Fare dodging ‘too high’ in London as TfL loses £130m in a year

Transport for London’s target is to bring fare evasion down to 1.5% of journeys but the number is currently 3.9%, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

The ticket hall at Cockfosters Station
The ticket hall at Cockfosters Station

Sadiq Khan has warned that fare dodging on the capital’s public transport is “still too high”, as he urged Londoners to report it to station staff when they see it.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates that it lost about £130m in income due to fare dodging in the 2022/23 financial year. Some 3.9% of journeys were unpaid in that period – about one in 25.

TfL’s target is to bring fare evasion down to 1.5% of journeys.

The mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Since 2016, fare evasion has gone down, but it’s still too high. That’s one of the reasons why we now employ around 500 enforcement officers who go about to make sure people have paid the right fares.

“I’d encourage anybody who sees somebody evading fares to report that to a member of staff.”

The issue was raised earlier this month by Khan’s Tory mayoral opponent Susan Hall, who said in a piece for LBC that she would “ask TfL to deliver smart, innovative solutions that make fare-dodging a nightmare for perpetrators, without affecting staff safety”.

She added: “We need to bring back a culture where playing by the rules is expected of all of us, and where getting caught has serious consequences.

“When I talk to Londoners, so many have told me of their fury when they see fare dodgers thumbing their noses at fellow passengers. It’s a slap in the face of every honest commuter.”

Asked whether the cost-of-living crisis may be making Londoners less willing to pay their fares, the mayor said: “We know generally across the society, the cost-of-living crisis has led to an increase in other forms of acquisitive crime – shoplifting and so forth.

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“One of the reasons why I was keen to freeze fares next year – I’ve frozen fares five of the last eight years – is to ensure that public transport in London continues to be as affordable as it can be.

“Bus fares in London are the cheapest in the country, for those that don’t know, it’s £1.75.”

The mayor’s last comment appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Hall telling LBC on Monday that she did not know the price of a London bus fare.

It was revealed in December that TfL plans to expand a trial which has used artificial intelligence (AI) on the tube to try to reduce fare evasion. Computer technology that can identify passengers likely to jump ticket barriers has been tested at Willesden Green Station, on the Jubilee Line.

The mayor recently announced that he will be increasing the penalty charge for fare dodging from £80 to £100.

Asked whether this would be enough to improve the situation, Khan said: “The reason why we did that is to be consistent with the Department for Transport (DfT) increase – so the DfT increased fines on National Rail and we’ve made sure ours are in line with that.”

Figures presented to TfL’s customer service panel in December showed that there was a 26% increase in penalty fares being served on fare dodgers between April and September 2023, compared with the same period in 2022.

However, TfL was said to have a shortage of almost 200 enforcement officers. Only 452 of the 551 posts were said to be filled – and of those at work, 81 were seconded on to other duties, leaving only 371 available to catch fare-dodgers.

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