Rail travellers are being warned not to travel without a ticket - after a student was forced to pay £276 after being caught without a £2.90 ticket.
Luke Purcell, aged 22, an IT student at Sheffield Hallam University, was hit with the bill, covering a fine and costs, after being prosecuted.
Rail operators East Midlands Trains and Northern warn that passengers must buy a ticket before boarding at a station with a ticket office - or risk prosecution.
Both firms say there is a major problem with fare evasion between Sheffield and small stations.
Luke, from Ecclesfield, said he had a £5 note in his hand when he boarded the Northern Rail Sheffield to Chapeltown train and intended to buy a ticket onboard. When he alighted, revenue protection officials were doing a spot check.
Luke said: “It’s going to be hard to pay such a large bill.”
Northern gives passengers without tickets 21 days to pay full fare or be prosecuted.
East Midlands Trains, which prosecuted Luke, hands out £20 penalty fares at certain advertised stations - but Chapeltown is not one of them. The company said he was invited to give mitigation before he was prosecuted - but failed to.
An East Midlands Trains spokeswoman said: “Fare dodging is now estimated to be depriving the UK rail network of £240 million a year. This is money that passengers would rather see going back into improvements.”
Northern said: “We’re committed to a firm but fair approach in reducing fare evasion.”
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