Fines issued

Businessman caught dodging rail fare 53 times

Rail staff are carrying out checks

ScotRail is cracking down on customers who dodge buying a ticket because of the reduction in front-line staff on trains during coronavirus pandemic.

So far, 533 people have been caught and, in one case, a businessman, who had taken 53 journeys over the course of a few months, was made to cough up £2,300 in missed fares as well as a £30 daily administration fee.

Over the last few months 10,000 tickets have been confiscated via spot checks by mobile teams, with £17,600 levied against customers attempting to travel without paying.

ScotRail operates more than 350 stations across Scotland and only 17 are equipped with ticket barriers, and ScotRail admits that this makes it relatively easy for passengers to get on and off without paying for all or part of their journey.

However, it points out that the train operator’s CCTV cameras can prove where a passenger’s journey began, making it easy to work out how much they owe.

All of the passengers who have been caught so far have paid up since the alternative is prosecution which, if successful, would leave them with a criminal record.

There has also been an increase in the number of verbal or physical assaults on staff who ask customers to pay for their ticket.

This has prompted a joint-operation with British Transport Police to crackdown on anti-social behaviour, focusing on specific areas across the network to provide additional support for ScotRail staff.

Grant Whyte, a revenue delivery supervisor at Glasgow Central, has witnessed this kind of abuse many times and been a victim of it himself.=

He said: “It’s unbelievable that some people are not only trying to get away with travelling for free, but are also shouting or getting physical with staff who ask them to pay for their ticket.

“Some staff have been spat on or pushed out of the way by passengers who don’t think it’s right that they should be paying for their journey because they’ve been getting away with it for so long.”

Phil Campbell, ScotRail head of customer operations, said: “A minority of our customers are taking advantage of the fact that due to coronavirus restrictions we are unable to put ticket inspectors on our trains or at most of our stations.

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“While most of the population is sticking to the rules, these passengers are using the cover of COVID to avoid paying for their ticket.

“Revenue on the railway is down by around 90% due to the pandemic, so it’s vitally important that in order to give the best value to the taxpayer, we collect as many fares as possible.

“We have caught a number of repeat offenders and the message to anyone thinking of dodging their fare is simple. We are watching and we will catch you.”

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