By Emma Darcy
Fare evasion is one of the largest issues facing Irish transport systems. It includes not paying for a travel ticket, not paying the correct fare, an adult paying a child’s fare, having a travel pass or leap card belonging to someone else and many other variations.
According to information obtained by TheCity.ie under the Freedom of Information act, out of Irish Rail, Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus, Irish rail has seen the most fare evasion from 2017 to present, while Bus Eireann has seen the least. The number of fines issued to individuals across all three transport systems are displayed below.
Irish Rail Communications Manager, Barry Kenny spoke to TheCity.ie about the following regarding fare evasion: “13% of these evasions are adults purchasing child or student tickets without the corresponding identification, and then 20% are people who present a leap card, but they never tagged it on. A lot of people will claim this to be a simple mistake, that they did tag on but the card may not have picked it up, however if we were to just let that go there could be thousands of leap card users never paying for their travel.”
Many passengers simply choose not to buy a ticket and run the risk of being caught, according to Mr Kenny. He said it happens especially at stations such as Naas where there is no gates or staff to challenge transport users.
“Whereas in Heuston or Clondalkin, the gates don’t open without the presentation of a ticket or leap card, as with most of the stations,” he added.
Fare dodgers can cause irritation to those who pay large amounts of money every week to commute to Dublin. Michelle Gordon travels to and from the city center by means of Irish Rail’s Arrow service, and then takes a Dublin Bus from Heuston station. She said: “I get the same train to Heuston every weekday and have been doing this for over four years. I’ve seen countless people caught by inspectors on the train or darting through the ticket gates without a card or ticket of their own.
“I find it so frustrating paying €200 a month for some people to get away with paying nothing, I know it isn’t anybody’s fault of course but I just can’t get my head around the fact that people would consistently avail of a service that they aren’t paying for, and get away with it.”
Between January 2018 and August 2019, Irish Rail collected over €1.2 million in fines from fare dodgers. According to Mr Kenny, there has been debate for this money to be put towards increased security for Irish Rail, but he doesn’t agree with that suggestion.
“We cannot rely on a method of funding that we are trying to avoid, that is to say that we don’t want to find so many cases of fare evasion. It doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t think it would be the right way to do things,” he said.
Fare evasion is a criminal offence and results mostly in a €100 fine. If a fine is not paid or appealed in a set timeframe, a court summons will be sent. Fare evasion has a high prosecution rate and can result in a fine of up to ten times the original unpaid fine, or even as much as three months in jail.