the fixed penalty of 10 with her credit card.

Commuter sympathy

Commuters at Blackfriars station on Tuesday sympathised with Mrs Blair's ticket dilemma.

Solicitor, Jonathan Crawford, 27, from Wandsworth, south London, said: "Cherie made a genuine mistake and it's one I've made myself.

"I really don't think she's a dishonest woman. It's easy to make a mistake and Cherie is no different to anybody else."

Andreas Silverman, 32, a publisher from Winchmoor, said: "This was a genuine mistake - I know that because it's happened to me.

"It's not always possible to carry cash around. The railways are supposed to provide a service and cater for people, no matter what they carry."

But barrister's clerk James Vaughan, 18, from Kent, said he had no sympathy for Mrs Blair, adding: "She should have sorted out her cash situation beforehand. There's no point in having Portuguese money is there.

"Everybody knows that ticket machines don't take credit cards."

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See also:
10 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
PM's wife pays penalty fare
10 Jan 00 |  UK
Tickets please: Fair's fare
10 Jan 00 |  UK
Your job's worth more than you are

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