BBC News recently reported that fare dodgers throughout London have cost Transport for London, or more commonly known as TFL, over £100 million per year. Each year fare dodgers find different ways to avoid paying fares when travelling across buses, trains and throughout other forms of transport in London. However, in recent months there has been a crackdown on those thinking they can avoid these fares, where a journey that costs less than £2 can then turn into a journey that costs £40 or £80.
There are a lot of reasons why people decide that they’re exempt from paying the full fare for their journey. Throughout living in London I really have heard every excuse under the sun, ranging from they forgot to top up their Oyster Card or their phone ran out of battery so they cannot prove they had tapped in. In other circumstances, the bus driver may let the passenger onto the bus in full knowledge and awareness that they have not paid their fare but may be fooled by the excuse “I’m only travelling for a few stops” or “I’m waiting for my pass to arrive in the post”. Even though these are valid reasons, they aren’t valid enough to excuse one person being exempt from paying when every other passenger has paid their fare. In a sense it’s like a slap in the face, if one person is let off then why shouldn’t everyone else be?
Many people will question how fare dodgers get through the barriers at stations as well as get onto buses without touching their Oyster Card or credit/debit card onto the yellow reader. The answer is unfortunately a lot easier than it sounds, on buses, passengers can simply state that they’ve lost their pass or simply jump on the back of the bus and move undetected. The most easiest maneuver would be following a passenger when they’re tapping in or out at a station, since some passengers will go through barriers that will stay open for longer. Even with the rise of technology that Transport for London are using to catch these fare dodgers, there will simply be too many people to catch and the cycle will begin again. Regardless, this is not an excuse for fare dodgers to keep on carrying out their act of avoidance since eventually they will be caught. Bus inspectors and plain clothes detectives could be anywhere and could be anyone - they simply hide in plain sight and wait for the right moment to confront those avoiding paying the full fare.
Fare evasion happens in many shapes and forms, there are hundreds of different reasons as to how fare evasion is committed. The most common being that people may not touch in and out when travelling throughout London - whether it be at their original destination or at their final destination. Another form of fare evasion would be using an Oyster Card that’s registered to someone whose entitled to free or discounted travel, these people being those with a Freedom Pass or an 11-15 Oyster Card. If caught by a ticket inspector then you would be charged a penalty fare for knowingly using a pass that doesn’t belong to you and the pass will then be taken off the person for abuse of the card. If you’re carrying an Oyster Card which requires additional information to be carried at all times when using the card and you’re found without this information, another penalty fare will be given out. Fare evasion has even gone as far as people buying an Oyster Card with Zones 1-2 on them and tapping in or out at these destinations and then avoiding tapping in or out when travelling beyond these zones. Therefore, they will avoid paying the correct fare that’s a lot more than what their current fare already is. Or more simply people will jump the barrier or walk straight through if the barriers are open, this is blatant fare evasion for fare dodgers that really have no care for paying their way.
Unsurprisingly, fare evasion happens a lot more commonly to those who do not commit fare evasion on purpose. For example, if I was travelling throughout rush hour and I tapped my Oyster Card on the reader while the barrier was open then I may mistake my card tapping for the person in front of me. Then if I got to my final destination and I was caught out by a ticket inspector then even though I didn’t evade the fare on purpose, there is no reason as to why I shouldn’t be given a penalty fare. It also happens to those travelling on London buses who may not be able to reach a reader if they get onto a packed bus or simply because they’re told that the machine isn’t working. Regardless, passengers have a responsibility to make sure that they have made an effort to pay their full fare. There is simply no excuse that will stand with a ticket inspector when you’re face to face with one throughout an unpaid journey. Moving forward, passengers should make sure that they’ve tapped in and out when travelling on the London Underground or tapping your card onto the reader when boarding a London bus.
Even though a journey here and there doesn’t seem much, in a sense it may be only a couple of pounds and pence, the overall reality comes out to over £100 million in unpaid fares for Transport for London. With this extra money Transport for London could easily make major improvements to the network as well as employing more people to make the transport network more efficient. In a sense, imagine having a smoother journey as well as improved station facilities across London. Even though those will argue that these penalty fares in turn cover the losses that Transport for London state, people forget that members of staff will be using their time and efforts elsewhere - these people also needing wages and essentially resources from Transport for London. As someone who travels throughout London it’s infuriating to see members of the public try and avoid a fare that can be as little as £1.50 - something that everyone needs to pay regardless of your objections as to why you shouldn’t.
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