I bought train tickets in the UK like this one:

UK rail ticket

I always swipe them on the barriers1 before boarding the train, but I never see anyone else doing it. I wonder if it is necessary, but people simply don't care (or they have other kinds of passes), or if simply having the ticket is enough.

1 Barriers like those depicted below are already open when I board the train, which reinforces the idea that there could be another means to check the validity of tickets:

Barriers at the train station

Context: I got used to validating public transport tickets in France, where simply having a ticket on board is not sufficient, e.g. some tickets can be used for different trains, so you need to validate ("composter") them before boarding. Since my UK ticket can also be used at different times, I wonder if they follow the same principle.


3 Answers 3


No, there is no need to validate your ticket, the requirement is only to have a valid ticket for the journey you're taking. For example this train company site explains that you need to buy a ticket (and doesn't say anything about validating it).

Obviously if the barriers are closed, you need to put the ticket through to get to the train, but when they are open then swiping the ticket doesn't have any effect.

  • And indeed, swiping could damage the magnetic stripe which is read by the gates (so with swiping in, you might not open the gates at the end of your journey to get out easily). If this does happen, the official on the gate line can read the front of the ticket and let you out manually. Mar 20, 2015 at 14:41
  • 5
    Note that there are a handful of very special tickets, mostly rail passes and carnets, which do require you to write in the date of use into the appropriate box. They're not very common though
    – Gagravarr
    Mar 20, 2015 at 19:23

You say "I always swipe them on the barriers". But if you mean placing them on the yellow circle, that's for plastic 'Oyster' passes or contactless debit/credit cards, used on all public transport in and around London. This system does require you to swipe on entry and exit to the system in order to charge you correctly, even if the barriers are open.

But paper tickets/passes like yours, which are used on the whole UK rail system, go in the slot beneath it and are spat out above. If the barriers are locked open, the slot will usually (always?) be locked too and so you can't put them in anyway. So you just walk through and show to the staff if asked.

  • There seem to be a number of different barrier designs in use. I am sure I have seen some where the reader/validator keeps operating even when the gates themselves are open. Jul 23, 2018 at 14:45
  • 1
    @PeterGreen yes those are needed around London for validation of PAYG payments
    – mmmmmm
    Aug 16, 2020 at 10:09

If in doubt, put the ticket through the machine.

Most of the time, tickets don't need to go through the barriers. These barriers don't validate 99.99% tickets are are purely there to prevent fare dodgers (at least when they're actually closed...).

Some special tickets (such as Carnet tickets*), The Oyster card, and ITSO smartcards (such as The Key) must always be tapped on the yellow pad, otherwise you may not be able to exit at your destination and could risk a penalty fare if inspected mid-journey.

*prepaid tickets with no set date of travel -- intended for businesspeople who don't know when they'll travel

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