Next Monday trains go back into service as far as Newmarket and as part of it, there will be some slight changes to how HOP, and ticketing is operated however it only relates to those that don’t tag on or off. The Herald as usual is being a bit sensationalist about it as in general I think the changes should have been made sooner.

Auckland Transport is preparing to more than double to $10.30 the penalty for rail passengers who fail to tag on or off with electronic Hop cards at train stations.

The council transport body intends increasing the penalty from $5.04 when limited rail services resume next week from a construction and maintenance shutdown.

Although Britomart and the eastern railway line will remain shut until January 21, leaving replacement buses to fill the service gaps, trains will start running again from Monday on the western and southern lines as far as Newmarket.

The decision to increase the penalty charge follows continuing concern about fare evasion, which the introduction of Hop cards to trains in late October with associated electronic gates at Britomart and Newmarket was meant to combat.

Fare evasion is believed to be costing Auckland Transport up to $3 million a year in lost revenue, and undermining patronage figures needed for building the case for a $2.86 billion rail tunnel.
Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee said last month that train staff had told him people were abusing the new system when travelling between non-gated stations by carrying discount-price Hop cards but failing to tag on before boarding trains, meaning they were getting away without paying.

“There are [on-board] electronic checkers but they are slow and cumbersome and there’s not enough of them,” he told fellow Auckland Transport board members at their December meeting.

I can understand the concern about the increase but the reality is that the previous penalty fare was set way to low. It was actually cheaper than a legitimate 5 stage ticket so anyone travelling to say Britomart from further out than Henderson or Manurewa, it was cheaper to incur the penalty than pay a normal ticket. Further, in the absence of the changes needed from the government to allow fare evaders to be charged fines, I think retaining that one cash fare option is a good idea for those caught travelling without a valid ticket. The new penalty fare is equivalent to the maximum cash fare so what we are really seeing is just them working around the current legal limitations. If AT are serious about combating fare evasion, I think a lot more effort needs to go into random ticket checks. In since HOP has been introduced both my wife and I have not had out HOP cards checked once.

While I support these changes, I can still see there being a few teething problems mainly due to Veolia. Even just before the Christmas shutdown, I found staff were still happily issuing paper tickets as if nothing had changed and no effort was made to even inform passengers that they should consider using the new ticket machines, let along telling them that paper tickets won’t be sold on board any more, let alone suggesting people buy a HOP card.

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  1. Every time I catch a train and that’s not often I have been checked so whilst they may need to do more they are doing checks. The problem with the penalty fare being so low at only $10 is that it makes checking everyone everyday more or less necessary. If the fine is $200-300 then it becomes a huge deterrent as simply being caught once would outweigh the benefit of riding without a ticket for long, which has the effect of not really requiring checks as frequently.

    It’s not something AT need to re-invent either, pick up the phone and call the SBB in Switzerland or DB in Germany and learn from the world’s experts on how to run a ticketing system on PT.

    1. The problem is AT can’t do it under the current legislation and so this is a work around. The MOT are meant to be working with them to get the changes made but it probably isn’t a high priority for them.

      1. Yes I was aware they aren’t able to do it at present due to lack of legislation, I still find it bizarre that this lack of legislation to fine fare evaders has never been even thought about in the past.

        1. Previously everyone had their pass checked or bought a single onboard. You just got kicked off at the next station if you couldn’t pay. The need for a fine for fare evaders only comes about when you don’t check every single ticket.

  2. Yes, here in Switzerland you get an in the spot 100 franc( $nz 135) fine – payable immediately, plus your details recorded. If you cannot pay immediately it jumps to 120 francs. Caught 3 times – go to court as a fare dodger.

    1. In Zurich it was 100CHF for the first offence, from memory it then goes to 180CHF and then 300CHF odd for the 3rd offence, then you go to court. Since an annual pass only costs in the order of 600CHF it makes no sense not to pay.

  3. I’ve had my HOP card checked far more often than I would have liked. Interestingly, after checking each card, the RPO then taps 4 times on the screen of the device. Every time. It is this that slows the process down.

    There are two possible reasons for this. Either the process and supporting software has been badly designed or they are gathering information about you (sex, race, approximate age etc) that isn’t stored on the HOP card.

    Years in the IT industry has taught me to assume cock-up above conspiracy every time.

  4. I’m surprised you haven’t had your Hop card checked Matt. It’s been like a military operation out there lately, checking Hop card, ticket, passport… Please, no, with the on-board checking. Let me get on with my travel in peace.
    I agree with penalties for not tagging on/off but gosh that $10.30 sounds high for someone who just forgets occassionally.

    I guess it’s always the way, the rest of us pay for the sins of a few.

    By the way, I thought AT had decided the fall in numbers was mostly due to timing differences in recording fares with the introduction in Hop. Not fare evasion.

  5. It’s about $75-200 in Australia, with the ability to detain you until your details are ascertained. In Brisbane they’re nice enough to allow you a single transgression, which I think is right – it pushes the balance away from those who make an occasional accident and towards those who habitually evade. The enforcement is quite comprehensive.

    $10.30 is too low to discourage anyone who wants to fare-evade, but with the enforcement Jeff describes it sounds like a higher chance of being caught may make up for this.

    1. I’m not too keen on all the on-board checking George but I like the sound of elements of the Brisbane system of allowing one transgression without penalty and then having a stiff penalty charge for repeat offenders. And that should be set higher than the $10.30 to act as a discouragement.

      And as has also been mentioned earlier, there are plenty of working examples of systems around the world for AT to study. Heck, they’ve got an international rail operator in Veolia to draw from!

  6. Well I for one am not happy with an increasing penalty. I ALWAYS pay my fare but I have had issues with busses in terms of tagging off in the past – its not easy lining up myself the toddler in the stroller and my work bag, his daycare bag etc and getting off before I get yelled at for being in the doorway too long – not to mention the odd time I forgot to tag off as I had put my HOP card away from meddling hands. In fact the penalty means I decided to go back to paying non discounted fares on the bus as it was easier ……… I am saddened that I am likely to end up suffering from this even though I don’t practise this blessed fare evasion people seem so concerned about.

      1. Unfortunately I use both forms of transport ……..trains generally in off peak times if we need to go into work on my day off or somewhere else etc when there are no express busses running and not too many people on the trains ………and since my express busses are for the chop in the councils long term plan ……………

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