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'We are watching and we will catch you,' warns train operator as fare dodging increases


By David G Scott

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ScotRail is cracking down on customers who dodge buying a ticket because of the reduction in front-line staff on trains, caused by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, 533 people have been caught and, in one case, a businessman, who had taken 53 journeys over the course of a few months, was made to cough up £2,300 in missed fares and a £30 daily administration fee.

Over the last few months 10,000 tickets have been confiscated via spot checks by mobile teams, with £17,600 levied against customers attempting to travel without paying.

Empty carriage on Wick to Thurso train. A reduction in staffing has led to an increase in fare dodging. Picture: DGS
Empty carriage on Wick to Thurso train. A reduction in staffing has led to an increase in fare dodging. Picture: DGS

ScotRail operates more than 350 stations across Scotland and only 17 are equipped with ticket barriers, making it relatively easy for passengers to get on and off without paying for all or part of their journey.

What they don’t realise is the train operator’s CCTV cameras can prove where their journey began and then it’s an easy task to work out how much they owe.

All of the passengers who have been caught so far have paid up since the alternative is prosecution which, if successful, would leave them with a criminal record.

There has also been an increase in the number of verbal or physical assaults on staff who ask customers to pay for their ticket.

That’s why there have been joint-operations with British Transport Police to crackdown on anti-social behaviour, focussing on specific areas across the network to provide additional support for ScotRail staff.

Grant Whyte, a revenue delivery supervisor at Glasgow Central, has witnessed this kind of abuse many times and been a victim of it himself.

Train approaches Thurso railway station. Stations in Caithness have no ticket barriers and the train operator admits it can be relatively easy to avoid paying fares. Picture: DGS
Train approaches Thurso railway station. Stations in Caithness have no ticket barriers and the train operator admits it can be relatively easy to avoid paying fares. Picture: DGS

Grant, who’s been with ScotRail for 30 years, said: “It’s unbelievable that some people are not only trying to get away with travelling for free, but are also shouting or getting physical with staff who ask them to pay for their ticket.

“Some staff have been spat on or pushed out of the way by passengers who don’t think it’s right that they should be paying for their journey because they’ve been getting away with it for so long.”

Phil Campbell, ScotRail head of customer operations, said: “A minority of our customers are taking advantage of the fact that due to coronavirus restrictions we are unable to put ticket inspectors on our trains or at most of our stations.

“While most of the population is sticking to the rules, these passengers are using the cover of Covid to avoid paying for their ticket.

“Revenue on the railway is down by around 90 per cent due to the pandemic, so it’s vitally important that in order to give the best value to the taxpayer, we collect as many fares as possible.

“We have caught a number of repeat offenders and the message to anyone thinking of dodging their fare is simple. We are watching and we will catch you.”

Rail passenger numbers down by 90 per cent




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