Record number caught evading fares
A record-breaking number of passengers are being fined and convicted in the courts for failing to purchase a train ticket.
Irish Rail has increased inspections across the country as it steps up its effort to clamp down on fare evaders nationwide. In the first six months of this year 5,269 fines of €100 were issued, with €900 being the largest fine imposed on an individual.
The level of convictions in 2015 for fare evasion is set to break all previous figures, with a total of 339 convictions made in the District Court. Meanwhile, 350 misused free travel passes have been confiscated.
Irish Rail said the rise is as a result of revenue protection activity across the network - with officers based in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Westport and Mullingar.
During one busy rush-hour morning at Dublin's Heuston Station, the Irish Independent witnessed several middle-aged passengers who were issued with fines.
While some were apologetic and took it in their stride, others protested their innocence and became argumentative.
One unassuming man in his 50's, dressed in business attire, was hit with a €100 fine for a common fare evasion tactic. Instead of buying a ticket to his destination, which could have been an hour away, he purchased a ticket to the next stop down the track.
Another man in his 20s was caught with a child's ticket - which inspectors say is a frequent method used by those looking to evade paying.
Once an offence was established, inspectors attempted to establish the name and address of the passenger. While most are forthcoming, gardai were called in to help identify a young girl who was under 16.
Robert Tobin, Irish Rail Revenue Protection manager, said his team of 48 officers deal with aggressive passengers on a daily basis.
"It's part of the job. Some people can become aggressive while we're carrying out our duties. In situations like that we just have to deal with it as best we can," he told the Irish Independent.
"All our officers are trained in conflict resolution. There have been some issues where garda assistance is required when we are looking for the name and address of an individual and they won't cooperate.
"We have a zero tolerance approach to fare evasion. There are plenty of opportunities for passengers to purchase in advance.
"We have ticket vending machines and booking offices at almost every station throughout the country," Mr Tobin added.
Unlike other European countries where passengers may be able to purchase their fare during or after the journey, anybody travelling on Irish Rail must buy a ticket prior to travel.
Once a suspected fare evader is issued with a €100 fine, the passenger has 21 days to either pay or appeal.
Non-payment can land a person in court, where the potential fine is up to €1,000, and can carry a criminal conviction against their name.
In 2014 the company issued 9,885 fines of €100, up from 8,081 in 2013 and up from 6,613 in 2012. A total of 356 convictions were secured in court.
Last month, data security analyst Kelvin Boyle (30) was fined €2,650 in Dublin District Court (in his absence) for a series of incidents. He had been issued with several on-the-spot fines for either having no ticket or verbally abusing staff. On one occasion he delayed nine trains while he hurled insults at an inspector who confronted him for travelling without a ticket.