In Monday's Metro there was a feature with figures on how many people fare dodge and London Underground prosecuted 6,427 people who had "purposefully set out to avoid buying a ticket". I do overhear a lot of sob stories from people who claim to have forgotten their travelcard or Oystercard. I suppose in situations like that you bite the bullet and just pay the fine - but can you actually claim the £20 back if you really have forgotten your card and you can prove that you had bought it when you get back home?
The feature continued saying that "The Tube is patrolled by 280 ticket inspectors and supported by 681 officers from the British Transport Police. In the last year they have issued more than 43,000 penalty fares." The conclusion was that it's difficult to get away with dodging your fare. However, I would argue that it's much easier to do this late at night particularly if you're travelling on suburban lines which often leave the barriers open and unmanned. Richmond is a classic example.
Strangely enough there is a board game called Scotland Yard where you play the role of detectives trying to catch Mr X who for some bizarre reason uses a selection of public transport including the Tube to make his getaway.
The players can only move from one location to another if they have a ticket of the correct type. You get three types of "ticket": bus, taxi and underground and have to work together to trap Mr X. Tube Tales had a good short film - Grasshopper - about a group of ticket inspectors and transport police "chasing" criminals around the Tube, so perhaps the whole scenario is not that unusual.
In reviewing the game Funagain Games says "To plot a move demands ingenuity, wile and the proper fare. No ticket... no ride! Try to plan your route several moves in advance to avoid getting hopelessly stranded or cornered.
Taxi, bus or underground? You decide which route is best for fleeing or for following when you play Scotland Yard, the detective game of "fare" play!"
Thanks to Magpie Moon who took the above picture for emailing me and reminding me about the game.
Also in Toronto people play a live version of the game every two weeks each summer. "One guy named Mr. X runs around Toronto's transit system in a bright yellow shirt, while three or more guys in red shirts try to find him using the clues he gives at every third stop he makes. The three detectives are coordinated by dispatchers who tell the detectives where they think Mr. X might be and how best to block him off." Check out the following site to find out more.