TfL sent me a demand for payment and two photos of my car, showing it in two different positions at two different times and taken less than 30 seconds apart. They wanted £130.00 for this privilege, making a yellow box junction one of the most expensive places to park in London. Being generous, TfL gave me the option of halving this fine by paying it within 14 days. Of course, I appealed the PCN.
The two photos I’d been sent were taken 24 seconds apart, during which time my car had moved about 2 metres. The contravention I was accused of was “entering and stopping in a box junction when prohibited”. Obviously, you have to enter a box junction to be able to cross it, but the photos sent to me clearly demonstrated that my car had moved during that 24 second period, so I put it to TfL in my appeal that the contravention didn’t actually occur.
Several weeks later TfL wrote to me again with a bunch of jargon and a third photo showing my car in the same position as in one of the previous photos. This photo was taken 10 seconds after the other one, confirming that my car had stopped on the box junction. Their letter stated that I still had the opportunity to pay the reduced fine of £65.00 within 14 days from the date of the letter (which was dated a week previously, giving me only 7 days to pay the reduced fine).
Admitting defeat and paying the fine was the only sensible option.
I rang the given telephone number to use the automated system and pay my fine but when I’d entered everything possible and had been through many number options, the automated female voice confirmed that my fine was £130.00.
So, I hung up, called back and selected an option to speak to a human.
In total I was on the phone to TfL for an hour and a half, being passed about between various robots and humans.
First, I had to be transferred to someone else to amend the amount of my fine. This was done and I was passed back to someone to make the payment. Notes on the system clearly showed that the fine should now only be £65.00 but the system was still showing I had to pay £130.00, so I was passed to someone again to update the amount due.
Someone else confirmed that the amount had been amended and that he’d have to put me into the automated system so I could enter my card details and pay my fine. I asked if the automated system would confirm the amount due and was advised that yes, it would. Off I was sent to the automated abyss and without even the slightest bit of recorded message foreplay, I was asked immediately for my card details.
Being sensible, I wasn’t keen on making a payment blind, so I hung up and re-dialled, again opting to speak to a human.
Once through to one, I asked how much my fine was showing as and was told it was £130.00. At this point, I was half-tempted to pay the £130.00 just so I could get off the phone but whilst there was still breath in my body, I was going to fight.
The human referred to her manager and then came back to explain that the fine had been amended to £65.00 but only stays at that amount for the purpose of making the automated payment there and then. Once I’d exited the system without paying, the amount had reset again. It was also explained to me that the automated payment system doesn’t confirm the amount as there’s not usually cause for a manual amendment to be made. I asked for the human’s surname or extension for my records but she either wasn’t sure of the details or was reluctant to provide them to me. She uncomfortably gave me her surname.
As she’d referred to her manager, I asked for her manager’s name too. Again, the human seemed a little reluctant but gave me the manager’s forename. I asked for the manager’s surname and the human had to go away and find this out for me, because she didn’t actually know it. Secretly, I don’t think the manager was willing to take the flak for wrong advice given, so sacrificed the human like a virgin or a lamb. Or a virgin lamb.
The next step was to put me through to someone who could amend the amount of my fine again so that I could pay it via the automated system.
Before speaking to someone else, I had to enter my reference into the automated system but I made a hash of this (through the sheer excitement of still being on the phone to TfL) so the robot offered to put me through to a human.
After a wait of 3 minutes a different human answered the phone, took some details for security and I once again explained my painful PCN scenario. The human apologised, but as I hadn’t come through to him via my reference number, his system didn’t allow him the option to reduce the fine.
To put me back into the automated system so that I could enter my reference. Apparently, there was no way around this and the process couldn’t be deviated from.
I was passed back to the automated system and his time, I paid extra special care that I entered my reference properly and after around 5 minutes, got through to yet another human who sounded like he had his phone headset shoved deep into his arse- I could barely make out what he was saying.
I passed security again, explained my situation again and was told again that my fine had been amended. By this time, I was happy to blindly enter my details into the automated payment system because you know, life’s too short (no offence to the midgets and dwarves amongst you).
After typing all the payment details in, I was given my receipt number.
I got straight on the phone to my credit card card company who confirmed that the payment was processed for only £65.00.
My advice to you is to never stop in a yellow box junction anywhere, but especially not in London. If you do, you will be driven to insanity and prepared to pay any amount just to escape the TfL telephony labyrinth.