Transport for London has insisted it takes fare dodging “extremely seriously” after Labour’s transport spokesperson claimed it was “making life easy for fare dodgers” by leaving ticket gates open.
Research by London Assembly member Val Shawcross shows leaving gates open, a practice which removes the need for passengers to swipe their ticket or Oyster to leave or enter a station, is costing TfL 60m each year in unpaid fares.
The AM says her research shows gates were left open 6.91% of the time in June and July this year and that at some stations they’re “consistently” left open for long periods of time.
Internal TfL rules require gates to be left open whenever there are no members of staff available to help passengers and Mrs Shawcross claims that plans to reduce the number of staff at stations risks gates being left open more often.
She says this could increase the amount lost to fare-dodging, wiping out any cash savings made a result of TfL and the Mayor’s decision to close ticket offices across the network and reduce staff numbers.
Shawcross commented: “We should be doing all we can to crack down on fare dodgers, not making life easy for them by leaving some station ticket barriers open more than half the time.
“By cutting 950 staff from stations TfL risks having to leave ticket barriers open more often, making fare evasion that little bit easier. It’s a total false economy if the money saved by reducing staff is then lost as show that result of increased fare dodging.”
TfL claims fare evasion accounts for just “two per cent” of journeys and points out that the Oyster and contactless system is able to spot attempts to dodge fares by not swiping in and out and can automatically levy a maximum fare for the journey.
Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Enforcement and On-Street Operations, said: “Fare evasion on our rail and bus networks has fallen to around just two per cent of all journeys, at the same time as overall passenger numbers have risen massively due to London’s growth.
“This shows that the overwhelming majority of our customers simply want to pay the correct fare and we now have more staff than ever before in ticket halls to assist them.
“We take fare evasion of any kind extremely seriously and communicate the consequences of being caught without a valid ticket.
“For every journey, customers must have a valid ticket or tap in and out using Oyster or a contactless payment card – even if the ticket barriers are open. If customers do not tap in or out then they will be charged a maximum fare for the journey.”