TRANSPORT for London has apologised after telling a distraught dad who rushed his son to hospital for open heart surgery his excuse for forgetting to pay an £11.50 congestion charge was “not valid”.
Tristan Fontagio, 39, said he was left strained and exhausted by the string of appointments at Great Ormond Street Hospital for his three-year-old son Cassius, who was born with a heart defect.
And the dad said he “genuinely forgot” to pay the congestion charges during the traumatic months of appointments before being hit with the £460 fine.
But Tristan said he was stunned at TfL’s reply to his appeal that saw him offer to pay the congestion charge and detail the stress his family had been under.
The letter read: “Although you have informed us of personal pressures that you were under at the time of contravention, TfL having considered them, does not on this occasion accept this as a valid reason for neglecting to purchase a charge.”
Speaking to the Sun Online, the project manager said: “What I personally went through was horrendous.
“My son had his heart cut out of his chest, and I was dealing with all of that.
“There was no empathy of compassion at all.”
It comes after the transport body was slammed for fining a woman who forget to pay the congestion charge because she had a miscarriage.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan even stepped in after Cairis Hickey’s tweet about TfL’s letter went viral.
And Tristan said he was horrified at the language he too had received from TfL after he had tried to explain the horrific past few months.
‘THEY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND’
His son Cassius was born with atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) – a heart defect that means there are holes in the chambers of the heart.
And Tristan said he was overwhelmed with the life or death situation faced by his little boy.
The fines were issued for forgetting to pay the congestion charge on his way into the hospital two weeks before Christmas and again just before Cassius’ third birthday in January.
It was this operation that doctors had warned one in ten children died from.
Tristan was hauled to a tribunal hearing over the £460 fine – only winning as TfL had forgotten to attach a form that meant their fine was invalid.
But despite not having to pay the fine, Tristan said he was still frustrated at the transport body’s lack of heart.
He said: “Even though I got lucky on a legality, I was left feeling empty.
“It has been such a tough time financially – I had to sell my home, I’m having to start my career again because I gave everything up.
“I don’t think they understand what was happening.”
Tristan added: “If they had it their way, I would have had to pay £460 fines because my mind was thinking about my son’s nine hour full heart bypass surgery two weeks to the day before Christmas and a month before his third birthday.”
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Cassius is now doing well, but faces having more operations in his future.
Helen Chapman, TfL’s Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging, said: “We are extremely sorry for any distress caused to Mr Fontagio as a result of this penalty charge, which shouldn’t have been pursued.
“We are currently reviewing how we handle sensitive cases to avoid errors that could cause undue stress to our customers.”