London is going though one if its periodic clamp downs on fare-dodging.
Twice in recent weeks I have seen huge numbers of ticket inspectors waiting at Hackney bus stops, backed up by over a dozen police, with vans to take away those without tickets. The message from these events is always the same - why should dishonest people avoid paying, when others pay?
There are several problems with this argument. First of all public transport should be for the public, and therefore should either be free or as close to it as possible. The second problem is the sort of journey I experienced today - where I end up paying double, with no choice in the matter, no possible recompense and only the words "sorry mate" as comfort. I feel I have been robbed by London Buses, but no one in uniform is interested in my experience.
This afternoon I had a simple journey to make - from Bethnal Green to Finsbury Park. Two suitable buses - the 106 and 254 came straight away. I got on the 106 Aldgate - Finsbury Park as it was in front, gave the driver my £1 saver ticket, and boarded. Half way through the journey the bus reaches Stoke Newington, and the driver begins flashing the lights - the sign for the end of the journey. When I reminded him the bus plainly said "Finsbury Park" on the front he simply shrugged, said "sorry mate" and asked us to leave.
As any saver ticket user will know - once you hand your ticket over, that's it. If the sign on the front is incorrect, or the bus destination changes en route - it is tough shit. I believe it is the same for Oyster card users - despite the oyster card being hyped as the best thing to happen to London's public transport system.
A nice 15 minute wait in the winter cold followed, before handing over another 'saver' ticket for a journey I had already paid for once. Tempted as I was to go the nearest police station and report a theft by London Buses, I instead headed about my business. But the next time I see police arresting 'fare dodgers' I know which side I will be on.......