2 Apr 2014

Crack down on fare evaders

8:46 am on 2 April 2014

Auckland's transport agency and the city's rail operator are cracking down on fare evasion on commuter trains, which is costing more than $1 million a year.

Transdev ticket Inspectors at Auckland's Henderson Station.

Transdev ticket Inspectors at Auckland's Henderson Station. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Only two of Auckland's 42 rail stations have ticket gates, and at least 350,000 trips a year are made by people without tickets.

City rail operator Transdev has stepped up efforts, forming random "blockades" on suburban platforms to check passengers have tickets.

At an operation at Henderson station in West Auckland, 50 out of 661 checked during a morning peak refused to pay and left, including three who crossed the tracks and fled rather than paying up.

Some evaders blamed electronic ticket machines on platforms.

"At every single station, in the carriage I was in, people were telling the rail staff that the machine was broken," public transport advocate Patrick Reynolds said on a recent trip on the Western Line.

"It became really apparent that this was their excuse for a free ride. At one point, the train manager pointed that he could see out the window that someone was using the machine which the passenger said was broken."

Machines reliable

Auckland Transport said the machines were reliable and monitored electronically. Radio New Zealand sought data for the day of Mr Reynolds' trip, and only one machine was out of action on that line.

Auckland Transport is stymied by the fact only two of its stations - Britomart and Newmarket - are gated, while Manukau soon will be.

It has talked for some time of extending the electronic ticket barriers to or more stations but no decision has been made.

Rail staff also have no powers to do more than ask anyone on board a train to pay a $20 penalty fare, or leave the train. Some passengers ignore both request.

Transdev managing director Terry Scott said more gated stations, and the power to enforce penalties, would make a difference. However, a hardcore of passengers would always avoid paying.

"I think society has changed an awful lot. When I grew up I'd never have had the nerve to speak up against someone in authority," Mr Scott said.

"It is a society issue. Some people believe they have a right to travel without paying."