Fare evasion on Northern Rail

05 February 2014

It’s not often that Rochdale is the topic of a Passenger Focus blog, but I was interested in Northern Rail’s recent claim that Rochdale is the ‘fare dodging hotspot’ on their network.

Before I continue, I’d like to make it absolutely clear that we’re not on the side of anyone who intentionally travels without paying the correct fare. Our concern has always been about passengers who having made an innocent mistake, are pursued with the same vigour as those who set out to deliberately avoid payment. So the steps that Northern Rail is taking appear to address the issue and will be welcomed by honest, fare-paying passengers.

The challenge for Northern, as I see it, is how they engage and communicate with ordinary passengers at those stations and on trains where for many years the active collection of fares has been patchy at best. Like any good programme of change there needs to be effective and clear communication. It’s simply not enough for them to stick a few posters about the changes up at stations – most passengers are unlikely to give such posters a second glance while walking past.

I was also interested in the statement that passengers “… should seek out the conductor” on a train to buy a ticket. Will this be the same crowded trains that Northern claim are too busy for conductors to get out of the back of their cabs and sell tickets? The queue to the conductor’s cab should be an interesting sight!

As I said before, I welcome moves to discourage fare evasion. However, the challenge for Northern, as it would be for any good retailer, is to do so in a consistent and responsible way that doesn’t hack off the honest majority of passengers.

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Passenger Focus’s chief executive, Anthony Smith, is on a career break until April 2014. David Sidebottom is filling in for him while he is away.



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