Why? Because we can!

Posted in transport by allovermcr on July 7, 2009

Metrolink respond to a few questions raised by their recent decision to increase penalty fares (‘standard fares’)

-Why did Metrolink/GMPTE decide to increase the penalty fare?

GMPTE has introduced a new standard fare scheme to target persistant fare evaders and provide more of a deterrent for ticketless travel. For the first and every offence the standard fare is now £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days.

-What evidence do you have that a £100 maximum penalty fare leads to less fare-dodging than the £80 upper fee that was previously in place?

We are currently monitoring fare evasion since the implementation of the new standard fare. The previous standard fare ranged from £10 for the 1st offence if paid on the spot to the £80 you mention for the 4th offence. The escalation steps in the previous standard fare have been removed and replaced with one level for all offences to provide a more effective deterrent to people intending to travel without a valid ticket or pass.

-How much extra revenue is the increase expected to raise?

We don’t know how much revenue this will generate but all money from Metrolink fares, including standard fares, is reinvested in the system to make improvements and enhance the service for passengers.

-Why are the Metrolink penalty fares considerably higher than the respective fees charged, for example, on national rail journeys and on all modes of public transport in London?

GMPTE’s standard fare is not regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) and as such GMPTE is able to change the standard fare level on Metrolink. The Penalty Fare Scheme, which is regulated by the ORR, is used by other transport systems in the UK such as heavy rail.

Er, so that’s ‘because we can’, then.

And, whilst removing ‘escalation steps’ might conceivably help cut fare evasion, there’s no real evidence that a higher upper penalty fare – that will hit low earners the hardest – will have the significant effect tackling the persistent fare-evasion they hope it will. That must be a great relief to anyone who gets clobbered for £100 after accidentally losing a ticket or not noticing their season ticket has gone out of date!


Fare’s fair?

Posted in transport by allovermcr on June 30, 2009

Slightly (okay, very) slow to blog this, but last month Metrolink penalty fares (‘standard fares’) increased from £80 to £100 (or from £40 to £50 if paid within 14 days).

Now as much as anyone else AOM is unhappy with the idea of people travelling on the trams for free with the cost shared by the honest majority. A financial penalty seems a good way of encouraging those who might be tempted to try their luck to buy a ticket. But this increase raises a few questions.

Firstly, will it really help reduce fare-dodging? How much more effective a deterrent is a £100 fine compared to an £80 fine? The press release announcing the increase quotes GMPTE’s Metrolink Director Philip Purdy as saying “The new £100 standard fare sends out a strong message to passengers – buy a ticket or face the consequences”. But surely in most people’s book the possibility of getting an £80 fine is a pretty strong message – it seems hard to believe that this is going to make potential fare-dodgers think long and hard about their actions any more than they did when the fine was £80.

At the same time, the increase raises the question of whether the penalty fare is proportional – whether the punishment fits the crime. As with all fixed penalties, the fine is regressive, in that the same amount is paid regardless of whether the recipient is on a salary of £100k or claiming £64.30 JSA a week. The nature of this offence means there are always going to be a few people who genuinely make a mistake – whether forgetting to buy a ticket, losing their ticket or not noticing that their season ticket has gone out of date. For someone on a low income who made this kind of mistake, a £100 fine, or even a £50 one isn’t to be sniffed at.

A comparison with penalty fares elsewhere also suggests that those unfortunate enough to make this kind of mistake in Manchester are being hit harder than in other places. The penalty fare for London buses, tubes, overground, tramlink and DLR is £50, reduced to £25 if paid within 21 days, whilst on national trains “The penalty is £20 or twice the full single fare from the station where the passenger got on the train to the next station at which the train stops, whichever is the greater.” As the maximum single fares on the Metrolink is less than a tenner, if that policy were implemented here it’d mean penalty fares of only £20.

So why does the message that GMPTE sends to potential fare-dodgers need to be so much stronger than elsewhere in the country?

And can they justify what looks simply like a revenue-generating measure, and one that hurts the least well off the most?

An email has been sent to Metrolink to try and get answers to a few questions this raises.