A man was hit with a whopping £703 fine after failing to pay for a £2.60 train ticket to Wirral.

Terry Harrison, 45, wanted to avoid a large taxi fare by taking a Merseyrail train from Sandhills to Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, in August. But when he and his son got off at Moorfields to change trains, they were stopped by security guards and given an immediate £100 penalty notice for travelling without a ticket.

Terry said: "My son had a meeting over in Hamilton square. I got a taxi down to his, he said keep the taxi on and I said no chance, too expensive. So we just walked down to Sandhills. We went to pay as you do, but there was nobody in the paying window. We were running late; we heard the train coming so we ran to the platform - we just expected to pay at the other side."

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Terry said he wasn't worried as he used the Merseyrail service every day, and "nobody ever had a problem before" when he paid after a journey. So he was shocked when he was handed a £100 penalty fare, which Merseyrail warns may be issued if a passenger travels without a valid ticket, or fails to print off a valid ticket purchased online before travelling.

He said: "We said we'd run up to the desk and pay now but (the guard) said no, no. So I gave him my name and he came back with my address and my date of birth and started reading me my rights. To be honest I got a bit on my high horse. I asked him where he got my information and he just kept telling me I had the right to remain silent. I took the slip and that was that. But it was just eating away at me. I was waiting to see what was going to come of it."

After failing to pay the £100 fine, Terry was charged with failing to produce a ticket and was sent a letter from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service inviting him to plead guilty or not guilty. This too went unanswered, and Terry was charged £703.40 by the courts on October 14.

On November 7 he received a further letter from the courts warning him that, as he had not paid the hefty charge, a warrant could be issued for the seizure of his property, including his car. It also warned deductions could be made from his income or benefits, and that his name could be added to the Registry of Judgments, Orders and Fines, affecting his ability to obtain credit.

It also warned the continued refusal to pay could result in the charge being bumped up to £1,055.10, and a warrant being issued for his arrest.

But Terry said he would fight the charge - "even if it puts me in jail".

He said: "I'm willing to pay the fare, nothing else. I don't want to be extorted, but I'm willing to pay the fare, which I said at the start.

"I don't dodge train tickets. I've been using the trains for the past two years and I pay for every single journey. (The charge) is morally wrong, and you have to ask where the money is going to. How are they coming to the conclusions of these fines? I just feel it is wrong and that's why I'm willing to fight it in court myself. Even if it puts me in jail, I'm fed up of it."

Suzanne Grant, Commercial Director at Merseyrail said: “We operate a long established ‘Buy before you ride’ policy. All customers must be in possession of a valid ticket or pass covering their entire journey whilst travelling on the Merseyrail network.

“Whilst we can’t discuss individual cases, anyone issued a penalty is provided with clear information about how to pay. The fine is £100 but reduces to £50 if paid within the first 21 days. Anyone issued a penalty is also given clear information on how they can appeal the decision through an independent appeals service.

“Ultimately if a case progresses to court, the original fine of £100 is likely to increase significantly, with the court applying their own costs in the event the offence is proven.”

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