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File photo. Sam Boal/
National Transport Authority

6% of Irish Rail passengers travelled without a valid ticket last year

Irish Rail could be losing around €12.3 million per annum through fare evasion.

SIX OUT OF every 100 passengers on Iarnród Éireann rail services last year were travelling without a valid ticket, according to the results of surveys commissioned by the National Transport Authority.

The figures show the fare evasion rate across intercity, DART and commuter services at 6% with the average loss of revenue at just over €5.70 per passenger.

The scale of the problem of passengers without valid tickets revealed by the surveys indicates that Iarnrod Éireann could be losing around €12.3 million per annum through fare evasion based on the 35.8 million passenger journeys recorded in 2022.

The surveys of almost 21,000 passengers, which were carried out by researchers on behalf of the NTA rather than Iarnród Éireann ticket inspectors, were conducted between January 2022 and March 2023.

The results, which were obtained under freedom of information legislation, show passengers are more likely to dodge paying the correct fare on DART and commuter services than on intercity routes.

They revealed the highest fare evasion rates were among passengers travelling on commuter services in Cork.

Three out of every 20 individuals checked on Cork-Mallow services – 15% of all passengers – did not have a valid ticket, while the figure was 12.6% for those on the Cork-Midleton route.

The fare evasion rate on trains between Cork and Cobh was 7.2%.

Commuter services between Dublin and Portlaoise also had an evasion rate at almost twice the national average at 11.5%.

The country’s busiest rail passenger service – the DART which operates between Greystones and Howth/Malahide – had a fare evasion rate of 6.2%.

In sharp contrast to most other services, all passengers on the relatively little-used line between Limerick and Ballybrophy had valid tickets.

On intercity services, the highest non-compliance level with fares was on trains between Dublin and Limerick/Ennis at 7.2%, just ahead of Dublin-Tralee at 6.6% and Dublin-Cork at 5.1%.

The lowest fare evasion rates were on Dublin-Belfast Enterprise services at 2.8% and Dublin-Sligo at 2.9%.

The survey shows the level of passengers not having valid tickets is highest among children and young adults with rates falling consistently among older age groups.

The results show 11% of under-18s did not have a valid ticket when checked, while the rate was 7.6% among 19-25-year-olds, falling to 2.8% among those aged 66 years and older.

The NTA figures also highlight how 60% of all passengers caught evading fares had no ticket, while 25% were “overriding” by having tickets valid only for shorter journeys.

Around 12% of fare dodgers were detected travelling with a “wrong classified” ticket, usually in the form of ineligible passengers buying child and student tickets or using free travel passes, while 2% had expired tickets.

Asked why they did not have a valid ticket, more than a third of over 1,200 passengers could offer no reason, while a quarter said they had failed to tag on their Leap card.

Around 7% claimed they had lost their ticket with 6% claiming they were Iarnród Éireann staff but not having any valid staff ID card and 5% claiming a ticket machine was out of order.

Just under 1% of those without a ticket told checkers they did not have enough money to pay their train fare.

Data collected on where passengers boarded a train show fare evasion rates above 20% among passengers using various stations including Millstreet, Co Cork; Enfield, Co Meath; Glounthane, Co Cork and Dundalk, Co Louth.

The highest evasion rates at station level were found at Gormanston, Co Meath at 64% and Laytown, Co Meath at 48%.

A spokesperson for the NTA said the surveys had been commissioned to ascertain the level of fare evasion on Iarnród Éireann services and to identify any trends.

Since the start of this year, the NTA receives all revenue collected from train passengers, while it will reimburse Iarnród Éireann the cost of operating contracted rail services.

The NTA spokesperson said the survey was different from the enforcement carried out by Iarnród Éireann’s own staff.

A spokesperson for Iarnród Éireann said the fare evasion rate so far in 2023 based on patrols by its Revenue Protection Unit (RPU) was 3% – half the level indicated by the NTA survey.

Iarnród Éireann said it deployed such staff around the rail network both on board trains and at stations including major operations as some of the busiest train stations.

“We will deploy RPU protection patrols based on our review of both our own patrol information and NTA surveys,” the spokesperson added.

Rail passengers without a valid ticket are issued with a fixed penalty notice of €100 plus the value of the unpaid fare, with cases progressing to court if the fine remains unpaid.

“We urge customers to ensure that they have the correct ticket with them at all times to ensure they avoid costly fixed penalty notices and court action in the event of non-payment,” said the spokesperson.

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Seán McCárthaigh
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