RAIL operator Northern – which runs services on the Airedale line – has issued a warning to 'serial fare dodgers'.

The company has pledged that when a persistent ticket evader is caught, investigations will also be carried out – and prosecutions pursued – into historic offences.

Northern says its debt recovery and prosecutions unit "will build a case for the courts that outlines the full scale of the perpetrator’s deception over many years".

With 70 per cent of tickets for Northern services now bought online, a specialist digital fraud investigations team based within the unit can scrutinise in detail the circumstances of suspected fare evasion incidents.

Mark Powles, the company's commercial and customer director, says: "For quite some time now, fare evasion hasn’t been as simple as people just not buying a ticket.

"There are those who try to outsmart the system through a complex process of fraudulent refund requests, delay repay claims and a process known as ‘short faring’.

"What these people might not realise is that, as with any electronic transaction, our systems are able to identify suspicious activity and bring it to the attention of our specialist investigators."

Northern created its digital fraud investigations team in 2021 in response to a surge in online ticketing post-pandemic.

The team contributed to investigations by the debt recovery and prosecutions unit into 108,681 reports of attempted fare evasion in the 2022-23 financial year.

During that period, the team’s in-house prosecutors attended 301 court sittings, helping to secure 14,072 convictions and recoup nearly £2.9 million of lost revenue for taxpayers.

Northern – which is the second largest train operator in the UK, with nearly 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the north of England – is further bolstering its clampdown on fare evasion by recruiting a revenue enforcement delivery manager to join the team.

Its warning was issued to coincide with International Fraud Awareness Week, which spotlights global efforts to minimise the impact of fraudulent activities on society.

The initiative is organised by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

It says that according to Occupational Fraud 2022: A Report to the Nations, companies lose an estimated five per cent of their revenue annually due to fraud.

Launched in 2000, the campaign encourages business leaders and employees to promote anti-fraud awareness.

For further information about the week, plus tips and access to a range of resources, visit fraudweek.com