SNCF, France’s national state-owned railway company, lost out on a total of €300 million due to fare-dodgers in 2012, the ministry of transport has confirmed.
The same year, Paris’s main transport operator RATP lost out on €100 million. This shows a sharp increase from since 2007 when the operator lost €40 million from fare-dodging.
According to the ministry, fare-dodging is twice as high on buses and trams in the capital as on the metro, so much so that it has almost become “the norm” to avoid payment.
Typical fare-dodging methods include either failing to produce a ticket, benefitting from illegal discounts or else failing to get tickets stamped, so they can later be reused.
“If I have an unstamped ticket I can use it the following week. This technique has allowed me to save around €30 a month,” a commuter called Anaïs told Europe1 radio.
Another commuter called Robin spoke of a “union of fraudsters” who all contribute to a fund to pay transport fines.
“They are groups of friends, around 30 or 40 people. In exchange for €9 per month they pay for all the fines that you can get in a month! The aim is to have the least number of fines possible so you don’t end up bankrupt…”
A commuter identified as Sophie admitted to avoiding fares by “squatting” in the bar carriage of the high-speed TGV trains.
“In the train I go up to the bar carriage. As soon as a controller passes and asks for my ticket I tell them that it’s back at my seat a bit further down and that I’ll bring it back straight away,” she said.
“Normally the collectors just pass by and don’t realize because the train is full. During a one-hour journey they often don’t have the time to check everyone.”
Currently, the SNCF spends an estimated €95 million on CCTV surveillance and has 1,600 staff dedicated to fighting fraud on the transport system.
Cuvillier said that the problem can only be tackled if this number of staff is increased both for the SNCF and the RATP.
Other possible measures include a revamp of ticket turnstiles at the entrance of metro stations, and more strategic positioning of ticket inspectors.