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Sunday, 20 June 2010

Open Borders

At or near the top of the buzzphrase league for UK rail franchisees is Revenue Protection. What this means is, basically, making sure all your punters pay up. In pursuit of this, many operators are closing off station platforms by putting up ticket barriers. What started with London’s Underground has spread, first to the capital’s suburban rail network, and now to major (and some less major) stations across the country.

But some countries take a much more relaxed view of Revenue Protection, and top of the relaxed league is Germany. Here, stations do not have barriers, and that includes suburban rail, and the S- and U-bahnen in cities like Berlin and Munich. Trams in both cities run without conductors. So what of fare evasion?

Brief and unscientific observations may not give the most accurate picture, but my take is that there is very little of it – except perhaps for the most wilful of tourists, these usually being those same Brits whose behaviour at home has prompted the closing off of rail stations across the country.

But trying to travel for free in Munich has one inevitable consequence: you will get caught. Inspection teams may not come into view for days at a time, but when they do, the 40 Euro fines (just for starters) are not negotiable. They don’t make exceptions, and have heard it all before.

It’s best to buy a ticket.

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