Select Committee on Transport Fifth Report


4  Revenue protection and the powers of ticket inspectors

Fare evasion—the scale of the problem

51. Approximately £400 million - about 8% of revenue - is said to be lost each year from unpaid rail fares;[55] and further significant amounts are lost from unpaid bus fares. Additional, though smaller, amounts are lost on the Tube, trams and other public transport systems. This comprises ticketless travel and travel with a ticket that is invalid for the journey. This is as a result of a range of inadequate sales facilities, mistakes, and deliberate deception by a minority of passengers.

52. This is a substantial sum lost to the transport system and it is worrying that the transport operators do not have more accurate or consistent information. For example, First plc has quoted conflicting figures of £40 million and £15 million for its rail operations. Industry specialists are critical of the validity of the survey methods and the figures quoted. There is further confusion about how much is lost due to deliberate fare-dodging and how much due to failure to provide the passenger with the opportunity to buy the correct ticket.[56]

53. Some witnesses take the view that revenue protection is a matter for the operators: they alone should decide how much action to take as it is in their commercial interests. We do not share this view. Firstly, lost revenue impacts on the honest fare-paying passenger, not just the shareholder. There is also plenty of evidence that passengers are annoyed by fare-dodging and it undermines their faith in the system. Secondly, fare-dodging is often associated with other anti-social behaviour. Tackling one problem tends to alleviate the other.

54. Too much revenue is being lost through a failure of the transport operators to provide the appropriate ticket sales facilities, to sell tickets on-board, and to carry out basic checks. This is not the same as fare evasion. It is simply non-collection of fares. The view of several informed witnesses is that revenue protection investment represents good value for money and that there is nationwide scope for improvement.[57]

55. Revenue protection does not get the attention that it warrants: a bigger and more sophisticated effort is needed. The extent of the problem is poorly understood. It ranges from passengers willing but unable to pay their fares through to deliberate fare evasion. Fare-dodging is often associated with other antisocial behaviour and efforts to curb one are likely to impact positively on the other. More regular and coordinated research and monitoring of the problem are required. Leaving it to individual companies who are likely to be averse to sharing or publishing information means that no one has a clear picture and revenue protection measures are likely to be inadequate.

Ticket gates—not the only solution

56. The Government has recognised the unsatisfactory situation regarding lost rail revenue.

57. Gates (ticket barriers) clearly have value on a closed system such as the Tube and there are certainly those who support additional gating of National Rail stations. However, the focus on gates is too narrow and overlooks the complexities of the situation. According to Transport Solutions, "station gating.[…] is not necessarily cost effective, is often customer unfriendly and many of the benefits claimed for such equipment are overstated or misapplied."[59]

58. The types of ticket gate deployed on the National Rail network accept only the credit card size magnetic paper tickets, and not the larger format tickets often delivered for internet or telesales, nor the number of other pass styles without any encoding. Further, there is a significant rejection rate on magnetic tickets, even when valid. As smartcards are introduced into the National Rail network, beyond the existing application of Oyster, these gates would require substantial modification. Taken with proposals to extend the reading by gates of mobile phones and barcodes on print-at-home tickets, this becomes an increasingly complex challenge, both for operation and systems support.

59. Passengers with tickets that do not, for whatever reason, work the barriers correctly, have bulky items of luggage or are in wheelchairs cannot pass the regular gates. They require prompt assistance. "Meeters and greeters" are effectively barred from platforms and general passenger movement is restricted or delayed. Gates can take up valuable space and isolate station trading facilities, while detracting from the appearance and customer environment of many historic or Listed stations. When no staff are available to supervise them they must be left open which rather defeats their purpose.[60]

60. There are moves to install ticket gates at more rail stations. Yet ticket gates are not a panacea. They cannot be used by all passengers and staff are still required to be present. Gates introduce new drawbacks including delays and obstructions for passengers; they are not in keeping with historic stations; and they are not always the best method of protecting rail revenue. The Government, in consultation with the rail industry and passenger groups, needs to review this one-track approach and develop a more holistic policy.

Staff safety

61. Transport staff—particularly bus drivers and railway ticket inspectors—face an unacceptable risk of assault and abuse when checking tickets or undertaking revenue protection duties. In 2006/07, there were 299 recorded assaults on railway staff in London.[61] On London buses in the same period there were 21 recorded major assaults and 115 minor assaults on revenue protection officers alone.[62]

62. The RMT makes the point that these risks are increased when ticket offices are closed or vending machines out of action.

    All too often staff have to issue penalty fares to passengers who have started their journey at stations where the ticket office is shut and the ticket vending machine is out of use due to vandalism.[63]

63. The transport unions and passenger groups are concerned that cut-backs in ticket office staff and opening hours are making it difficult for some passengers to get the right ticket when they need it.

