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Dyslexic Oliver Edwards from Sheppey 'fined' £20 by Southeastern because he 'can't read'

By John Nurden

A dyslexic man has been given a £20 penalty for not buying a train ticket - because he can't read.

Oliver Edwards was travelling the 10 miles from his home in Sheerness to Sittingbourne but says he couldn't use the automatic ticket machine.

He said: "I usually get to the station early and the ticket office staff help me. But this time the office was closed.

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Oliver Edwards struggles to use the ticket machines

"There is a ticket machine outside which is said to be dyslexic-friendly but I can't read it.

"I asked a member of staff on the platform what to do and she told me to pay the guard on the train. But the guard never came.

"When I reached Sittingbourne I explained what had happened and offered to pay the £3.50 fare with a £5 note.

"But the woman on the gate refused to accept it and gave me the penalty notice.

"The reason she wrote on the notice was 'Can't read'."

Oliver Edwards outside Sheerness train station with his £20 penalty notice
Oliver Edwards outside Sheerness train station with his £20 penalty notice

Oliver, 22, who lives with his widowed mother in Hope Street, Sheerness, said: "I normally use a dyslexia pen which speaks text but it doesn't work on computer screens.

"The woman at Sittingbourne told me the screen was dyslexic-friendly and changed colour but I couldn't work out how to change it.

"Even if I could, I still couldn't have read the words. I can't read or write.

"I showed her my disability Railcard but she didn't want to listen and issued me with a £20 fine."

Oliver, who speaks into his phone to write messages, has appealed and complained to Southeastern's customer services.

Can't read - penalty notice from Southeastern
Can't read - penalty notice from Southeastern

"He said: "I was not happy with this. I would never get on a train without a ticket.

"But this time they told me to get on without a ticket so that's what I did."

The former pupil of Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, who will soon be starting a policing degree at London's University of Law, caught the 6.42pm train on Wednesday to collect a bike from Halfords.

A spokesman for Southeastern said: “We’re really clear that wherever possible, you must purchase a ticket before boarding a train.

"A penalty fare isn't a fine but rather a reminder to our passengers that they must buy a ticket before boarding a train.

"We would strongly encourage anyone who feels that they have received a Penalty Fare Notice in error to appeal to our independent appeals service.

"Under our Disabled Persons' Protection Policy, which can be found on our website, if you are disabled and haven’t been able to purchase a ticket before travelling, for a reason related to your disability, you will not be subject to a penalty fare and you’ll be able to purchase the full range of tickets available to you, including any appropriate discount that applies either on board the train or at your destination."

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