SNCF inspectors go plain-clothed to trap fare cheats
The SNCF has revealed it is using plain-clothes agents to clamp down on the estimated 250,000 fare dodgers who use trains every day.
Teams of uniformed and plain-clothes agents are being tested on Paris RER and Transilien lines and will spread across the TER network later this year.
They are part of a campaign to cut fraud that costs €63million a year (€300m across SNCF).
The campaign has seen a rise in inspectors as well as more anti-fraud gates. It was brought to attention recently when quadruple amputee and five-continent swimming record-holder Philippe Croizon had to present his invalidity pass to show his party had valid tickets.
Inspectors work in teams with plain-clothes officers catching passengers who get out of their seats and walk away to avoid checks.
SNCF’s crackdown comes after on-the-spot fines rose from €25 or €35 to €50 (on journeys under 150km) plus the fare. It also follows the discovery that only 11.6% of penalty notices were sent to the correct address as fraudsters gave fake identities. A new law allows inspectors to check ID and fakers face a €3,750 fine.
Fare-dodging has long been seen to be all but accepted by the French travelling public and was most famously highlighted in a 1980 photo of then Paris mayor and later French president Jacques Chirac jumping a Métro ticket barrier.
Sociologist Alain Mergier said in 2015 that French people felt it was the state’s job to make sure laws are upheld, not theirs; plus, as the railways were publicly-owned, no one lost out.