Find out how many Sunderland and South Tyneside Metro fare dodging fines are unpaid
New figures reveal that around two-thirds of Metro train fare dodging fines were unpaid during the last financial year.
The details, revealed through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Sunderland Echo and Shields Gazette, also show how many £20 Penalty Fare Notices (PFNs) were issued at every station both in Sunderland and across South Tyneside.
Figures for the 2018-19 year range from 1,275 fines distributed at Chichester, in South Shields, and 1,090 fines at Park Lane, in Sunderland, down to zero notices handed out at Bede, in Jarrow.
The data, provided by Metro operator Nexus, suggests that 11,202 out of 31,198 fines issued across the entire network – just under 36% – had been paid by the end of March 2019.
The response also states that the remaining 19,996 fines – just over 64% – were unpaid by the end of the same period.
The FOI request also revealed the Sunderland and South Tyneside Metro stations where the most - and least - fare dodgers are caught.
While this unpaid number is thought to include some £20 PFNs later paid at the start of the current financial year, the 2018-19 overall figures are similar to the 2014-15 financial year when 37% of fines were paid.
Nexus, however, insists that it has “the highest ever number of staff on the system” and is undertaking more roving patrols at stations to deter people who “cheat their fare”.
The 11,202 payments made across the network generated £224,040 out of a potential £623,960.
Nexus says this money goes back into the cost of operating the system.
Out of the 1,090 penalties issued at Park Lane during 2018-19, 420 – just over 38% and worth £8,400 – had been paid by the end of last March.
At Chichester, where 1,275 fines were distributed during the identical period, 240 – less than 19% and worth £4,800 – had been settled by the same date.
The operator also takes offenders who do not pay their £20 fines within a certain period to court after firstly adding administration charges for delayed payments.
While no figures for individual stations are available, a total of 13,950 prosecutions for offences across all stations raised a further £532,659 in fines and associated costs.
The FOI request also revealed that 1,423 customers – around 4.5% of the number of tickets issued – successfully lodged appeals against £28,460 worth of fines while 2,030 cases – worth a potential £40,600 and about 6.5% of the overall 31,198 figure – were also dropped.
A Nexus spokesman said: “Metro is a public service, Nexus does not seek to make a profit, and every penny we receive in fares goes back into meeting the cost of operating the system.
“When people cheat their fare and then fail to pay the resulting £20 penalty fare they are choosing to starve Metro of the money we need to pay people’s wages and maintain the system.
“Failure to pay results in prosecution through the courts and those people end up with a criminal record and a far more hefty fine running into hundreds of pounds.
“The money we claim back in penalty fare notices - £20 each time we stop someone, and more in admin payments if we have to chase them for payment – goes back into Metro alongside normal fares income.
“We have increased the number of customer service staff on the system.
“We now have the highest ever number of staff on the system and this means we can do more roving patrols, as well as protecting revenue on the 75% of journeys that pass through gates at busier stations.
“Metro fares offer really good value, from as little as £1 a journey for 16 to 18 year olds, even less for children, and less than £5 all day for the longest journeys by adults with Pop Pay As You Go.
“Payment is simple by cash, card or online. It is simply not worth cheating Metro and other passengers.”
The second highest number of tickets issued at Sunderland Metro stations was 186 at South Hylton.
Seventy-five offenders – around 40% – paid their £20 fines.
The second highest number of fines issued at South Tyneside Metro stations during 2018-19 was 202 at South Shields.
Only 46 fare dodgers – just under 23% – had paid by the end of the financial year.
The Metro station with the highest number of PFNs issued was Monument, in Newcastle, where 4,174 penalties were issued during 2018-19.
The 1,784 total paid was around 42 % of the overall figure.
Nexus’s £20 fines have to be paid or formally contested within 21 days.
This period begins the day after penalties are issued.
An administration fee of £30 will be added after 21 days with a similar sum added after 35 days before court action is considered.
Details on how to pay a PFN or to lodge an appeal are available at www.nexus.org.uk/metro/tickets/penalty-fares.
Further information is also available by telephoning (0191) 2033199.