Manchester tram fines hit record levels after fare dodging “crackdown”

Penalty fares on Manchester’s tram network have soared by more than 60% after transport bosses launched a crackdown on fare dodgers.

Transport for Greater Manchester has today (February 21) hailed the success of anti-fare evasion measures after tram penalty fare revenue increased by £230,000 in one quarter.

The measures include increasing penalty fares from £100 to £120 and increasing frontline staff across the network by a third. However, some passengers fear that people who make genuine mistakes are being treated like fare dodgers.

Thomas Robertson, 21, received a £60 fine after making an “honest mistake” by buying the wrong ticket for his journey. He travelled between two zone 2 stations but claims he didn’t realise he needed to purchase a different type of ticket as the route took him through zone 1.

Thomas lodged an appeal to his fine but feels his case wasn’t seriously considered. A concern several other passengers shared.

He said: “I don’t think the appeals system is fit for purpose. They don’t seem to take anything into account. You just lodge an appeal, and they turn it down.”

Figures released by the Metrolink operators have revealed that fare evasion has fallen by a third after the successful implementation of a plan introduced in October 2023.

Danny Vaughan, TfGM’s Head of Metrolink, said: “Since implementing our new plan to tackle fare evasion last year, we’re seeing hugely positive results. We have more people than ever checking tickets, and that higher visibility not only provides a deterrent to those ignoring the rules but also helps provide that reassurance to passengers.”

Figures obtained via a freedom of information request show that between 15th October 2023 and 6th January 2024. TfGM have collected £590,000 in penalty fares, up from £360,000 obtained over the same period in the previous year.

The general sentiment from passengers on the tram network seems to be positive regarding measures to combat fare dodging. Fare paying passengers are happy to see fare evasion being clamped down upon with several saying it made for a fairer system.

However, a few, like Thomas, expressed concerns about people receiving fines after making honest mistakes or being affected by technical glitches.

One passenger, who requested to remain anonymous, received a penalty fare after confusion over the time limits on tram tickets.

He said: “When I first moved here and I wasn’t familiar with the system and I tapped out after some sort of time limit had passed. They charged me £60 with no warning.”

He agrees everybody should pay their fare but fears that people who have simply made a mistake are held to the same standard as genuine fare dodgers.

The passenger feels that steps should be taken to ensure people are aware of how to pay and whether the payment has been successful. He now buys paper tickets as he is fearful of receiving another fine due to a “technical glitch”.

The number of penalty fares charged to passengers has increased significantly in recent years.

YearNumber of penalty fares
19/2031980
20/21 (Covid lockdown)15371
21/2241165
22/2354156
23/24 (up to 6th Jan)67545
Transport for Greater Manchester penalty fares by year

In response to complaints raised by these passengers Transport for Greater Manchester clarified that anybody with an incomplete journey after tapping in will be charged an “incomplete journey fare” charged as a full zone single journey. Anyone found not to have a valid ticket while travelling will be issued with a penalty fare.

The tram operators also pointed out that they have run several campaigns to educate passengers on how to pay for their journeys and added additional signage to raise awareness about contactless payments.

They also shared plans to add more card validators to stops to make it “harder for passengers to forget to touch in/out”.

In their press release Transport for Greater Manchester chose to focus on the success of their measures in cutting fare dodging over concerns with the fine and appeals system.

Vernon Everitt, Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “These results show that we are making significant progress in tackling fare evasion head on.”

“By increasing the number of staff out on the Metrolink network, and introducing improved ticket checking technology, we are sending a clear message: if you travel on Metrolink without paying, there’s a real chance you’ll be fined up to £120 and could be prosecuted. It’s simply not worth the risk.”

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