Travel woes

Twenty pound note

Buy your tickets. Don’t rob the network of its income.


By any account, it was shoddy behaviour. My son’s wallet was stolen last week. Or he dropped it. Who knows? However, someone got hold of his Oyster ‘Zip’ photocard.  Gabriel is 16, yet on his card he is still a beaming round-faced cherub of 11. The Zip is linked to my Mastercard, the idea being that my son will never be stranded.

Great, but now, I was helping some low life get around town. Via online tracking, it was clear that a right old travel spree was had! Off to Mansion House, up to Finsbury Park, down to Green Park, through the City, past the West End. Overground, Underground. Wombling totally free, for about a week. Every time this person tapped in and out, they were stealing from me, again and again. With a card bearing the smiling face of a child.

It’s not the biggest crime to have been committed in London, but it is symptomatic of the shrugging acceptance of dishonesty which is depressingly apparent throughout nearly every social arena. Fraud relating to travel, perhaps because it seems victimless, is one of the most egregious areas. Why bother handing in a child’s travelcard when you can have travel for free?

According to a study of passenger behaviour carried out by the travel watchdog Transport Focus, half the country seems to be energetically engaged with fare dodging, usually via the simple ploy of not buying tickets at unmanned stations, and then getting off a train early if they happen to see a guard on board. Whistling, no doubt. It’s not just hardened commuters in the capital, either; the survey was conducted on the Northern Rail network, and concluded that “fare evasion was so commonplace that a proportion of their fellow travellers had learned how to ‘play the system’.” Buying tickets are for pussies, basically. You’re unlikely to get caught, and tickets are quite pricey, so why should I pay my way? Let’s just forget the ‘public’ in Public transport, shall we?

Fare dodgers deprive the national rail network of around £200 million a year. Shall I let that sink in, O dashing highwaymen (and women) of the rails? £200 million, which might otherwise be used on boring things such as a) improving services or b) reducing travel costs. Just buy your ticket if you are going to travel. It is the right thing to do.

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