"The ticket machine wasn’t working” is often the ‘go to’ explanation for those unable to present a valid ticket for travel.
Now, staff will be able to check the status of more than 600 self-service ticket machines on the network via an app designed in partnership with Flowbird and RADD Solutions.
The app, which can show staff if a machine is ‘active’ and issuing tickets, will be a crucial tool in Northern’s use of penalty fares as it seeks to minimise fare evasion across its nearly 2,000 services a day.
Mark Powles, customer and commercial director, said: “Self-service ticket machines are a key part of our infrastructure that ensures customers can always buy a ticket before they travel.
"They have, however, been a convenient scapegoat when people are challenged as to why they don’t have a valid ticket for travel.
“Until now, our frontline staff have been in a difficult position when faced with this excuse, as without being able to check, there was always the possibility a machine somewhere on the network was out of action.
"Now, our colleagues will be able to ‘fact check’ the status of the machine in question and issue a penalty fare if appropriate.”
The news comes as Northern has introduced a ‘Quick Buy’ feature on its ticket vending machines following customer feedback, which has halved the number of steps required to purchase a ticket.
This is down from between seven and 10 buttons previous to only four, assuming no discount card needs to be applied.
The ‘Quick Buy’ feature also shows customers the next train due and gives a countdown which helps customers determine if they have time to catch the train from when they buy the ticket.
More than 240,000 customers use Northern’s ticket vending machines every four weeks – and they are just one of the ways Northern is making it easier for customers to buy tickets, with digital tickets available for all journeys via their website and app, as well as over the counter at staffed stations.
Fare evaders are prosecuted under the provisions of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 and the Railway Byelaws made pursuant to the Transport Act 2000.