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Thursday 23 February 2017

Bogus 'pensioners' drive up €1m railway fare dodger bill

Brian McDonald

FAKE pensioners are among the biggest fare dodgers on train journeys.

Iarnrod Eireann yesterday highlighted the problem of people travelling fraudulently on a Free Travel Pass -- as it said new measures could be recouping €1m a year from fare cheats after adopting a zero-tolerance policy.

The fare cheats on DART, commuter and Intercity rail services are being targeted by Iarnrod Eireann's dedicated Revenue Protection Unit -- which has 31 officers based across the country.

They hop on and off services in a bid to crack down on scams.

Top of the list is misuse of the Free Travel Pass, which is used by others to avoid paying a fare.

Everyone aged 66 or over and living permanently in Ireland is entitled to the Free Travel Pass issued by the Department of Social Protection.

A person with a pass who is married or cohabiting is also entitled to free travel for a partner or carer.

Usually, the Free Travel Pass is flashed in front of a ticket seller and tickets are issued. But, more and more, members of the Revenue Protection Unit are discovering that the details on the Free Travel Pass do not match those of the person issued with the tickets.

An on-the-spot fine of €100 is issued, plus the cost of any tickets issued and the passenger is given 21 days to appeal the fine. The Free Travel Pass is then confiscated.

The other major area of fare-dodging is when a customer buys a ticket for a short journey, but travels much further.

Last year, more than 9,000 fines were issued and, while not all were paid, increased penalties were imposed on the offenders when the cases came to court.

Courts

There are 1,500 cases a year of fare dodging being dealt with by the courts -- with fines of up to €1,000.

An Iarnrod Eireann spokesman said that the exact amount of savings recouped by the Revenue Protection Unit had not been quantified.

"Our passenger revenue for the year is €150m and, even if 1pc is tightened up, then the amount is €1m to €1.5m," he said.

The spokesman added: "The vast majority of people pay the correct fare -- it is only a tiny minority who don't.

"In our experience it is mainly a problem with the Free Travel Pass or someone paying for a shorter journey than they travel that comes to our attention".

Irish Independent

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