Switzerland moves to double or triple fines for repeated fare dodging
As the number of people travelling on Swiss public transport without a ticket continues to skyrocket, officials in the industry are now looking to increase the fines given to those travelling gratis. According to representatives of Alliance SwissPass, the organisation in charge of ticketing, they are hoping to double or triple the fines issued to fare dodgers.
Nearly a million people on Swiss fare evader register
According to the latest data, 918.643 people were registered on Alliance SwissPass’ fare evasion register at the end of 2023. Those travelling without a valid ticket on Swiss rail services are added to the database by conductors so that rail firms can keep track of fines and offences. Names are taken off the list if the person goes without an offence for two years.
The number of people on the register has skyrocketed in recent years, going from 400.000 when it was first created in 2019, to over 900.000 today. 29,8 percent of cases on the register regard people who have been caught without a valid ticket between two and six times, while 30,6 percent of people on the register have been caught six times or more.
A recent study by the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich found that the median age of those on the offender list was 28, meaning young people are the most likely to travel without a ticket. Men are more likely to fare dodge than women, with Canton Zurich and the Lake Geneva regions being the biggest hotspots for the crime.
Fare dodging costs Swiss rail firms 100 million francs a year
Alliance SwissPass estimated that fare dodging costs rail companies up to 100 million francs a year. Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, organisation spokesperson Reto Hügli said that record numbers of passengers using the railways in 2023 had in turn led to a spike in fare dodging.
In addition, the newspaper noted that transport firms cut down on the number of ticket checks during the COVID pandemic, which may have led travellers into a false sense of security that they would be able to “get away” with the crime. Once checks resumed in greater numbers in 2023, more people started to get caught out.
Alliance SwissPass set to double or triple transport fines
To curb the number of fare dodgers, Alliance SwissPass confirmed that it was planning to make transport fines more severe in future. Currently, a fine of 90 to 100 francs is due for the first offence, 130 francs for the second and 160 francs for the third, after which more drastic measures like legal action may follow.
Under the new plans, those caught without a ticket for the first time would be charged either no fine at all or a small surcharge, under what Hügli called a “once is never” principle. However, those caught again would be charged either double or triple the fine they are issued today. This means fines of up to 480 francs could be issued to repeat offenders.
Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, Federal Office of Transport spokesperson Michael Müller confirmed that discussions are underway to change the system, but refused to comment further. Hügli concluded that regardless of what system is chosen, it should be a “practical solution that is understandable for passengers.”