After a recent survey claimed hundreds of tickets go unchecked on Lancashire’s railways, reporter ROSIE SWARBRICK spoke to a self-confessed fare dodger who has escaped paying almost £300 in the past two months.
“I wouldn’t mind paying if they actually asked to see my ticket.”
That is the candid claim by one fare dodger who is a regular traveller on Lancashire’s railways, but claims he has not paid for a ticket since December.
One rail company recently annnounced a crackdown on those who board without intending to pay, but this traveller told the Evening Post he stopped buying tickets out of exasperation with the lack of checks.
The man, who travels from Preston to Poulton-le-Fylde five times a week for work, said: “Nobody ever comes. In the last 10 journeys the carriage has been checked once and that time they just walked straight past me.
“I used to pay every day, but when nobody checked my ticket I started to get frustrated.
“How can they charge £7.10 for a single ticket when there is never any staff?
“I’m an honest person, I have never broken the law and I don’t think the world owes me a living. It is too dear for a 16-minute journey.
“I don’t hide, it is not like I’m locking myself in a toilet or running from officials, I am sitting at my seat.
“By the time I get the train home the ticket office at Poulton is closed and if there isn’t an inspector on the train I can’t buy a ticket.”
It is illegal to travel on a train without a valid ticket and offenders can face a heavy fine if caught.
To raise awareness that to travel without paying, forge or underpay for a journey is breaking the law, Northern Rail has launched its ‘Get a Ticket’ campaign.
A spokesman for the rail operator said: “The vast majority of our passengers buy a ticket, with only a small minority deliberately avoiding paying their fare.
“We’ve been pleased to see the ticket campaign sparking discussions, particularly on social media, with many customers making it clear to us they weren’t fully aware of the rules surrounding ticketless travel.
“We hope the campaign helped educate our customers and make them more aware of the issue.”
Fare evasion is a big issue for the industry as a whole and costs more than £240m every year.
Across Lancashire, 2,234 passengers were caught on Northern services without a valid ticket and 339 of those journeys started in Preston.
The 28-year-old, who asked not to be named, says he is planning to turn his back on rail and is saving up for alternative transport.
He said: “I am going to get a motorbike. It is more cost effective and solves the frustration.
“It will be a big lump sum but I will save more overall.
“People can’t afford rail prices and to top it all it is only an extra 50-60p for a return ticket. How does that work?
“I was made redundant from my job in Preston and have to travel to Poulton for work. I could have gone on the dole but I chose to work.
“The average wage is about £50 a day and to spend £10 of that on one ticket is unreasonable. I’d pay every time if it was a £4 journey.”
Northern Rail reject claims that people skip fares because of the cost, and they say travelling without a ticket does not affect the price of other people’s tickets, but does impact on other rail users.
They said: “Our customers tell us they feel extremely annoyed by those who travel without purchasing a ticket, which is why we will take action against those who deliberately avoid paying.”
Northern Rail is increasing ways of purchasing tickets to try to stop fare dodgers rather than increasing punishment.
The spokesman added: “We would rather offer our passengers more opportunities to pay for tickets before they travel with the installation of self-service ticket machines, the launch of our online ticket sales facility as well as investigating smart and mobile ticketing for purchasing on the go.”