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Privatised train companies are still overcharging for tickets, failing to provide the cheapest available fare in up to 87 per cent of cases, according to a new survey. John Swift, the rail regulator, said if the findings proved to be correct he would not rule out the possibility of fines.

The Consumers' Association has repeated a survey carried out six months ago which found that overpricing was running at 90 per cent. The new survey shows the train companies have ignored warnings that they would be fined if they continued to breach the rules, according to a report on BBC TV programme Panorama, being screened tonight. The survey involved routes between London and Birmingham, Exeter and Bristol, and found that out of 116 ticket inquiries, 101 responses were incorrect and overpriced - an error rate of 87 per cent, a BBC spokeswoman said. The tickets should have cost pounds 6,593.80 but in fact totalled pounds 12,855.50 - overcharging by pounds 6,261.70.

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