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.