The powers of revenue protection staff

64. The laws and regulations currently governing revenue protection on public transport have developed over many years. Different laws apply to railways, to London Underground, to buses in London and to buses outside London.[64] There is inconsistency across modes and even within modes.
The legal framework for revenue protection
  • Railway revenue protection is governed by the Railway Byelaws and the Regulation of the Railways Act 1889 (last updated in 2005). Under these byelaws, revenue protection staff may require a person refusing to pay the appropriate fare to give their name and address. If the person fails to desist or leave the premises, they may be removed using reasonable force. The National Rail Conditions of Carriage forms the basis of the contract between the passenger and the train operator.
  • Section 130 of the Railways Act 1993 (as amended) allows the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding the charging of financial penalties ('Penalty Fares') to passengers unable to show a valid ticket when asked. The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994/576, as amended), allows the Secretary of State to make Penalty Fares Rules. All train operators wishing to charge penalty fares must submit a penalty fares scheme to the Secretary of State for approval. Penalty fares are a charge, not a fine, enforceable initially through the civil courts.
  • Bus ticket inspectors function under sections 24 and 25 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 and the regulations made under those sections which include the Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990 (SI 1990/1020). The Regulations contain provisions requiring passengers to have valid tickets (prepaid, paid on entering the vehicle, or paid on demand by a conductor or inspector) and a power for the driver, conductor or inspector to charge them an additional fare if they stay on the bus beyond the validity of their original ticket, or if they do not have a ticket. Passengers who contravene the regulations can be removed from the vehicle (by a crew member or, if necessary, the police), and/or prosecuted for an offence under s25 of the 1981 Act, with a maximum fine at level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1000).
  • Bus revenue protection staff in London have additional powers. The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 1994 also covers buses operating for TfL in London. This enables revenue protection staff to impose penalty fares. This facility is not available to transport operators outside the capital.

Source: Ev 175

65. The consensus amongst those who gave evidence to us seems to be that the powers available to revenue protection staff are generally adequate for rail but much less so for buses.[65] The principle revenue protection concern of bus operators (outside London) is that staff have no powers of arrest or sanction of penalty fares. They also lack effective powers to verify the person's name and address.[66] The ability to secure a conviction therefore depends on intervention by the police whose "interest tends to be low".[67]

66. An integrated ticketing system should be backed by an integrated revenue protection system. Whilst the current regulations for rail are generally satisfactory, those for buses are not. The powers of bus revenue protection staff should be strengthened. In the longer term, the Government should move towards a unified system of public transport revenue protection. The implications of new ticket types and technologies will also need to be considered.

67. TfL described to us some of the inconsistencies and limitations on revenue protection in London. This situation is likely to improve if the Transport for London Bill currently before parliament is enacted.

The rights of the passenger

68. It is equally important that the rights of individual passengers are respected. Whereas the transport operators and public transport authorities seem generally content with the current balance of powers, passenger groups are less so. Indeed, we received a disturbing personal account (in confidence) from one passenger alleging serious injustice, abuse and financial cost as a result of being accused of fare evasion. London Travelwatch provided evidence that this is not an isolated incident.

69. The rail industry has a statutory appeals procedure for passengers wishing to challenge a penalty fare. However, not all the appeals processes used by train operators are clearly and wholly independent.

70. Bus passengers who wish to appeal against revenue protection actions have no independent body to turn to. The operators run a Bus Appeal Body but this is entirely voluntary and its findings are not binding.

71. The current appeals procedures for bus and rail are not sufficiently independent. The consequences of being accused of fare dodging can be serious and it is important that the procedures are just and rigorous. The current principal rail appeal panel is associated with the rail industry and this undermines its credibility as a truly independent arbiter, sitting equidistant from the passenger and the train operating company. The bus industry appeals body has no regulatory backing. The Government should consult on new arrangements. For rail this might involve giving responsibilities to the Office of Rail Regulation or Passenger Focus; for bus it might be the Traffic Commissioner or the proposed Passenger Transport User Committee.


55   Ev 133 Back

56   Ev 94 & 95 Back

57   Ev 161 Back

58   Cm 7176, para 10.44 Back

59   Ev 95 Back

60   Passenger Focus, whilst generally in favour of additional gating, identifies other shortcomings. See Ev 182. Back

61   Ev 197 Back

62   Ev 162 Back

63   Ev 184 Back

64   Q 303 Back

65   Ev 143 Back

66   Ev 74 Back

67   Ev 143 Back

68   Ev 81 Back


 
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