An agreement between London Buses and the banks means fare dodgers in possession of contactless debit or credit cards could escape sanction.
Last December Transport for London introduced the ability to use the cards to pay for single bus journeys at the reduced Oyster rate.
A TfL report into fare evasion reveals the body agreed to take a “light touch” approach to contactless card holders dodging their fares and instead focus “on corrective instruction rather than enforcement action.”
This contrasts with the automatic use of enforcement action, including penalty fares, for all other passengers found without a valid ticket.
Although TfL’s policy ”is to treat the bulk of first offences as genuine errors”, passengers without a contactless bank card will be subject to a penalty or, if considered to be deliberately evading the fare, prosecution.
The report states “TfL has yet to establish likely levels of fare evasion” by holders of contactless cards although it is hoped the cards will reduce evasion “due to the requirement placed on passengers to provide their card for inspection and thus making the job of establishing the individual’s identity simpler.”
The report reveals that while the level of fare dodging is falling, public perception is that TfL is doing less to combat it.
Just 44 per cent of those polled by TfL believed penalty fares are “well enforced”, down from 56% in 2012.
This fall is described as “concerning” and is attributed to a reduced number of revenue protection officers and fewer “high profile operations on articulated bus routes which tended to attract additional attention from passengers and media outlets.”
Instead of high profile operations, TfL has adopted an “intelligence led“ approach which is credited with driving down fare evasion despite a 20% reduction in the number of dedicated inspectors over the past three years.
London Assembly Member Darren Johnson said TfL must treat all passengers equally, including those trying to dodge fares.
The Green Party AM said: “The introduction of wave and pay technology on London’s transport network is to be welcomed. However, TfL must ensure that all passengers are treated equally if they attempt to travel without paying.”
“Preventing a loss of revenue through fare dodging should have been a key consideration in the design and roll out of this technology so today’s revelations that TfL have decided to go easy on wave and pay fare dodgers will be unwelcome news to Oyster users who are subject to automatic sanctions including penalty fares if caught without a ticket.
“I would urge TfL to take an even-handed approach and ensure that enforcement action is evenly applied.”