Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fare cheats on London buses

London+bus+oyster+card+readerBefore beating the incumbent Ken Livingstone at London Mayoral election in 2008, Boris Johnson promised that not only he would bring back the Routemaster (a London icon in it's own right) but would also look into reducing transport costs in the capital.

Fast forward a couple of months later, not only the plans for reviving the Routemaster was kept on hold, the Tube and bus fare remain at the pre-Boris level.

Unlike Singapore, London buses operate on a flat fare basis - £1 per trip regardless of the distance. Fantastic if you're travelling in from Greater London, not so good if you're getting groceries from Sainsbury two bus stops away.

Even so, fare cheats on buses are rampant. Bus passengers are expected to tap their Oyster cards (the equivalent of Ezylink back home) on card readers (shown in the photo) that are installed near all entrances of 'bendy' buses. A good number don't.

At that point, the bus driver could either stop the bus, walk down the length of the bus and demand the errant passenger to pay the fare or simply ignore the fare cheat and continue with the journey. No prizes for guessing which option most drivers would opt for.
A British icon - the humble telephone box

London buses - the Red Rogues of the street

Notices warning fare cheats of a £20 fine could be in plastered within the bus but I've never, in my two years in London, encountered a bus conductor. The lack of enforcement pretty much rendered the fine ineffective.

Is cheating on transport fares prevalent over at your city? How does your city tackle the issue?

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Emm said...

We thankfully don't get bendy buses in South East London. You have to tap in by the driver when you get on to the bus and when people do try sneak in through the middle door, I have seen many a driver stop the bus and insist that they pay or get off!

Our buses are hopelessly oversubscribed though. Many a day I would sit at the bus stop watching full buses fly by without stopping.

Dutchie said...

I encounter conductors on trains, trams n buses during peak n off-peak hours. Buses that ply within a neigbourhood only has the driver n he collects the € 1,50 when u come aboard.

Buses in bigger cities uses the magnetic card. The driver does keep an eye on the card reader next to the entry door. At peak hours, cheaters would rush up the back door of an extension bus while passagiers r alighting.

I hv witnessed cheaters being hauled off the trains n trams by the rail police. Fine is € 35,00 plus the fare. This has resulted in aggression towards the staff onboard by the cheaters. Dutch public transport is toughening up against cheaters with heftier fines n a ban for repeated offenders.

Public transport is expensive compared to SG (my rond trip to the city cost € 12,80). Cheaters hv to understand that the whole process cost millions n it has to be bourned by the commuters. We hv to do our bit to keep the system going for the greater good !

I read recently that the bus services in the backlands of Africa went bust bec of cheaters n the drivers taking part of the fares as a supplement to their meagre income. 2 dutchmen r helping them to get back on track by having a conductor onboard for the sale of tickets instead of cash in hand. An incentive is given to the staff when they hv made a handsome profit.

As for the nonchalant drivers in the UK, if he doesnt get tough with the cheaters, he is part of the problem as well - that's how I see it ! Cashiers in the supermart has to make up for any shortage incurring in the cash register. Bus drivers could just as well be made responsible - afteral, the fares does go part into paying his salary !!

Martin In Bulgaria said...

I know someone who is a London Bus Driver, (can' name names). He tells me that there are many who board the bus and refuse to pay using threatening tatics. He just lets them on board but warns them it is at their own risk. Avoiding confrontation is the aim as it just isn't worth the risk, most who refuse look for confromtation, that's why they do it. I don't know how he sticks the job to be quite honest!

SheR. said...

All right may all the Cheapo please raise your hands!*Hand raised high*
I did not buy a ticket to use the trains. Was only caught once. Had to pa a fine of 10 quid! What's that compared to my savings for the few months??! :P

Anonymous said...

Nice blog..
☆ Martinha ☆

Anonymous said...

That's what i thought too when we 1st got to Switzerland - that bus conductors/inspectors don't exist - but they do. It's hard to tell a cheat here as we have the GA card which you pay for a whole year of travel all over Switzerland - no need to tap at all. i don't have that card but i pay my share - can't get over the guilt of not paying.

FĂ«anor said...

There's a joke about 3 traders and 3 risk managers travelling by train. The risk types bought a ticket each, while the traders bought only one. When they saw the conductor coming, the traders hid in the bathroom; the conductor knocked asking for the ticket, whereupon they slipped it under the door, the conductor stamped it and slipped it back under the door. The risk managers, seeing this, were upset, and on the way back, bought only one ticket.

The traders didn't buy any. When the conductor came, the risk managers hid themselves in the toilet. A trader went up to the door, asked for the ticket pretending to be the conductor; the risk managers slipped it under the door, the trader picked it up, and he and his fellows locked themselves up in the other toilet, to produce the ticket as they did the first time around.

(I may have forgotten the punchline, heheh).

LadyBanana said...

I must admit the only time I got on a bendy bus I forgot to beep my oyster! It was just so odd getting on the middle door!

About 3 weeks ago I was inspected by a ticket inspector on the tube, but I've not seen one on the buses for ages now.

C K said...

I've seen a driver making a scene. You know what? The errant passenger actually dared the driver to move him out of the bus! Can you believe that?

Most drivers would prefer to play it safe by not cramming more people into the bus and prefer to bypass bus stops without stopping...

That's the thing. Currently, there's no way to track the number of passengers getting up the bus. Even if there is, I suspect the benefit would not justify the cost.

I've seen a conductor on the Tube once before. He handed a 20 quid summons to a guy who (surprisingly) paid it without making a commotion.

I understand what you mean. Some errant passengers can be really ridiculous (see my reponse to Emm). What's worse is that some passengers would actually prefer the driver to let it go so that they would not be delayed as a result.

In fact, a couple of days back, there was a couple of teenagers who threatened the driver with a knife while trying to empty the cashbox. The driver rammed his bus into a shop. That scared the teenagers away but some passengers got injured in the process...

It's quite apparent who the fare dodgers are once the conductor got up the bus. They would suddenly move towards the exit and hop off at the first instance.

I assume you didn't react fast enough? :)

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

I think the prepaid year fare exist in London as well though I'm not too sure how that works. Perhaps Feanor could enlighten us?

GA card? Just curious, does that cover all rail network as well?

LOL, I know we could always depend on you to come up with something... haha...

So would you be the risk guy or the trader?

I would imagine that the Tube ticket inspector would patrol only during off peak hours. I don't think he would be able to move around during the rush hours.

Anonymous said...

Ck - the GA card in Switzerland covers travel on all forms of transport (bus, train, tram, boat) all over Switzerland, with the exception of some cable cars to the mountain tops.